History of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart
The Most Reverend Nicholas A. Gallagher, the third Bishop of Galveston, established Sacred Heart Parish as the fourth parish in Houston, Texas on November 22, 1896 to serve the growing Catholic population of Houston. The Reverend Thomas Keaney was appointed the first pastor.
Property facing Pierce and Fannin Streets was purchased on March 11, 1897. Plans for a Gothic church and a two-story Annex were drawn by Mr. O. Lorehn, and the cornerstone was laid on May 16, 1897 with Bishop Gallagher officiating. The church was built on the corner of Pierce and San Jacinto Streets with brick donated by Mr. J.T. Brady. The church was dedicated to God’s service by Bishop Gallagher on November 6, 1897. The first rectory consisted of a single room attached to the rear of the church.
Cornelius Alphonsus Pereira, son of Theodore Pereira and Minnie Emhoff, was the first child baptized in Sacred Heart Church on July 13, 1897 with Father Keaney officiating. The first couple married in the church was Frank M. Quinn and Fanny C. Discan on June 30, 1897 with Father Keaney witnessing the ceremony. The first person buried in the church was Mrs. Johanna Tompkins on December 10, 1897 with Father Bernard Lee officiating.
The two-story Annex to the church served as a school which opened for classes on September 27, 1897 with 28 students. From the very beginning, the Dominican Sisters staffed the school, residing on the second floor of the Annex. The first principal was Sister M. Catherine. On May 15, 1898, one adult who became Catholic (Mrs. Florence Dupre) and 33 children received their First Holy Communion from Father Bernard Lee, the second pastor, and were then confirmed on the same day by Bishop Gallagher.
In 1902, under the leadership of Father John T. Nicholson, the third pastor, the building of St. Thomas High School (then known as St. Thomas College located at the corner of Franklin and Crawford Streets) was purchased and moved to the parish property near the corner of Pierce and Fannin Streets. It was renovated and used as a new school building and residence for the Sisters who staffed the school. Father Nicholson painted this building green, and it was thus known as the Green House. The vacated, two-story Annex was converted into a rectory.
Under the leadership of Sister M. Raymond, the third principal, the school sought and obtained the state’s approval in 1905 to have a high school. However, the high school students were transferred to St. Agnes Academy which opened in February 1907. Father Nicholson acquired a two-story, wooden home in 1911 to use as a rectory and had it moved to the parish property and placed between the Green House and the church. The Green House, or school building, was demolished to make room for the present church, and classes were then conducted in the old Gothic church and Annex.
Bishop Gallagher laid the cornerstone of the present Sacred Heart Church on June 11, 1911. The church was dedicated to God’s service on April 14, 1912. The cost of the new church was $96, 669.00. The main altar was a gift from the Scanlan sisters. The side altar to the Blessed Virgin was a gift from Mrs. J.O. Carr, and the side altar to St. Joseph was a gift from Mrs. Frank E. Russell. The Fourteen Stations of the Cross were a gift from Mrs. L.J. Tuffly.
More property, facing San Jacinto Street, was purchased on June 6, 1919, and property on the corner of San Jacinto and Calhoun Streets was purchased on May 6, 1920. This property was secured in order to provide a school playground.
Father Morgan J. Crow, the fourth pastor, constructed a two-story, brick rectory that was completed and occupied in 1920 to replace the wooden rectory. Under his leadership, the present school building was built in 1922 for $52, 800.00 on the corner of Pierce and San Jacinto Streets to replace the old school building, which had been the original church.
Monsignor Jerome A. Rapp served as the fifth pastor from 1927 until 1952, the longest term for any pastor in the history of the parish. The interior decoration of the present church was in large measure accomplished by Monsignor Rapp. He acquired most of the statues and saw to the redecoration of the entire nave and sanctuary.
Monsignor John J. Roach, the sixth pastor, had the church air-conditioned in 1953, and a central heating unit installed. Property on the corner of Fannin and Calhoun Streets was acquired on April 29, 1954, thus giving the parish ownership of the entire block bounded by Pierce, San Jacinto, Calhoun, and Fannin Streets. Old rooming houses occupying the newly purchased property were demolished, and the entire free area behind the parish buildings was hard-topped and enclosed with an iron fence to serve both as a playground and a parking lot.
The rectory was demolished in 1956, and construction began on a larger, two-story, brick rectory with a basement for automobiles so as to provide a central residence for priests engaged in non-parochial, administrative work, as well as those resident, parochial priests. This rectory was occupied on February 10, 1957. While this construction was in progress, Monsignor Roach had the exteriors of the church and school refurbished, the sacristy enlarged, a side door that opened into the nave added, new confessionals installed and some minor interior changes made.
Due to the phenomenal growth in the city of Houston and the consequent increase in the number of Catholics and Catholic institutions, Pope John XXIII designated the city of Houston to be an episcopal city, effective on December 24, 1959. Thus the Diocese of Galveston was henceforth to be known as the Diocese of Galveston-Houston. This did not change the status of the city of Galveston as an episcopal city established in 1847, the first such city in the state of Texas. With the elevation of Sacred Heart Parish to a Co-Cathedral, it became co-equal in rank with St. Mary Cathedral in Galveston. With this designation, an episcopal chair was also installed in Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral. Full episcopal ceremonies could then be celebrated in Houston, as well as in Galveston.
The interior of the church was remodeled in 1964 with all the walls paneled with wood. Due to declining enrollment and increased costs of operation, Sacred Heart School was regretfully closed in May 1967 after 70 years of continuous service in Catholic education. The classroom building now houses the parish religious education program.
The Diamond Jubilee of Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral was celebrated on November 20, 1971. The Most Reverend Wendelin J. Nold, the fifth bishop, presided and concelebrated at the Mass and preached the homily, while the Most Reverend John L. Morkovsky, the Apostolic Administrator of the diocese, was the principal celebrant.
The latest interior renovation of the Co-Cathedral was completed in 1990. The rededication of Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral occurred on March 25, 1990 with the Most Reverend Joseph A. Fiorenza, the seventh bishop, as the presiding celebrant. The sanctuary was renovated, and a new episcopal chair and ambo were added. The depiction of the Last Supper in the present, new altar was preserved from the original high altar. The three new mosaics were designed and made in Italy and installed by Italo Botti of Chicago. The mosaics were a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Corbin Robertson in memory of Monsignor John J. Roach, the sixth pastor.
The mosaic of Christ the pantocrator above the episcopal chair represents Jesus as the chief shepherd and teacher of the church. The chair on which Jesus sits and the episcopal chair are identical, thus expressing that it is Christ who is the true shepherd and teacher of the diocese. The mosaic over the new tabernacle is a Eucharistic symbol taken from the miracle of the multiplication of the five loaves and two fish (John 6:1-15). It is similar to a 4th century mosaic in a church in Capernaum. Above this mosaic image is the Coat of Arms for Pope John Paul II. The tabernacle was a gift from Davis and Estelle Maloney. The mosaic over the new baptismal font depicts a baptismal theme of flowing water from a shell symbolizing our sharing in the death and resurrection of Jesus by the power of the Holy Spirit. Above this mosaic image is the Diocesan Seal.
A cathedral is the mother church of a diocesan family. It is hoped that all people will feel welcomed and at home here at Sacred Heart Co-Cathedral.