The Download—Mixing the Sacred and the Profane

by Christine Niles  •  •  March 15, 2016   

The St. Cecilia Cathedral has several times hosted exhibits with secular and even pagan displays

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Head of Buddha,
St. Cecilia Cathedral

The annual flower festival at St. Cecilia's Cathedral in Omaha, Nebraska has been ongoing for more than three decades, and has never caused much of a stir — until this year, when Mark Kenney, a janitor at the cathedral, took a pair of heavy-duty bolt cutters and snipped a steel suspension cord hanging from the ceiling, sending the attached mannequin of Mary Poppins crashing into pieces onto the floor.

He also threw out multiple other mannequins dressed in period pieces — part of a celebration themed "A Night at the Movies" on display at the cathedral in the last weekend of January.

Kenney was arrested and fired from his job.

The story has since made national news, the public expressing overwhelming support for Kenney — a man they see as representing the pent-up frustrations of so many faithful Catholics fed up with Church leaders profaning the sacred through liturgical abuse, watered-down catechesis, and now, inappropriate secular displays in the House of God.

The festival has been hosted from the beginning by the Cathedral Arts Project (CAP), an initiative that states as its mission to "promote the performing and visual arts which uplift and challenge the human spirit."

Egyptian display close-up

CAP's executive director is Br. William Woeger, FSC, a member of the Christian Brothers, who has won numerous honors for his architectural and liturgical work, including a 2009 American Institute of Architects Award for his renovation of the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland, California.

"The Cathedral of Christ the Light resonates as a place of worship and conveys an inclusive statement of welcome and openness as the community's symbolic soul," states the award. "The glass, wood and concrete structure ennobles and inspires through the use of light, material, and form."

Cathedral of Christ the Light

Woeger's philosophy of liturgical design includes fostering a "unique outcome expressive of a particular community's identity," a process he calls "exciting."

Not all shows have included inappropriate imagery. The 2013 flower festival included a number of beautiful flower arrangements along with sacred imagery of icons of the saints. But that seems to have given way the last three years to themes revolving around pop culture, secular icons — and even pagan deities.

Below, a sampling of displays in the St. Cecilia Cathedral at this and past flower festivals (the complete set of photos for the 2016 festival can be viewed here):


Egyptian Display
Peter Pan and Captain Hook
Lion from "The Wizard of Oz"
"Phantom of the Opera"
Queen Elizabeth I (who tortured and murdered Catholics)
Indian wedding ceremony


Pagan Eastern deity

Watch the full episode: "The Download—Mary Poppins Boltcutter Massacre."


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