Catholic parishioners get sneak peek at work on Wichita cathedral

08/22/2012 5:00 AM

08/22/2012 10:14 PM

About 100 parishioners got an up-close look Wednesday at the renovation project that’s under way in the cathedral that is the centerpiece of the Wichita Catholic Diocese.

Although plywood still lines the floors of the 8,000-square-foot church at Central and Broadway, and stained wood is still stacked against the walls, the group got an idea of what the cathedral will look like once the project is finished.

Father John Sherlock, who led a tour through the building, said two bronze pieces that were installed this week are among the highlights of the project. The first depicts Mary and Joseph, and the second is a scene of the Crucifixion. Sherlock said the pine wood used in the Crucifixion piece comes from Israel, and 12 stones at the base come from the Jordan River.

Also new is the depiction of God the Father that has been painted on the ceiling of the main dome, which is 93 feet above the floor.

Chris Baalmann of Simpson Construction Services, who is project manager, said the biggest challenge of the project was “just renovating a 100-year-old building. There’s surprises around every the corner.”

While replacing the outdated lighting and heating systems, he said, he found that the cathedral was in good shape.

“This building is very square, very sound,” he said. “There were no real cracks in the exterior foundation.

Sherlock said the original church pews are in Nebraska and will be reinstalled. He said construction workers are aiming for a “Decemberish” completion date.

“It’s going to look really, really beautiful,” he said.

When the $16 million project is finished, a new covered gathering space will connect the sanctuary with the other two buildings on the campus, which also are being renovated.

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