For those who love St. Mary Cathedral Basilica, Easter Sunday couldn’t have been any more picture perfect.

A standing-room-only packed house proudly welcomed back Texas’ mother Catholic church after it took a severe beating from Hurricane Ike nearly six years ago.

I was fortunate enough to be there for the long-awaited reopening, and the feeling was the same I had when I returned to my house for good after Ike.

After all, like others, so many precious memories have taken place in that historic downtown giant.

For me, St. Mary vividly dates back to first grade, even though I know years before I was baptized there.

Attending those daily 8 a.m. Masses and standing in the front pews with my fellow classmates, hands in upright prayer position just waiting my turn to finally receive communion for the first time from Father Dan O’Connell.

Then getting the chance to be an altar boy, serving alongside Father Dan, the man we all loved and admired and missed dearly when he unfortunately left us to be with God.

Father Dan was gone, but St. Mary Cathedral is there for life.

I would be confirmed there, married there and one day through the endless hard work of so many — but, hopefully, not any time soon — will have my last rites there.

I can’t thank those enough who were responsible for bringing my beloved church back to life.

The reality of it all emotionally hit me at the end of Mass when I ran into Deacon John Pistone, who I know from Day 1 was behind the scenes making sure the job was done — and done right.

It’s just sad to think it took a God-made disaster to finally give St. Mary the overhaul it truly deserved and needed long, long before Ike.

Somehow the bigwigs of the diocese could find money to build a $32 million cathedral in Houston next to the existing co-cathedral but couldn’t come up with the few millions it took to eventually restore St. Mary.

Here’s a church that was built in 1847 and withstood one hurricane after another, even the devastating 1900 Storm. Above the mass of destruction that dreadful September day stood the statue of Mary, her resiliency the true symbolism of Galveston’s will to survive.

I truly believe as long as Mary looks over us, the island will stand tall, too.

So, Houston, enjoy your multimillion-dollar Hilton. We now have again the Taj Mahal.

Manuel Moreno Jr. is a lifetime resident of Galveston and 1968 graduate of St. Mary’s Cathedral School.

Guest column

Manuel Moreno Jr. is a lifetime resident of Galveston and 1968 graduate of St. Mary’s Cathedral School.

(2) comments

Mike Leahy

A great story Mr. Moreno, thank you for telling it. I do miss not having that lifelong connection to the church where I was Christened, received First Communion and became an altar boy. But, changing location of residence (in a major way) prevented that in my case. I am glad for those like you, for whom it is a lifelong experience.

I also agree wholeheartedly with you assessment of how the "bigwigs" at the Archdiocese chose to allocate millions for a new Co-Cathedra,l and I am glad to hear someone else say so out loud.

I wonder how long it will be before they decide to take Galveston out of the name of the Archdiocese, and "Co-Cathedral" out of the name of the good Cardinal's new seat?

Elizabeth Kinard

I think that's a unfair assessment of the folks at the archdiocese. I'm happy to see a beautiful church like the co-cathedral in Houston exist, it's available to all of us. It's modern beauty and the services are beautiful and I feel fortunate to only be 40 miles away. On the other hand, the Re-birth of the basilica is a wonderful treasure for our island and am grateful it too is only miles from my home. Thankful for what we have on our island.

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