Dedicated to hope: Reflecting on Sacred Heart Cathedral’s role in our diocese

Barb Arland-Fye
Father Rich Adam, rector and pastor of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport, celebrates the anniversary of the dedication of the cathedral on Nov. 15.

By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — Father Rich Adam feels blessed to serve as rector and pastor of Sacred Heart Cathedral, the mother church of the Diocese of Davenport. He reflected on that blessing and the cathedral’s significance in the life of the diocese during a Mass celebrating the anniversary of dedication of Sacred Heart Cathedral on Nov. 15.

“Sacred Heart Cathedral has its origin in 1856 when Antoine LeClaire donated and built St. Margaret’s Church. In 1881, Bishop John McMullen was appointed bishop of the newly formed Diocese of Davenport and St. Margaret was designated his cathedral parish. The building of a new, larger cathedral was announced by then-Bishop Henry Cosgrove, who dedicated our present building Nov. 15, 1891. Here we are, 129 years later, celebrating such an honorable day,” Father Adam told the faithful gathered for Mass.

While the rest of the diocese celebrated the 33rd Sunday in ordinary time that weekend, the anniversary of the dedication of the cathedral takes precedence over the ordinary celebration of the day, he explained. “The parish of Sacred Heart celebrates its history, anniversary, benefactors and family today.”


Father Adam noted that he serves as the cathedral’s 15th rector and 14th pastor.  “I can’t say how much I’ve been blessed as the 14th pastor. One of my most favorite things as pastor/rector is seeing the expressions on people’s faces as they walk in here the first time, with visitors and family members and to see how their eyes open wide and they exclaim how beautiful this cathedral is! I agree! The Stations of the Cross, the stained glass windows, the beautiful altars and reredos (big tall altars in the back). It is awesome.”

“The spiral of the cathedral’s tower is 160 feet above the ground and is visible for miles. Workers made the window frames at a mill in Rock Island, Illinois. The frames were ferried across the Mississippi River because they were too large to transport across the railroad bridge. The frame of the window over the main altar reportedly weighed 3.5 tons,” Father Adam said.

“Cathedral” takes its name from the Latin term “cathedra,” which means “seat,” as in the bishop’s seat, which serves as the central church, or mother church, of a diocese. “It’s not the beautiful churches, windows and stones that we celebrate,” said Father Adam. “It’s the people who worship here, celebrate our faith, and pass on our faith.” He referred to the second reading for the dedication Mass, taken from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians (2:20): “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the capstone.”

“It is not the brick, mortar and stone which make a cathedral,” Father Adam said. “You are the brick and mortar today and Jesus is our capstone. Let us pray that under the blessing and guidance of Christ our capstone we continue to fulfill Christ’s mission of evangelization, love of our God and the building of the Kingdom.”

That message is so important to share today, Father Adam believes, in the ongoing, resurging COVID-19 pandemic, the civil unrest of past months, a divisive election and other dilemmas in the world. “We need to put God back into the equations of our lives. Our ever-growing secular world must get back to  God and place God back in society, our lives, our families and it all starts in our faith. Our message here at Sacred Heart Cathedral is one of hope — as Jesus has promised us to always be with his church.”

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