Raising a Cathedral
from an essay by Mr. A. W. Borden in The Story of St. Mark’s Parish and Pro-Cathedral (1944)
The initial stage of construction consisted of the foundations with the walls rising to 5 feet above ground level, inclusive of the laying and dedication of the corner stone in December of 1922. At this juncture it was found that resources would not permit of further immediate progress with the permanent work, and it was promptly decided that in order to permit time for adequate financing, to resort to the temporary expedient of preparing the crypt or basement as a place of worship, (services had meanwhile been held in the old church building).
This involved a special campaign to raise money for the construction of a temporary roof at the 5-foot level, and by special consent of the architect, Dr. Ralph A. Cram of Boston, for an entrance on the north side through the massive concrete footing walls.
Once completed and dedicated, this proved an attractive and comfortable place of worship and was in use for this purpose for 5 years during which time Dean Tyner accepted a call to the rectorship of Saint George’s Church, Kansas City.
It is memorable that on the occasion of his initial visit to Hastings, Dean Lee stood in the crypt together with George R. Dutton, then chairman of the building committee, and A. W. Borden, and in the falling shadows of a November evening, listened to the story. At its conclusion he turned to us and said, “This church shall be built.” Without further words, they knew that he had accepted the challenge and would return to assume the charge.
It should be understood that meanwhile, confronted as it was by seemingly insurmountable obstacles, the prospect of a resumption of building operations had become almost a remote thing in the minds of Saint Mark’s people.
Within a year Dean Lee called all elements of the church together and presented a carefully prepared and orderly program of financing, along with a plan for the resumption of building operations to be undertaken by stages, timed to the capabilities of the resources contemplated under the program.
All of this was presented with characteristic zeal for the cause to which he had committed his life, but at once bulwarked by a sound business plan. Then followed the major campaign for building fund pledges, both within the Parish and throughout the District of Western Nebraska, supplemented by a loan which he personally sponsored, and all culminated by another loan of $10,000 from the American Church Building fund to cover requirements of the final enclosure of the structure.
May it be said to the everlasting glory of those at that time interested, that the plan was enthusiastically received by all the people of Saint Mark’s and by Bishop Beecher, through whose untiring effort, much valuable support came from the outlying regions of the District of Western Nebraska, as well as many gifts from his friends and connections in the East.
The work was then contracted to the The Edward R. Green Company and prosecuted under the supervision of Mr. J. Frank Kealy of this city, whose warm personal interest in the project assured the people of Saint Mark’s would be painstakingly faithful in his interpretation of their plans.
As already mentioned, this work was accomplished by intermittent stages, covering in all, a period of another five years, during which the intervals of interruption were sometimes prolonged to the point of discouragement, but always eventually terminated by a revival of activity.
These references to the trials and problems of the building program are made only to shed light upon the spirit and character of the man to whom the success or failure of this undertaking meant so much, Dean Francis Lee.
Under such determined and Heaven inspired purpose, the means were indeed “found” and the completed Saint Mark’s Pro-Cathedral stands today free from debt as a monument to the quiet but unremitting efforts of this lovable character.