Treasures of St. Patrick Cathedral revealed in new book

North Texas Catholic
(Dec 3, 2019) Local

Cathedral Treasures, by Kay Fialho, offers interesting details about many of the sacred objects in St. Patrick Cathedral. (courtesy/Editions Du Signe)

FORT WORTH — Ever wonder about the oil paintings that hang in the vestibules of St. Patrick Cathedral in downtown Fort Worth or admired the radiant beauty of the rose window on the building’s east façade? Want to know more about a favorite statue or the ornate Stations of the Cross lining the walls?

Cathedral Treasures, a book by Kathryn (Kay) Fialho, offers interesting details and the provenance for many of the sacred objects that make St. Patrick Cathedral not only artistically significant, but an inspiring place for worship and reflection.

For more than 30 years, the cathedral’s historian and archivist has guided Catholic school children, visiting travelers, and interested parishioners through Tarrant County’s oldest Catholic church. During the tours, Fialho shares information about the cathedral’s design, as well as its altars, dramatic statues, and collection of chalices and reliquaries housed in an archival room. Viewing the treasures often elicits “oohs and ahhs” from her appreciative audience.

“I wanted to write a book that encompasses most of what I say during a tour,” explained the longtime St. Patrick parishioner who began the project in 2018. “People are so fascinated by all the stories and always ask if the information is available in something like a guidebook.”

Her explanations and descriptions are accompanied by images taken by Fort Worth photographer Brian Luenser with help from his wife, Debbie. Meticulous care was taken to capture the elegance of each artifact, stained glass window, and other interesting features of the cathedral.

“Their love for the cathedral shines through in the photographs,” said Fialho, praising the devotion of the parishioners who volunteered their services. “They retook photos if they didn’t come out just right.”

Her daughter, Anna Fialho Byers, edited the book.

Raised in the Methodist faith, the author converted to Catholicism during her days at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene. The Breckenridge, Texas native was working in Dallas as a medical technologist the first time she visited St. Patrick in 1962. What impresses new visitors the most?

“How the church looks when you enter it,” Fialho suggested, remembering the effect the historic landmark had on her. “The windows make the biggest impact when you walk in. Then people notice the statues.”

But among the priceless treasures sheltered in the white limestone cathedral, the seasoned researcher has two favorites. One is a mesquite and ivory crosier and chalice that Dallas Bishop Thomas Gorman gave to Bishop Joseph Cassata when the Diocese of Fort Worth was established 50 years ago. The other? The tomb of Father Jean Marie Guyot. The French priest, who literally helped construction workers build the church with his own hands, is buried in a crypt under the cathedral’s original altar.

“That simple, beautiful priest never had any idea what he started would be a cathedral one day,” mused Fialho, who finds the missionary’s life and story inspirational.

Most parishioners may never see where St. Patrick’s early pastor is buried, “but the book allows them to experience the cathedral and learn about its treasures,” added the archivist, who priced the book at $25. “I want people to have those beautiful pictures and information.”

Catholics are blessed to have so many faith-related artifacts preserved over the course of St. Patrick’s history. Following Vatican II, many churches removed altars, communion rails, and religious artwork to emphasize the role of the congregation in worship.

“We should be thankful the cathedral still has what it has,” Fialho pointed out. “We have treasures other churches have lost because they were tossed away.”

Pre-order “Cathedral Treasures” on the cathedral’s website: for $25. A limited number of books are available and will arrive after Christmas.

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