Bishop to bless newly-cast bells for the Cathedral of St. Joseph

Ringing will help proclaim God’s word to the ends of the earth as renovations reach final stages

Watch the recap of the Blessing of the Bells on March 21, 2023:

The sound of bells ringing the Angelus from a church belfry is a traditional Catholic call to prayer — and a reminder of our duty to proclaim God’s word to the ends of the earth. But when it came to the spiritual home of the Diocese of Jefferson City, our Cathedral of St. Joseph has always been noticeably silent.

However, that will soon change as five new bronze bells are blessed and installed in the cathedral on Tuesday, March 21. At 10 a.m., the Most Reverend W. Shawn McKnight, Bishop of Jefferson City, will bless the bells outside the cathedral.

Please note that since the blessing will happen on a working construction site, we are not able to invite the public. Video and photos of the blessing will be shared later that day.

The sound of bells ringing from the Cathedral of St. Joseph will be a first in its history. The cathedral opened in 1968 and was dedicated in 1974. While the original vision for the cathedral called for a bell tower, it was never built. The ongoing renovation and expansion of the cathedral provided an opportunity to finally fulfill this long-held dream. 

The largest of the new bells is 45 inches in diameter and weighs 1,800 pounds. This bell, which will chime an F note, is named Saint Joseph in honor of the patron of our cathedral. It includes the inscription “HOLY TO THE LORD” from the Bible verse Zechariah 14:20. 

The other four bells have diameters of 30 inches, 23 inches, 20 inches and 19 inches. They are named in honor of the writers of the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They are tuned to C, F, G and A. 

Each of these bells is also marked with an inscription:

  • Saint Luke: “MUSIC FROM YOUR HEART” (EPH. 5:19C)
  • Saint John: “LET US RING OUT OUR JOY” (PS 95:1A)

“I pray that these new bells will provide a daily reminder of our need as Catholics to proudly proclaim God’s word and live out his mercy as we go about our lives,” said Bishop McKnight. “Church bells are an ancient part of our Catholic tradition, and here at our Cathedral of St. Joseph the ringing of bells will be an exciting new tradition. Let the pure sound of these bells signify a time of rebirth, renewal and rededication to our Church and faith.”

The bells were produced by McShane Bell Company, a Missouri-based company that has been in operation since 1856. They were cast in Europe in the traditional method using sweeps and molds from the McShane Bell Company. 

Following a blessing by Bishop McKnight, the bells will immediately be installed in two belfries that are attached to a newly expanded narthex which was constructed during the ongoing renovation of the cathedral.

“This is an important milestone for our diocese and our parish. As we approach the completion of construction, these bells will help us welcome everyone back home for Mass at our Cathedral of St. Joseph,” said Fr. Louis Nelen, pastor of the 2,500-member cathedral parish. “It will be a historic moment for our current parishioners to be the first to hear this call to prayer, knowing that these bells will be calling out to our faithful for generations to come.”

The Cathedral of St. Joseph is the spiritual home for the more than 75,000 Catholics who reside in the Diocese of Jefferson City, which covers 38 counties in central and northeastern Missouri. The addition of the bells is part of a major renovation and expansion of the cathedral that addresses numerous mechanical and accessibility issues within the structure while greatly enhancing the cathedral’s hospitality and spiritual functionality. 

In addition to the new bells, the renovation includes new artwork and liturgical features that more fully reflect the beauty of our Catholic faith — as well as vividly tell the story of our diocese as we seek to enter into a new era of thriving Catholic life.

Work on the cathedral renovation is reaching its final stages and Bishop McKnight has scheduled a Mass of Rededication for May 5. Due to limited space, attendance at the rededication is by invitation only and will be livestreamed online.

Everyone is welcome to view the renovations during an open house on Sunday, May 7. The bells will ring to welcome everyone to the cathedral from 1-4 p.m. that afternoon.