•Father Jeffrey Lee, diocesan director of pilgrimages and pastor of St. Mary Parish, Colts Neck, visited Notre Dame in October 2008 during his sabbatical in Barcelona:
“I attended the first morning choir Mass. It was packed with people, at least 3,000 on a regular Sunday. Visitors, standing four across, toured the church during Mass but in complete silence: not a word, not a whisper, not a shuffle. In Barcelona, the people saw a building; in Notre Dame, the people saw a house of a praying church: all races, colors, ages. It was striking, a powerful image. The church was fully alive, the principal organ maintained a French Romantic sound and evoked a sense of mystery. You feel so insignificant, it transforms you.
I felt such emptiness when I saw the pictures of it up in flames, I was grieving for the universal Church and humanity.”
• Cheryl Manfredonia, co-founder of the Domestic Church Media apostolate, Ewing:
“We all know that a church is not just a building. It is ‘living stone’ created from a continuous stream of prayer. From architectural renderings, to engineers, to financial contributors, to contractors, to painters – each brick and mortar was lovingly placed during multitudes of Hail Mary’s preparing an iconic church for all to visit.
A few years ago, I was the accompanist for [a choir] on a concert tour throughout France, and had the honor and blessing to play the organ at this monumental cathedral. What history! What a beautiful tribute to Our Lady! One can feel the millions of prayers that had been offered in that masterpiece. Pictures are one thing, but to stand before this work of art takes your breath away. There is great silence and reverence inside, despite hundreds of visitors of all denominations – part of which comes from being awestruck at the beauty, yes, made by man, but placed on their hearts by God. When you are on holy ground, you can’t help but feel it.”
• Alice Teti of the Catholic Community of Hopewell Valley (St. Alphonsus Church, Hopewell):
“I was deeply saddened when I saw the pictures of the fire at Notre Dame. When I have visited the cathedral in the past, I have been struck that as Catholics we are part of a succession of great saints and also ordinary church-goers who sought God in quiet moments of private prayer and who gathered together for public worship in that beautiful space.
I am also impressed by the commitment of people who planned and worked on a project that would not be complete in their own lifetime. It is a space known to history for the coronations of monarchs, but it is most important in the hearts of so many as a legendary sanctuary for the outcast.”
• Janice Hutchinson Hillsdon of St. Paul Parish, Princeton:
“I never knew just how impressive Notre Dame Cathedral was until we took our children last year. We stood in front in awe of the magnificence of the cathedral. They looked for it from the Eiffel Tower and asked to see it from a Seine river cruise. They made mention of it everywhere we went. Even at a young age, they saw how incredible it truly was. We’re fortunate we’ll always have those cherished vacation memories, but it’s heartbreaking that future generations won’t be able to see what our children saw.”
• Peg Weaver, former choir director in Corpus Christi Parish, Willingboro:
“[Our choir] visited the cathedral in April 2002 and was allowed up into the choir loft for Mass and to talk with the principal organist. It seemed to be a mile down the aisle to the altar. It was amazing. This fire was such a tragedy.”