The application process to become a basilica is extremely detailed, lengthy and exact. Before a church can be considered, six requirements must be met.
- The church must have an active Pastoral Liturgy, which means that the Sacraments (particularly the Eucharist during Mass and the Sacrament of Confession), are celebrated regularly throughout the year.
- The church must be of an appropriate size and and have a sufficiently large sanctuary.
- The church must have historical significance in the Diocese in which its located and in the local community.
- The church must have an adequate number of priests assigned to celebrate the Sacraments.
- The church must have a sufficient number of lay ministers.
- The church must have an adequate Schola of sacred music.
Once Fr. Hathaway determined that the parish met all of these requirements, he assembled a committee of staff and parishioners to begin the process of applying. The committee compiled a 157-page document, including answering over 100 detailed questions from the Vatican, in the beginning of 2017. This questionnaire of 119 questions from the Vatican had to be translated from Latin into English.
After several months of exhaustive research and cataloging the church’s measurements and major appointments, the committee submitted an adequate application to Bishop Michael Burbidge with Fr. Hathaway’s approval in the summer of 2017. After his careful review and feedback, Bishop Burbidge sent to the application to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) in Washington, D.C., and from there it went to the Vatican in Rome.
At the turn of the new year in 2018, the parish finally heard word from Rome on Sunday, January 14 during the 8:30am Mass on its historic designation as the 84th Basilica in the United States. From start to finish, the entire process took a little over a year.
Timeline of events
- Father Edward Hathaway, Pastor of the Church of St. Mary, approaches Bishop Michael Burbidge about applying to become a basilica. Bishop Burbidge enthusiastically agrees, and Fr. Hathaway begins assembling a committee to begin the application process.
Early February 2017
- Fr. Hathaway and the committee review the Vatican’s 119-question Application from the Congregation of Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDWDS).
Late February 2017
- Fr. Hathaway taps Mary Petrino, a parishioner with an extensive background in architecture, church history, and graphic design, to spearhead assembling the application. This includes countless hours of research, writing, review, and fact-checking the parishes more than 200-year history. This work becomes a detailed report concerning the origin, history, and the religious activity of the parish, including it’s liturgical life and pastoral activity.
- Along with creating an architectural floor plan from scratch, Mary and the committee capture interior and exterior photos of the church with emphasis on its art and furnishings for liturgy and worship. A thorough examination of the history and origins of the Church of St. Mary from 1827 (when the present-day church was dedicated) to present day is necessary to accurately answer many of the 119 questions in the questionnaire.
- The initial draft of the application is compiled and prepared by the committee to review. This includes answering the lengthy questions in the application in regard to the size of the interior and exterior of the church, how the church is cared for and decorated, locations for celebrating the sacraments of Confession and Baptism, and much more.
- A careful review of the first draft is conducted, and a second draft is compiled and presented to Fr. Hathaway for approval.
- After several adjustments to the second draft, Fr. Hathaway approves the final copy of the application to be sent to Bishop Michael Burbidge.
June 24, 2017
- The application is finished and printed in the form of a 157-page document and presented to Bishop Michael Burbidge.
June 27, 2017
- After careful review and a few modifications, Bishop Michael Burbidge approves the application and sends it to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) seeking its nihil obstat (favorable judgment), which is required for the application to be sent to the Vatican.
July 2, 2017
- His Eminence Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, grants his nihil obstat representing the USCCB and sends the Application to the Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments (CDWDS) in Rome on July 2.
January 14, 2018
- At the 8:30am Mass on Sunday, January 14, Bishop Michael Burbidge publicly announces to the parish that the Church of St. Mary has been given the designation of “minor basilica” by the Vatican.