Cathedral of the Holy Cross Renovation 2018
Cathedral of the Holy Cross Renovation 2018


The Cathedral of the Holy Cross personifies the story of our past while broadening its pastoral outreach in the larger community. This iconic treasure inspires people to grow in faith, welcomes those most in need and preserves some of the most important moments in our collective history.

Responding to the need for a larger Cathedral 150 years ago, the renowned church architect Patrick Keely designed this Gothic revival structure incorporating massive stained glass windows from Germany, puddingstone from local Roxbury quarries, the hand-carved high altar and the largest organ in North America at that time. Together, they created a spectacular “Mother Church” for the Archdiocese.

Significant moments of our past:

  • In 1964, Cardinal Cushing celebrated a Solemn Pontifical Requiem Mass in memory of President John F. Kennedy with members of the Kennedy family and dignitaries.
  • In 1979, Pope Saint John Paul II prayed at the Cathedral as his first stop in the Western Hemisphere as Holy Father.
  • In 2013, following the Marathon bombing, thousands gathered with President Barack Obama who addressed the nation during an interfaith service.

Although used weekly by thousands, the Upper Church has received little refurbishment in its 150 years. We are seeking the needed philanthropic funds to fully restore the interior. This project remains a pivotal cornerstone of Inspiring Hope: Our Cardinal’s Campaign for the Future of Our Catholic Faith.


Today, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross stands as a living expression of God’s love through its active parish community. With its capacity of 2,000, the Cathedral provides an important gathering place for Catholics living across the 144 communities of the Archdiocese.

In addition to its significance as a place of worship, its facilities deliver critical social services. The parish serves a growing population in the South End with tremendous diversity and many young families. It provides spiritual care for Cathedral High School (CHS), a Catholic middle and high school serving 360 students who come from low income backgrounds. The CHS community celebrates Mass, receives religious education and uses space for programs including its peer ministry program.

As a social justice center, the Cathedral provides:

  • Help to homeless families transitioning from shelters to permanent housing.
  • Free health services through its Cathedral Cares Clinic, which is staffed by a registered nurse, and semi-annual health fairs offered in collaboration with Boston Health Care for the Homeless.
  • Weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
  • Saint Helena House, housing for low income seniors administered by HUD.
  • An off-site shelter for victims of human trafficking in collaboration with the City of Boston.
  • Homeless outreach, where young members of the Order of Malta bring prepared water, clothing, and human interaction to the streets.
  • A food pantry run by Catholic Charities that serves 250 families weekly.


As the seat of the Cardinal Archbishop, the Cathedral welcomes visitors, pilgrims and community leaders. Throughout the year, Cardinal Seán invites groups to fill the Cathedral and celebrate their faith, including the Blue Mass for first responders, Haitian Independence Day and Walking with Mary, a multicultural Marian procession. The Cardinal also ordains deacons, priests and bishops to serve the people of God in every corner of the Archdiocese.

In 2015, Pope Francis invited the Universal Church to celebrate an Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. During the Year of Mercy, the Cathedral welcomed more than 10,000 pilgrims who passed through its Holy Doors.

Diverse Communities of Faith

  • 21 weekly Masses with more than 1,200 people in attendance.
  • Mass celebrated in English, Spanish, Latin, and the Ge’ez Eastern Rite.
  • A thriving Hispanic community hosts weekly Spanish masses, religious education, and bible studies.
  • Members of the Neocatechumenal Way meet weekly and engage in neighborhood evangelization.
  • Hundreds of new Catholics baptized each year.
  • The Brazilian Catholic community, Archdiocesan Campus Ministry, and parish programs confirm hundreds of Catholics each year.


The Cathedral of the Holy Cross is the largest church of any faith in New England and an important spiritual home. The renovation will restore this awe-inspiring edifice with respect for the integrity of the Church’s artistic masterpieces. At the request of Cardinal Seán, John Fish, the Chairman and CEO of Suffolk, will lead the renovation along with David Manfredi, CEO and Founding Principal of Elkus Manfredi Architects. The work will include:

  • Seating
  • Pews removed, repaired, refinished, and reinstalled with new kneelers. The pew platforms removed.
  • Walls, Ceiling, and Flooring
  • Walls repaired and painted. Woodwork cleaned and varnished. Ceiling beams varnished and ceiling restored to original colors. Columns and arches painted. A new stone floor replaces the wooden floors throughout.
  • Windows
  • Stained glass windows cleaned and illuminated from within at night.
  • Sanctuary
  • The sanctuary platform lowered. The ceiling and walls repaired and painted using original colors and designs. A new baptismal font relocated to the front of the Saint Joseph Shrine. New altar and ambo installed along with handicap accessibility.
  • Lady Chapel and Upper Church Level
  • The Blessed Mother statue and side altar cleaned and restored. Central air conditioning installed. The choir area and vestibule painted.
  • Safety, Lighting, and Sound
New sprinkler and fire protection systems, electrical wiring, LED lighting installed as well as a state-of-the-art digital sound system.

All of this work relies on private philanthropy from donors like you. We welcome tax-deductible charitable gifts of all sizes for this major capital investment to preserve the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.

Renovated Interior


In addition to the aesthetic enhancements, the renovation will create a more intimate worship space.

The modern amenities will ensure the Cathedral remains truly accessible to all.

Renovation Blueprint
  • Integrate accessible ramp to sanctuary
  • Move baptismal font to nave floor
  • Provide accessibility to the Lady Chapel
  • Create accessible path from the sacristy to the sanctuary
  • Eliminate broadcast platforms, replaced by robotic cameras (CatholicTV)
  • Capture additional side vestibule areas, offering entry-point flexibility
  • Relocate choir to nave floor, increasing the sanctuary area
  • Provide seating for 60 guests in the sanctuary
  • Remove pews to create flexible seating
  • Restore original reredos steps

For more information on how
you can help, please contact:

Very Reverend Kevin J. O’Leary
Rector, Cathedral of the Holy Cross
(617) 779-3740

Mrs. Ellen Rice
Major Gift Officer, Archdiocese of Boston
(617) 779-3741 or

The Cathedral renovation is the cornerstone of our Cardinal’s campaign for the future of our Catholic faith.


The photographs in the slideshow below were taken in May 2018.

More Nave Scaffolding
Stained Glass Close-up
Five Windows
Rose Window
Snapping a Photo
Wood Floor
Stained Glass
Nave Scaffolding
Paint Cans