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Catholic cathedral in downtown Syracuse getting $12 million upgrade

A $12 million renovation is underway at the Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in downtown Syracuse. The cathedral has many maintenance problems similar to what other older churches face in the city.

The cathedral’s rector, Monsignor Neal Quartier walks down stairs to show off a room under the main alter that was recently cleaned after sustaining water damage. Four bishops and two rectors are buried in the room. But Quartier said there is a lot more work that needs to be done throughout the cathedral. 

The cathedral needs a whole new roof; the original is 130 years old. The cathedral is also getting a new floor, and new electric, sound and lighting systems. The inside of the church is being repainted. The rectory has been turned into a parish center with new bathrooms, a lobby, classrooms, offices and residences for priests.  

“I’ve been thinking about this since I became rector 12 years ago and we just didn’t have a lot of money so that is why this had to become a diocesan wide project,” Quartier said. "We've been talking about the roof for a long time and we've been patching it up, $50,000 here, $50,000 there."

Cathedral parishioners raised more than a million dollars and the rest of the diocese came up with the remainder. And Quartier knows, repairs are something many of these older churches in Syracuse have to deal with.

“So many of our other parishes have a lot of their own financial needs," Quartier said. "They’ve been wonderful to support the diocesan church because they have to replace their roofs too and we certainly understand the stress that they are under.”

Quartier said attendance at the cathedral has been steady. Downtown Syracuse is seeing a boom and the cathedral gets a lot of visitors staying at the hotels, young people living downtown and college students.

The cathedral is the mother church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse. Quartier said he hopes the restoration will be complete by September 2017.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.