December 6, 2015

Beautiful.  Magical.  Spectacular.  Transformative.  Breathtaking.

Those are five good words to describe our Christmas art and    environment.   But when it comes to the process of actually creating that environment, I have only one word:


Decorating a space as big as our Cathedral would be overwhelming to most folks, but to Art and Joan Siegel, it is very much a labor of love.  The husband and wife team spend countless hour visualizing and planning for exactly how everything will work.  (It’s different every year...Art and Joan wouldn’t dream of repeating.)

As they make a plan, they also have to figure out how to execute the design.  This is where their teamwork comes into play.  While they both are wonderfully creative, Joan takes the lead on detailing each setting--she has the “eye”.  She figures out the look for each area and then shops for the right pieces to create the design.

Art then comes in and figures out how to make it work.  As a master carpenter, he creates all sorts of nifty things that support and    enhance the displays.  This includes building wooden boxes that elevate the trees and extra “marble” steps to expand the treads so more floral can be laid out.  Through it all, Art has to be concerned that everything is very stable and nothing could possible damage the marble.

Finally, come the third Sunday in Advent, it is time to start putting all of it together.  This is your consummate it-takes-a-village project.  Next Sunday afternoon about 60 people will be in the Cathedral for the afternoon working on the trees.  Getting the trees up from their storage spot in the basement and assembled takes lots of strong backs.  The ramps will make this a little easier this year, but it is an incredible project.  If manpower and time works out, this group will also hang the wreaths that go around the Cathedral perimeter. 

 The following Sunday will involve another 30 people (plenty of hardy souls work both weekends) arranging the flowers and adding the final touches that make the displays so special.  The 7:00 p.m. Mass attendees will get a sneak peek that night--but the trees won’t be lit until Christmas Eve Mass.  (And if you are like me and try to count the number of trees each year, I’ll save you from squinting. There are a total of 31 trees inside the Cathedral.)

Art has one project that is especially important to him--the nativity sets.  Art designed both the indoor and outdoor versions.  They are incredible works of Art.   (See what I did there?)  The indoor one was custom built to fit in the Cathedral  in 2002..  The outdoor    version, which is cleverly designed to look like the façade of the original St. Raymond Church on Douglas Street, was a gift to the parish from the Siegel family in memory of their parents, Francis and Marie Siegel.   Art created that in 2007.

By the time we walk into our Cathedral to celebrate the Nativity of Our Lord, more than 80 people will have worked to create a      beautiful, magical, spectacular, transformative and breathtaking place for our Worship.  You too can be a part of this.  If you’d like to help, just come to the Cathedral between 1:00--6:00 p.m. on either of the next two Sundays.  Art and Joan will find you a job that fits your skill set.  And you’ll make friends--these decorating folks are very friendly!

You can also help by using the Christmas flowers envelope in your packet.  Your contribution will be used to cover the cost of the flowers and other items needed to enhance our displays.

We are so grateful to Art and Joan for their vision and to their     wonderful volunteers for creating such beauty.  I can’t wait to see it!

Eileen Hooks Gutierrez

815-722-6653, extension 242



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