Better, I think, for the diocese to spend more and build a cathedral that blends fresh aspects of local conditions with the traditions of the church. Better still if the design of a new cathedral incorporates elements that appeal to the Mexican, Vietnamese and other communities of immigrants and children of immigrants that make up much of the diocese today and will likely account for a bigger share in the future.
That might mean courtyards of a certain style, or a roofline that recalls another part of the world, or gardens planted with fruit trees and flowers from hither and yon.
Go visit the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. Take in the many chapels that honor various incarnations of the Virgin Mary, each with some distinct ethnic or national characteristic.
Think about ways to do the same with the design of a new cathedral. That might saddle your architect with a rather eclectic brief, but there are ways to do that well. Check out some examples of architecture from Carthaginian antiquity. You’ll find influences from the Mediterranean world blended together to wonderful effect.
Don’t do all of that research and spend all that money just for aesthetics, though.
Make the new cathedral a stimulus program. Keep in mind that you can get real bargains on the price of building materials right now.
The diocese, meanwhile, is filled with workers who struggle to make ends meet for their families. Many are skilled at valuable trades. Some are artisans; others are flat-out artists.
Steer work to members of your flock as much as possible and without apology. The church is finally beginning to get beyond its recent scandals of abuse against children. Many of us have stuck by, believing that the institution, on balance, is far better than its worst failings.
Give back by putting those in need to work.
This is a chance to engage two or three generations of Catholics in a unique way. It’s a way to let them know that their faith, while concerned with matters beyond everyday life, also makes them part of a community here on earth.
Now is the time to give as many Catholics possible a tangible tie to what should be the most prominent physical feature of the diocese.
You won’t get a better chance any time soon to make a cathedral a true center of the community.
Stand down in Garden Grove, start asking for donations—and get some shovels in the ground in Santa Ana.