By Christie L. Chicoine

CS&T Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA – The Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul has raised more than $625,000 to date in the archdiocesan capital and endowment campaign, exceeding its parish goal of $550,000.

“We are ecstatic,” said Msgr. Michael T. McCulken, the Cathedral rector.

“This amount reflects the extreme generosity of our parishioners who obviously take great pride not only in their Catholic faith and a commitment to the mission of Jesus, but in the preservation of this beautiful basilica.”

The Cathedral, at 18th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, dates back to 1846. It was completed in 1864.

There are currently 700 registered households, or 1,262 registered parishioners, on the Cathedral roster, according to the rector. That includes families who attend La Milagrosa, the Cathedral’s Spanish chapel at 1903 Spring Garden St.

The rector applauded his “hardworking, dedicated, enthusiastic” volunteer committee members who helped build up the Cathedral community as they invited parishioners to participate in the campaign.

He and his committee reached out to parishioners in person, through in-pew commitment cards, a phone-a-thon and small group receptions.

The basilica is more than 160 years old. The adjoining Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel is more than 50 years old, according the the rector.

Although the Cathedral has received regular maintenance through the years, the last major renovations occurred 50 years ago.

“The Cathedral is a unique church in the Archdiocese,” the rector said. The Church of the Archbishop, his cathedra, or chair, is there. As the mother church of the Archdiocese, the Cathedral is also the church of every Catholic in the Archdiocese.

The Church of Philadelphia is conducting a capital and endowment campaign with a $200 million goal to support the charitable, educational and pastoral needs of the Archdiocese as it begins its third century as a diocese. As of press time, $56,754,686 toward the $200 million goal had been raised in gifts and pledges through parish campaigns and leadership gifts.

Of that goal, $25 million is earmarked to help restore and renew the Cathedral – $20 million for immediate renovations and $5 million for a preservation fund.

Ninety percent of the renovations to the Cathedral’s Chapel of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament and several significant interior renovations in the Cathedral have been completed through the contributions of an anonymous donor, the rector said.

However, the need for additional renovations to the adjoining chapel and the Cathedral remain, he said.

Those renovations include: repairs, restoration, replacement, repointing and cleaning of exterior brownstone, brick and granite; ongoing repairs to the roof and interior wooden joists; upgrades to the electrical, lighting, heating, ventilating, air conditioning and plumbing systems; new audio systems and video screens; plaster repairs and painting of the basilica; and restoration of the cathedral pews, marble floor, cathedral organ and chapel organ.

The parish’s campaign case statement also includes the replacement of windows for La Milagrosa and funds for Catholic school tuition for needy parishioners.

The rector acknowledged Catholics of the mid-to-late-19th century for their vision, leadership and sacrifices in building the Cathedral, and the successive generations of Catholics who have continued to contribute to the beauty and maintenance of the edifice.

“Now, we have the opportunity to help restore, maintain and preserve this historic basilica for future generations so this church, which is so special and meaningful to all of us in the Archdiocese, is able to continue to inspire countless numbers of Catholics and non-Catholics in the years ahead,” he said.

Since visitors contribute approximately 60 percent of the collection taken up at weekend Masses, according to Msgr. McCulken, the Cathedral has made a special campaign appeal to them.

“We are the hosts and hostesses to the world,” Msgr. McCulken said. “We welcome visitors, tourists, guests – every day, especially every weekend – to this beautiful, historic and inspiring church. We do so from our faith and belief in Jesus Christ and His Gospel and in our desire to be of service to Christ and the Gospel in helping to provide a beautiful celebration of Mass and the sacraments.

“We open the doors of the basilica to everyone.”

For more information about the Cathedral, visit the web site or call (215) 561-1313. For more information about the capital campaign, call (610)896-7312 or visit the web site

CS&T Staff Writer Christie L. Chicoine may be reached at (215) 587-2468 or