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The kneeling bench (prie dieu) of Bishop John Henry Luers, first bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne (-South Bend), where he may have asked God to “remove me from this horrible Hoosierdom;” and the writing desk of Msgr. Julian Benoit, where he penned an invitation to (Saint) Mother Theodore Guerin at Saint-Mary-of-the-Woods, in Terre Haute, to bring teaching sisters to Fort Wayne are side by side in the Cathedral Museum in the Archbishop Noll Catholic Center in Fort Wayne.

One-hundred-fifty years of diocesan history are portrayed in stained glass, gold and glittering vestments as well as faded photographs that somehow beg the museum visitor to feel the struggle involved in bringing faith and education to the region.

The museum was established in 1980 in memory of Msgr. Thomas Durkin, who over the years had collected many irreplaceable items while confiding to seminarian Phillip Widmann that the assorted furniture, photos and forgotten relics should be presented to the public in an organized manner. With the death of Msgr. Durkin (1977), Phillip Widmann, now a priest, serving as pastor of St. Mary and St. Peter parishes, proposed to then Bishop William McManus the idea of establishing a diocesan museum. Approval followed and with time, the collection grew, moved several times, and now shines forth in a dramatic setting, which allows visitors to follow the growth of the diocese through eight bishops, many pastors and teaching sisters, and countless thousands of parishioners.

Through the Sesquicentennial Jubilee year, which extends to the Feast of the Epiphany (January 6, 2008), the museum has a jubilee display highlighting the 50 years of Bishop John M. D’Arcy’s priesthood and his 22 years as the eighth bishop of the diocese. Photos of numerous appearances with Pope John Paul II on “ad limina” visits to the Vatican and at World Youth Day in Denver, 1993, also can be seen. Locally, a historic occasion was the rededication of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (pictured left) on December 8, 1998, after a $3.5-million renovation/restoration. The bishop’s lifelong passion for baseball and the Boston Red Sox are recalled with some personal sports mementos on display.

The Cathedral Museum is located in the lower level of the Archbishop Noll Catholic Center, 915 S. Clinton Street, in downtown Fort Wayne. It is open from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Tuesday through Friday (closed on all holidays).

The Waynedale News Staff

Mark Weber, graphics and advertising director, Today’s Catholic

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