Diocese of Orange gets $20 million for Crystal Cathedral renovation

The former Crystal Cathedral, seen here with the Tower of Hope in Garden Grove.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

An anonymous donor has given the Diocese of Orange $20 million to help transform Robert Schuller’s Crystal Cathedral into the county’s center of Catholic life — the largest cash gift it has received.

The money, given to the Orange Catholic Foundation, the diocese’s fundraising arm, will be paid over seven years.

The donation is part of a $53-million campaign to raise money for what is now known as Christ Cathedral, which includes seven buildings on 34 acres in Garden Grove. Another $60 million is being raised for scholarships, parish projects and priest retirements, said Ryan Lilyengren, a spokesman for the diocese.

The diocese has raised about $85 million from 24,000 parishioners in the last two years. The diocese is now focusing on persuading people to donate large gifts.


“We’re obviously very blessed and pleased by the success of the fundraising effort,” Lilyengren said. “We’ve never done anything like this. People really recognized the need to build this community center.”

The archdiocese purchased the campus for $57.5 million in 2011 after Schuller’s ministry filed for bankruptcy. Officials hope to finish the work in 2016.

The diocese intends for the cathedral grounds to become not only a gathering spot for the diocese’s 1.2 million members, but a center for activities for the entire county.

Already, a seismic retrofit has been completed on the Arboretum, the oldest building on the campus, at a cost of $5.7 million. Eleven masses are held on weekends in the Arboretum, which was where Schuller originally held services.

The building was designed by the well-known architect Richard Neutra, as was the tallest building on campus, the 14-story Tower of Hope.

That building is undergoing a $6-million seismic retrofit. A TV studio being built on the 8th floor will be the West Coast studio for the Eternal Word Television Network, which bills itself as the largest religious broadcaster in the world.

A radio studio on the same floor is almost completed. The diocese will use it to produce shows for San Diego County radio station KCEO, part of Immaculate Heart Radio, a listener-supported Catholic network. The transponder is expected to begin operation on Jan. 13 and will boost the station’s power to improve reception in Orange County.
Twitter: @gottliebjeff