Catholic media ministry, profiling U.S. cathedrals, bishops in TV series, also interviews rector Father Boettner
By Emily Booker
If walls could talk, what would a cathedral say? The Diocese of Knoxville recently welcomed DeSales Media Group, a Catholic media production ministry out of the Diocese of Brooklyn to find out just that. DeSales production crew members spent several days in August filming the features of the Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus for a new TV series titled “The Chair.”
The show will feature the bishops of the United States and their cathedrals, weaving the visuals of the buildings into a look at the roles and lives of American bishops. The production hopes to reach as many dioceses in the country as possible, even after COVID-19 restrictions set them a few months behind.
The Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus is the 78th cathedral filmed. Monsignor Kieran Harrington, rector of the co-Cathedral of St. Joseph-St. Teresa of Avila in Brooklyn and president of DeSales Media Group, hosts the show, which began in March 2019.
“It’s really a look at the office of bishop and the Church in the United States and the importance of the role of the bishops in the life of the Church,” he explained. “You know, a lot of people know who their pastor is, and they know who the pope is, but the bishop is just the guy who transfers their parish priest, and that’s not really what the role of the bishop is.
“The bishop is supposed to be the primary teacher in the diocese. That’s the reason why the chair is so prominent. It’s not because of the individual; it’s because of the teaching office of this person. The reason why the teaching office is so important is because that’s the source of unity for us as Christians. Jesus prayed that all might be one. And it’s the bishop who gathers us together as one.”
Monsignor Harrington interviewed Bishop Richard F. Stika on his life and episcopal ministry.
“The purpose of this program is…. to look at the life of those who are the shepherds, the chief shepherds, in the Church today. It was important for us to look at that and speak about it from the perspective of faith,” Monsignor Harrington said.
“It’s about the testimony of faith,” he added. “What is the witness you’re called to offer by Christ, because that is what the apostles are really called to do, right? They are called to witness to Christ and they do so, in the case of 11 of them, by the shedding of their blood. And so how is it that bishops are really called to lay down their life for their community and the different ways in which they do that today?”
Monsignor Harrington said that in interviewing bishops from dioceses all across the country, he has learned more about the diversity and leadership of American bishops.
“It has been edifying to hear stories of redemption and witness and testimony of faith. This is what I think is the key thing. Some of the bishops have had incredible experiences of faith, from murder of a parent, to divorce in their parents’ life, to real alienation, so there’s been real suffering in the lives of these men who are ministering to people who in many cases are also suffering,” Monsignor Harrington said.
“It’s looking at the brokenness of the bishop and saying, ‘OK he’s a man like any other man, beset by weakness, but they’ve been called to this great office of testifying,’ and it’s testifying in the midst of his humanity that we can come to see how Christ is at work in the life of the Church,” he noted.
A look at the cathedral provides a visual representation of the office of the bishop in his diocese. The word “cathedral” come from cathedra, which is Latin for “chair.” The chair of a bishop resides in a cathedral, and it is from there that he fulfills his duty and ministry to his diocese.
Bishop Stika oversaw the building of the new Cathedral of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, dedicated in March 2018. He ensured that the church featured images to teach and inspire faith. Father David Boettner, rector of the cathedral, also played a large role in building the new cathedral and spoke with Monsignor Harrington about the process of building a cathedral and some of its features.
Monsignor Harrington noted how sacred images are more than just art; they instruct the faithful.
“Cathedrals are pedagogical tools. So when you take a look around here and look at the statements [from the Litany of the Sacred Heart], that says something to us about our faith. When you take a look up at the ceiling, you see the apostles, and it’s saying something to us about the important personages, the aspirations. When you look at the rose window and you see the Sacred Heart, it’s teaching you something about your faith. The image of the Blessed Mother, placement of the tabernacle, the awesomeness of the baldacchino—this is teaching us something. It’s the office of bishop refracted through the prism of the cathedral,” he pointed out.
Monsignor Harrington and the DeSales Media Group hope “The Chair” demonstrates the diversity and humanity of the men who hold the office of bishop. It will also serve as a snapshot of the cathedrals and leadership of the Catholic Church in America today.
“We’d love to be able to get to every cathedral, and then we think that’s going to be a real treasure for the Church,” Monsignor Harrington said. “To have in one area all the visual images of the primary churches, the cathedral churches, throughout the United States, we think that’s going to be a real blessing.”
Visit www.thechair.com for more information on the series. Episodes will begin to air this month on Google Play, iTunes/Apple TV, and Amazon Prime. The episode featuring the Diocese of Knoxville will be available toward the end of the year