The Congregation for Bishops has decreed that the Diocese of Winona will now be called the Diocese of Winona-Rochester and that St. John the Evangelist Church of Rochester will be designated as a co-cathedral, according to a March 27 announcement from the newly renamed diocese.
“This is a significant moment in our diocese’s history,” said Bishop John M. Quinn of the Vatican’s announcement. “My heart is lifted by this news, as I know that the presence of a co-cathedral in Rochester will provide unique ways to share the Gospel in our diocese’s fastest growing city.”
The word “cathedral” is derived from the Latin word cathedra, meaning “chair.” The chair is an ancient symbol of apostolic authority. The cathedral is generally located in the major metropolis of a diocese. At the time the Diocese of Winona was established, Winona was a key location, by the railroad and along the Mississippi River. Now, 128 years later, populations have shifted. Rochester has become the third largest city in Minnesota, and three-quarters of the diocese’s population resides in the region between Rochester and Mankato.
In 2015, an initial inquiry was sent to the Vatican’s Congregation for Bishops asking for the designation of a co-cathedral in Rochester. The Congregation for Bishops subsequently sent the diocese requirements for the process and directed the establishment of a diocesan planning committee.
This committee determined that St. John the Evangelist Church should be elevated to the status of a co-cathedral. The co-cathedral committee, and other groups involved, considered the size of the church building, location, architecture, and overall ability to function as a co-cathedral. Other factors included its proximity to the Mayo Clinic, the arts, culture, media, and industry, which provide an opportunity for further evangelization. St. John the Evangelist Church is also considered the “mother church” of Rochester, being the oldest parish in the city.
The Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Winona will not change in status. It will continue to be the seat of the diocese and will host diocesan celebrations and Masses and ordinations.
A liturgical ceremony is scheduled for June 24, at which the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Pope Francis’ delegate to the United States, will formally designate St. John the Evangelist Church as the co-cathedral. During this ceremony, a new cathedra, or bishop’s chair, will be blessed, bearing witness to the apostolic ministry of sanctifying, teaching, and shepherding.
Adoption of the new title, “Diocese of Winona-Rochester,” throughout the parishes, schools, and diocesan institutions is expected to be completed by July 1.
— The Northern Cross