WELCOME TO OUR SPIRITUAL HOME
The Cathedral of St. Mary of the Assumption, spiritual home for generations of Catholics in the Diocese of Trenton, has stood as witness to God's love and the dedication of God's people since its inception. Even before there was a Diocese of Trenton, in 1865, Father Anthony Smith purchased the property and ground was broken for the foundation of St. Mary's Church on April 23, 1866. The parishioners themselves contributed much of the labor. It took almost five years to complete and on January 1, 1871, St. Mary's Church was dedicated.
The land on which the church was built has historic significance dating from the time of the American Revolution. A part of the Battle of Trenton was fought on this site and the Hessian Commander Col. Johann Gottlieb Rall was mortally wounded and died here on December 27, 1776. A historic marker on the façade of the cathedral rectory identifies the site.
When the Diocese of Trenton was established in 1881, Saint Mary's Church was designated the cathedral, the Mother Church of the diocese and home to the cathedra, the chair of the bishop. Since then the cathedral has welcomed people from all walks of life into a community nourished by the Gospel of Jesus Christ and strengthened for the challenges of life.
The diocese and Cathedral parish community faced its own devastating challenge when tragedy struck in 1956 and the first cathedral church was destroyed by fire, also taking the lives of the Very Reverend Monsignor Richard T. Crean, cathedral rector, and the Misses Mary Brennan and Mary Donnellan, cathedral housekeepers.
Through God's grace and the generosity of many people, a new cathedral church was built, and on the day of its dedication, March 14, 1959, Bishop George W. Ahr encouraged the parishioners, the people of the city of Trenton and visitors to find in the cathedral "an inexhaustible well-spring of divine grace and a fruitful source of spiritual blessing, strength and consolation. In very truth it will be a House of God and a Gate to Heaven."
Today, Bishop David M. O'Connell, C.M., is the tenth bishop to preach and teach from the cathedra, and to gather together people from all corners of the diocese to worship in communion as the Family of God.
WHAT IS A CATHEDRAL?
Catholics understand the "cathedral" to be a special church within a diocese (a diocese is either a territory or an identifiable group of people) in which is found the cathedra, the chair that stands as the sign of the spiritual leadership of the bishop, who presides over the diocese. Because of this, the cathedral is often called the "Mother Church" of a diocese even if it is not the oldest or first church established there.
WHAT HAPPENS IN A CATHEDRAL?
The cathedral of the Diocese of Trenton, like most cathedrals in the United States, is also a parish church, with its own local community of Catholic faithful. As such it is a place where there are daily and weekend Masses and many other services provided for the local Catholic community. As the diocesan cathedral, it serves as the church where the bishop presides at the celebration of major feasts of the Church such as Easter and Christmas, ordains clergy (deacons and priests) and confirms adults. Significant commemorative events – anniversaries, blessings, conferral of honors – and other special occasions gather the faithful of the diocese and some times the larger community with the bishop in the Cathedral.