Tuesday, September 4, 2012

159th Anniversary of the Dedication of Ottawa's Cathedral - Recalling Blessed Dina Belanger

Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica was consecrated on this day in 1853--159 years ago.  Liturgically, this is a Solemnity in the cathedral and a Feast in all other churches and chapels of the Archdiocese of Ottawa.  Today's Masses at 12:15 and 5:15 PM will be bilingual.

O God, who year by year renew for us the day when this your holy temple was consecrated, hear the prayers of your people and grant that in this place for you there may always be pure worship and for us, fullness of redemption. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

The importance of the cathedral church in the liturgical life of the diocese flows from the role of the Bishop as the high priest of the Lord’s flock.

Every parish community is related to the Bishop, and therefore the anniversary of the cathedral church’s dedication as a place of worship is celebrated throughout the diocese.

The anniversary of the dedication of a cathedral church is to be observed on the date of the church's consecration, with the rank of a solemnity in the cathedral itself and of a feast in the other churches of the diocese; white vestments are worn.

Here are some historic notes gathered from various sources including the cathedral website where one can make a "virtual tour" or request a guided tour (www.notredameottawa.com):

The cathedral's site at Sussex and St. Patrick was originally home to a small wooden church dedicated to St. James (Saint Jacques) built in 1832. This structure was demolished in 1841 to make way for a larger church, designed by local builder Antoine Robillard and Father Cannon who requested a Neo-classical design.

However, in 1844, after the lower section was completed, the Oblate Fathers took over the parish and Father Telmon was sent from France to finish the construction.

Father Telmon decided to redesign it to be a more standard Neo-Gothic structure, a style which was growing in popularity. This left the lower features, such as the main entrance, Neo-Classical, while the rest is Neo-Gothic, for example, the large windows over the doorway features Gothic pointed arches and tracery.

The main structure was finished in 1846, but it was not until 1866 that the spires were installed. The steeples are topped with standard French-Canadian tin and bells.

The cathedral's exterior is fairly reserved, but the interior is as far more ornate, designed by Georges Buillon; it is brightly painted and decorated with carved features, exquisite stained glass windows and hundreds of statues of various religious figures. Louis-Philippe Hébert completed thirty large wooden sculptures in the choir.

In 1847 the church became a cathedral when Most Reverend Joseph-Eugène-Bruno Guigues, O.M.I. was appointed the first Bishop of Bytown; he is honoured with a lifesize statue to the right of the Cathedral (corner of Sussex and Guigues; his successor, Archbishop Thomas Duhamel's statue is on the corner of Sussex and Guigues). The cathedral was given the honorific title of basilica in 1879.

The Cathedral Basilica of Notre Dame is the oldest church in Ottawa and the seat of the city's Catholic archbishop. Its twin spires and gilded Madonna are easily identifiable from nearby Parliament Hill and the surrounding area.

The church was recently renovated and restored in the late 1990s. Services are held in both French and English. Composer Amédée Tremblay notably served as the church's organist from 1894-1920.

With the growth of the diocese under the second Bishop of Ottawa, Most Reverend Thomas Duhamel, and with the impetus of a visionary artist, Canon Georges Bouillon, the cathedral was finally completed in 1885.

Dedicated to the Immaculate Conception on September 4, 1853, the Cathedral underwent a major restoration in the 1990's (resulting in the closure of the cathedral for close to two years), to prepare for the celebration of the diocese's sesquicentennial in 1997. This $10M updating was generously provided for by a subscription campaign.

It was the first phase of a multi-year project; most recently (2009-2010) a new steel roof was installed and, to take advantage of the scaffolding erected for this project, the exterior windows were painted and the cross on the south side of the roof was gilded.

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Though the optional memorial of Dina Belanger may not be celebrated in the Archdiocese of Ottawa, today, here are a few details of this Canadian Blessed.

Blessed Dina Bélanger (1897-1926), Soeur Marie-Sainte-Cécile de Rome: Dina was the daughter of Olivier-Octave BÉLANGER and Séraphia MATTE who were married at Neuville, Portneuf, Québec on June 23, 1896. This young girl was educated at Saint-Roch, then at the College of Bellevue directed by the Ladies of the Congregation.

From 1916 to 1918, Dina studied piano at the Conservatory of Music in New York. She, then, entered the convent of Jésus-Marie in 1921. She professed her vows two years later, using the religious name of Sister Marie de Sainte-Cécile of Rome; she prounced her perpetual vows in 1928. Less than a year later, afflicted with a pulmonary disease, she went into the convent infirmary and died there on September 4, 1929.

Despite her brief existance, Dina was renowed as a great mystic. Sixty years after her death, on May 13, 1989, the Holy See recognized the heroism of her virtues and gave her the title of VENERABLE. In the simplicity of her exterior existence as child, young girl and religious, she led an interior life of a seraphin, of an angel. She was raised to terrific heights in the areas of enlightment and divine love.

In 1951, the remains of Dina Bélanger were placed in a lead sarcophagus and transfered to the religious community cemetery at Sillery. There are many people who go to kneel in prayer at her tomb. Her beatification cause has been completed and she was declared BLESSED on March 20, 1993. Her canonization process has already been placed in the hands of the Holy See.

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