The Cathedral

The Cathedral Church of St. Michael the Archangel

This is the chief church of the Diocese of Springfield. It is the bishop's church of which he is the pastor. The cathedra, or bishop's chair, is where he presides, teaches and conducts worship for the total Christian community.

The Bishop Marshall Center

The Bishop Marshall Center includes the Holy Spirit Chapel, the Fr. Karl Huller Meeting Room, a control room for Catholic Communications and St. Augustine’s Chapel which is a mortuary chapel for deceased diocesan bishops. The center also has the Cloister Gallery with stained glass windows from the former Holy Family Church, Springfield. The Bishop Marshall Center is handicapped accessible.

Parish or diocesan groups wishing to use and reserve the Fr. Karl Huller Meeting Room, please contact the parish office at 413-781-3656.

History of the Cathedral

   The Early Years

     by Frances Gagnon

Opened on Christmas Day 1861, St. Michael's Cathedral is Springfield's oldest Catholic house of worship. Initially planned as a parish church, in 1870 it was designated as the Cathedral of the newly formed diocese which encompassed all western Massachusetts counties and Worcester county. Patrick T. O'Reilly of Worcester was named first bishop of this diocese at age 31, serving until 1892

St. Michael's Cathedral parish has roots in the early 19th century, when pioneer Catholic immigrants arrived in the region seeking religious freedom and opportunity for a better life. These people relied on itinerant priests for spiritual nourishment and worshipped in homes, fields, industrial sites, or whtever was  available. As they transformed the area's wilderness with construction of dams, canals and  factories, their number and faith grew. The Great Famine of the 1840's caused the swelling of the immigrant poplulation.

Plans were delayed by limited funds and obstacles encountered by Catholics desiring to acquire property for a church. Finally a lot on Union street was secured and a former Baptist church purchesed and moved there. Hardworking volunteers reconfigured the interior for Catholic liturgies and on Febuary14, 1847, St. Benedict's church was dedicated in honor of Boston's Bishop Benedict Fenwick, a staunch suppporter of his new parish in Springfield, then still a town and not yet a city. No longer did the faithful need to beg for worship space in public halls, fields or in the safety of the US Armory. Tha parish flourished and soon outgrew the modest building.

In November 1865 Father Michael P. Gallagher arrived here and set in motion ambitious plans for construction of a capacious new church on State Street. Blessed with vision and fiscal wisdom, Father Gallagher acquired considerable land in addition to the needed parcel, selling the surplus at great profit to those wishing to build residences in trendy new Elliot Street neighborhood. This allowed Catholics to own necessary acreage for future needs and use profits to satisfy debts incurred during construction of the city's first Catholic house of worship from the ground up. St. Benedict's parish was re-named St. Michael's in honor of Father Michael Gallagher, with the cornerstone laid on the Feast of St. Michael the Archangel, September 29, 1860.

On Christmas Day 1861 all was ready, and the new church opened with a Mass celebrating Christ's birth. The church construction during the darkest days of the early Civil War prospered and saw many parishes set off as the faith spread in this area. It has always been a welcoming home to those seeking spiritual nourishment and a diverse community of faith with a long history that endures the tests of time.

St. Michael's Cathedral is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as well as on the State Historic Register, both significant designations.

The Cathedral Organs

        By Lad Pfeifer

The Cathedral of St. Michael the Archangel purchased two Casavant organs  in 1929 during a time of unprecedented great wealth.  These two organs were finished being installed just days before the stock markets around the world collapsed and the Great Depression began. The large gallery organ has over 6,600 pipes on four keyboards and pedals. At the time Springfield wanted the largest organ in MA and they had it built. Though no longer the largest in MA, it is still the largest organ in western MA today.  The smaller chancel organ is of two manuals and pedals.  In 1997 a third organ of  eleven ranks by the American Classic Organ Co. of Chester, CT was installed in the new Cathedral chapel.  The three organs are maintained by Austin Organs of Hartford, CT.

The Cathedral Stained Glass

The Cathedral stained glass windows primarily depict the responsibilities of a bishop.

In the Cathedral choir loft, windows include depictions of two popes, Gregory the Great and Pius X, both of whom had a powerful influence on the development of the art of sacred music. On the top of the Gregory window is a violin and bow, and at the top of Pius X window is a depiction of an organ, referred to as "the most worthy of use in divine music." These windows were created by Connick Associates of Boston and dedicated in 1957.

The stained glass windows in the cloister of the Bishop Marshall Center were retrieved from the former Holy Family Church in Springfield. These windows focus on the saints and biblical scenes.

Changes and Renovations

            By Margot Moran

In the years between 1860 and 1960, the country weathered both the sorrows of war and the joy of troops returning from battlefields, both national and foreign.  In that hundred-year span, the faith of generations of Catholics was fostered within the Cathedral’s imposing doors.  In 1954, for example, 258 children were baptized, 114 children received First Eucharist, 126 were confirmed, and 90 marriages were celebrated.  Many daughter parishes of St. Michael’s were established in the city.  While the Cathedral underwent minor renovations in those years, its classic New England exterior and Victorian-Georgian interior remained the same. 

However, it was a dictate of the Second Vatican Council that churches establish a new “noble simplicity” in appearance.   In 1967, during the rectorship of Msgr. Leary, striking changes were made in the sanctuary when historic features were removed, Italian marble was placed in contrast with dark oak, and the Burning Bush mosaic was created behind the Throne of Reservation. 

Again in 1995, other renovations resulted in structural, mechanical and decorative changes.  Climate control systems and handicap accessibility were improved, and walls, ceilings and pillars were painted in rich tones of blue, rose and ivory with gold leaf accents.  The construction of the new Bishop Marshall Center provided a chapel dedicated to the Holy Spirit, meeting hall facilities, and a Cloister Gallery for the exhibition of works of art.

In the very early years of the 21st Century, as the Diocese faced the challenge of pastoral planning, a reconfiguration of parishes in Springfield was set in place. St. Joseph's Church on Howard Street, established in 1873 by the city's fast growing French Canadian population, was closed in 2005, and many who worshipped there were welcomed into the Cathedral community. When Holy Family Parish on Eastern Avenue closed in 2009, the Cathedral again happily opened it doors to its greatly diverse parishioner base. As a result of the mergers, St. Michael's Cathedral Parish progressed from its early Irish beginning to an eclectic community in traditions and language.

Through a century and a half, the great St. Michael the Archangel, Universal Protector of the Church, has nourished the faith of the parish and diocese. As one Cathedral visitor observed, in one magnificent stained glass window, sparkling if seen in the morning sun, he stands, princely and heroic, ever an inspiration and a guide.

Bishops of Springfield and Pastors of the Cathedral Parish

Patrick T. O'Reilly 1870-1892
Thomas D. Beaven 1892-1921
Thomas M. O'Leary 1921-1949
Christopher J. Weldon 1950-1977
Joseph F. Maguire 1977-1992
John A. Marshall 1992-1994
Thomas L. Dupre 1995-2004
Timothy A. McDonnell 2004-2014
Mitchel T. Rozanski 2015-present

Rectors of St. Michael's Cathedral 

Fr. James J. McDermott, 1870-1877
Fr. Charles Burke, 1877-1879
Fr. William H Goggin, 1879-1886
Fr. Garrett H. Dolan, 1886-1888
Fr. Bernard S. Conaty, 1888-1897
Msgr. Edward S. Fitzgerald, 1897-1903
Msgr. John T. Madden, 1903-1911     
Fr. Michael A.K. Kelly, 1911-1912
Fr. Thomas Smith, 1912-1913
Fr. Thomas Cummings, 1913-1917
Fr. James F. Ahern, 1917-1925
Fr. George S.L. Connor, 1925-1937
Fr. John J. Power, 1937-1949
Fr. John T. MacPherson, 1949-1962
Msgr. Bernard L. Doheny, 1962-1965
Msgr. Timothy J. Leary, 1965-1980
Rev. Francis Lavelle, 1980-1984
Rev. Richard Meehan, 1984-1991
Rev. Karl Huller, 1991-1997
Rev. John McDonagh, 1997-2001
Msgr. Richard Sniezyk, 2001-2008
Msgr. Christopher Connelly, 2008-present

Organists

George Hart 
Michael Dulac
Michael Fazio
Lad Pfeifer, present organist

The Sisters of St. Joseph at St. Michael's Cathedral

            Special thanks to  Sherry Enserro,  SSJ archivist for photos of Sisters for our gallery.

        The group of sisters is standing in the rotunda of the Elliot Street Motherhouse near the statue of  St. Joseph. Left in the photo is Mother Mary Cecilia Lucy, who was superior 1948-1953; Sr. Mary Leonard Harkness is shown at the switchboard of the Elliot Street Motherhouse; Mother Mary Borgia Paquin is pictured with Bishop Weldon examining the contents of the cornerstone of the Cathedral Grammar School in 1977.

           Excerpts from "Joyous Service" by Sr. Consuelo Maria Aherne, SSJ, 1983

The Sisters have a long history of service at St. Michael's Cathedral. In 1881, Bishop O'Reilly laid the cornerstone for St. Michael's Cathedral Grammar School, the largest in New England at the time. The SSJ's were asked to serve parishes by visiting the sick, teaching Sunday school, and giving music lessons and needlework lessons. Their primary service was to teach.  On August 26, 1883, Fr. Goggin announced at Sunday Mass "The Sisters are with us!" A new convent was built for them next to the grammar school on Elliot Street. On December 30, 1883, Sr. Mary Teresa Boyn was the first sister to receive her habit from Bishop O'Reilly in St. Michael's Cathedral.

In 1884, Mother Cecilia established Cathedral High School above the santuary in two small rooms. In 1899 the motherhouse of the sisters was built by Mother Albina and Bishop Bevan. It remained until 1968 at 62 Elliot St.

        Rememberances of longtime parishioners...

Sr. Lorraine Henry was the  pioneer Pastoral Minister for the diocese starting at St. Michael's in the 1980's. Her legacy was of an especially spiritual person who knew and cared deeply about people, especially the poorest of the poor.  Her favorite phrase "Let go and let God" led her, without a budget or clear plan, to establish Pastoral Ministry.

Sr. Margaret McNaughton was principal of Cathedral Grammar School from 1967-1977. Sr. Margaret returned as Sacristan in 1985 and became Pastoral Minister in 1991 and continues her ministry today. Sr. Eileen Sullivan became Outreach Minister in 2000 and also continues her ministry today.

Sisters of St. Joseph continue to serve into the 21st century though not in their orignal teaching role. They minister to the sick, conduct outreach to the needy, prepare funerals, weddings and many more pastoral duties invaluable to St. Michael's parish.

Finally...

The length of the original structure was 215 ft.

The 1996 addition is 90 ft.

The height of the tower is 120 ft. (called the Knight's Tower).

The Tower Bell: The Hooper Bell was crafted by Paul Revere's son-in-law.

The seating capacity is 1175.

There is an illuminated statue of St. Michael the Archangel in the tower that is lit and visible to State Street.

The tabernacle in the Holy Spirit Chapel was part of the original sanctuary.

The altar in the crypt chapel was part of the original altar in the sanctuary.

The statues on the reredos are from the former Holy Family Church, Springfield.

The Holy Family portrait in the hallway of the Bishop Marshall Center is from the former Holy Family Church

Fr. Karl Huller researched the original colors of the Cathedral and led the "restoration" in the 1990's

D'Ambrosio Ecclesiastical Art Studios of New York commissioned the Burning Bush mosaic behind the taberancle. St. Michael's Cathedral was the only non-New York church highlighted in their brochure.