August 2, 2020: The Feast of the Dedication of St. Dominic's Church - Pastor’s Corner
This week we celebrate the Feast of the Dedication of the Church. This feast marks the moment when, on August 1, 1992, Archbishop John R. Quinn dedicated Saint Dominic's Church following its successful restoration after the devastation of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. As early as 1984, engineering tests had determined that the church was seismically unstable and the Loma Prieta earthquake accelerated the need to retrofit the building. Initially uncertain of how to secure the building without destroying the integral beauty of the interior of Church, a medieval solution was proposed as the best solution: flying buttress. The nine flying buttresses that rise from concrete piers deep underground and soar to connect at a ring beam that girdles the church at the roof line are a testament to the wisdom of ages as applied to “contemporary” problem.
Of course, the origins of our parish go back to 1863, when the Dominican order purchased the city block bounded by Steiner, Bush, Pierce and Pine Streets for a mere $6,000. (Whether because of our presence or not, real estate prices in the neighborhood have increased somewhat since then!). The first Saint Dominic's, a small church at the corner of Bush and Steiner Streets, was blessed on June 29, 1873. By 1880, it was apparent that the church was too small for its rapidly growing congregation. Plans were drawn for a much larger church to be built of brick on the same site. The first church was moved to a location on Pine Street where it served as a parish hall. Although the cornerstone of the second church was laid in 1883, years of financial hardship followed and the church did not open until 1887 and was not completed for several years after. It served the parish until April 18, 1906. During the months following the great earthquake, parishioners gathered for Mass outdoors until, in October 1906, a wooden church opened on the Pierce Street side of the block. This “temporary” Saint Dominic's was to remain in use as a church until 1928 and as a parish hall until the 1960's when it was finally torn down. Work did not begin on the fourth and current Saint Dominic's until 1923. Archbishop Hanna blessed the new church after construction was finished in 1928. Even then, work continued for many years as the building we know now was brought to completion at the time of Saint Dominic's centennial celebration in 1973.
This feast of the dedication also launches our St. Dominic’s month. I invite you to visit the Church which remains open daily from 12:00 Noon - 4:30 pm in order to view the historical panorama. Located in the space framed by the Holy Name altar, the relic of the True Cross and the Image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, this Dominican display highlights some of the key events and ideals of St. Dominic’s and his Order of Preachers throughout the centuries. This special historical exhibition will remain up all during St. Dominic’s month. On this feast of dedication, we give thanks to God for those who labored to build and preserve our Church and, that like the Church herself, our lives might radiate the joy of the Gospel in the heart of the City!