With the approaching 88th Anniversary of the Dedication of the new Cathedral of Saint Joseph, a reprise of the Cathedral Conundra is offered, in a slightly expanded format. Any topic suggestions or questions for the conundra are welcome and may be submitted to our gentle editor, Signor Vescovo.
The Cathedral of Saint Joseph is home to Wheeling’s oldest Catholic parish, dating to 1822 and Mother Church to the city’s other parishes. It has been the liturgical heart of the Diocese of Wheeling (originally) since the Diocese’s erection by Pope Pius IX in 1850 and is an architectural and artistic treasure in both the city and state.
The name cathedral derives from the church which houses the bishop’s cathedra or official seat of teaching and governing authority.
In 1847, the Cathedral was moved from its former location further south to the corner of Eoff and 13th Street, and the Church was titled to Saint James the Apostle. The Cathedral Rectory still recalls this name in some of its decorations, the St. James’ pilgrim shell clearly repeating throughout the first floor of the building. (Image – Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI’s coat of arms with St. James’ pilgrim shell in the lower portion). In 1805, St. James became the Cathedral of the Diocese, with Bishop Richard V. Whelan as the first bishop of Wheeling.
In 1872, in response to the rising devotion to Saint Joseph, Husband of Mary throughout the universal Church and the burgeoning labor movement among the Catholics of the coal fields, Bishop Whelan petitioned Rome to change the title of the Cathedral to honor Saint Joseph .
Bishop Patrick Donahue became Bishop of Wheeling in 1894. Monsignor Thomas Quirk records in his journal, after returning from the Consecration at Wheeling, that there “was much talk about a new Cathedral.” However, it seems that planning did not begin in earnest until after the Great War. Bishop Donahue conceived a design and began to interview possible architects, eyeing Edward J. Weber of Pittsburgh, a rising star in Church architecture, as a likely candidate. Bishop Donahue’s death in October 1922, before work had even begun may have scuttled all plans, were it not for a serendipitous fire in 1923 that did significant damage to the Cathedral structure.
The fire cleared the way for Bishop Swint, the fourth Bishop of Wheeling, to begin the construction of the new Cathedral, with the help of Weber and a team of artisans. In three short years, the new Cathedral was completed and church was dedicated on April 21, 1926. Bishop Swint commented that the he had “planned