The Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., has announced gifts totaling more than $22 million from Virginia Cretella Mars and Andrew C. Florance and his wife, Heather, in support of a renovation of the former Cathedral College of Preachers, which will be renamed the Virginia Mae Center.
When finished in late 2020, the renovated center will serve as one of the primary hubs of the Cathedral College of Faith and Culture, the new program arm of the cathedral, and will be able to host approximately forty guests for short-term stays and long-term academic residencies. In addition, the renovated center will be home to three new programmatic institutes: the Institute for Music, Liturgy, and the Arts, which will be dedicated to excellence in choral and organ music, liturgy, and preaching; the Institute for Ethics and Public Engagement, which will be dedicated to strengthening moral discourse, with a focus on racial justice and reconciliation, interfaith engagement, veterans' issues, and social justice; and the Institute for Spirituality and Leadership, which will offer courses, spiritual retreats, and residencies focused on the renewal and reflection of lay and clergy leaders. Mars, a longtime supporter of the cathedral and currently secretary of its governing board, contributed more than $17 million to the project, while the Florances gave $5 million.
According to the National Cathedral, the College of Preachers was closed in 2008 as a result of the recession, and the facility that housed it lay dormant for a decade. The semi-independent college had merged with the cathedral in 2004.
"We are incredibly grateful for the generous gifts from Virginia Mars and her daughters, and from Andrew and Heather Florance, which will create new opportunities to invite people of all faiths to the cathedral to explore art, music, moral leadership in public life, and spiritual formation here at the crossroads of the civic and sacred," said cathedral dean the Very Reverend Randolph Marshall Hollerith. "The Cathedral College of Faith and Culture is the culmination of a journey to restore fiscal health to this institution. Consistent with the work we’ve done over the past four years to balance our budget, this project will be supported by an endowment, ensuring that we will be able to continue investing in our congregation, our city, the cathedral building restoration, and our ongoing national events and programming."