The Bishop’s Dinner, an annual fundraiser that supports the Cathedral of the Madeleine and its role in the community, was a unique event this year, held entirely online rather than with a social gathering at the Grand America.
The online presentation included videotaped segments by the Most Rev. Oscar A. Solis, Bishop of Salt Lake City; the Very Rev. Martin Diaz, the cathedral rector; Msgr. Joseph M. Mayo, a retired priest of the diocese and former cathedral rector; and Frank Layden, former coach of the Utah Jazz, who was a special guest.
In the days leading up to the Sept. 10 release of the Bishop’s Dinner video, shorter videos focusing on specific aspects of the cathedral’s operations, such as preparing for the Mass and playing the organ, were released. One of the segments of the Bishop’s Dinner video was of Fr. Diaz giving a tour of the cathedral’s bell tower.
“I think the bells are meant to be a sign, especially in these difficult times, that God is taking care of us,” Fr. Diaz said. “As this sound peals and tolls there’s a – kind of almost that umbrella, if you will, of God in our presence. And that’s the purpose of a cathedral.”
It’s “very different from what we’ve done in the past,” said Fr. Diaz in his introductory comments to the Bishop’s Dinner video, speaking from the rectory’s Bishop Glass room.
The 2020 Bishop’s Dinner online event opened with a performance of Felix Mendelssohn’s “Lift Thine Eyes” by choristers from The Madeleine Choir School, properly distanced in the Cathedral of the Madeleine.
The annual Bishop’s Dinner is “a time for our Catholic diocese to come together,” Fr. Diaz said. “The dinner, I feel, is kind of a metaphor for the cathedral – the diversity, and bringing people together in a dinner is what the cathedral is about. … We are one community of people.”
In keeping with the dinner’s tradition, Msgr. Mayo spoke in commemoration of Nancy Leary, who was baptized and married in the cathedral; the names of seven other cathedral parishioners were listed in memoriam.
Bishop Solis, who gave both the opening and closing prayers, acknowledged that the Bishop’s Dinner was unusual this year “as we continue to confront the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought unprecedented crises to health care institutions and the global economy, presents tremendous challenges to our physical spiritual, moral and emotional wellbeing and also poses a fundamental moral test to humanity.”
He continued, “When people are experiencing enormous suffering, fear, doubts and loss, there is the tendency and temptation to be selfish and focus more on our personal interests and own needs. … However, crises likewise expose the strength, resiliency and innate goodness of humanity God has created in us.”
During the pandemic, many first responders and health care personnel have sacrificed their own safety, and others in the community have responded generously “to share what they have with those in need,” the bishop said. “… I am so grateful to our local community in particular, as we continue to find ways to help each other, working together, loving and caring for one another as true believers in God. After all, we are all together in this.”
In addition to the dramatic decrease in donations to the cathedral because fewer people are attending Mass as a result of the coronavirus, the building sustained some damage from the last earthquake, and the boiler had to be replaced.
“However, God’s love never fails,” Bishop Solis said. “Your generous donation and support are his blessings from heaven. Thank you for helping us maintain the Cathedral of the Madeleine.”
As he concluded his remarks, he said, “Our suffering will not last forever, but it brings us helpful lessons from it as well – to be mindful of God’s presence in the world and in our lives, to always be grateful for every blessing we receive from the generous heart of so many, and to never forget to share the love, hope and compassion of God to one another.”
Wrapping up the video, Layden said, “I’d be remiss if I didn’t remark that we should be able to have some fun. We should be able to have some laughs. But let’s be great examples to our children, let’s take them to church, let’s teach them to pray, and let’s get down on our knees ourselves and thank the Lord for all the blessings he has given us til now.”
The day after the Bishop’s Dinner video aired, Fr. Diaz posted a brief thank-you message for the “generous support” given to the Bishop’s Dinner. “The cathedral is a place that welcomes everyone, and you and your contributions, you and your gifts, you and your participation have made this so very possible this year,” he said. “We all know that we’re struggling, we all know that it’s a unique year – you are all in our prayers, and together, then, we will come through this. Together we believe in God and God is with us. May God bless you.”
All of the videos may be viewed on the Cathedral of the Madeleine’s YouTube channel, cotmtv. The video of the Bishop’s Dinner may be viewed a