Tabernacle celebrates the old and the new


By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger

DAVENPORT — The historic and the new are at home in the St. Margaret Chapel at Sacred Heart Cathedral. A new, polished brass tabernacle sits inside the historic wooden tabernacle, which Father Thom Hennen, the cathedral’s pastor, blessed last month.

Father Thom Hennen, pastor of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport, blesses a new tabernacle in the St. Margaret Chapel in the cathedral. Ben Moneymaker of St. Alphonsus Parish in Davenport, holds the blessing book for Father Hennen.

He said Church law states that the tabernacle should be “inviolable,” or not easily cut or broken into and to be made of solid material. It “should be worthy of the Blessed Sacrament — beautifully designed and in harmony with the overall decor of the rest of the church,” according to “Built of Living Stones: Art, Architecture and Worship” (U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops). For the security of the Blessed Sacrament, the tabernacle should be “‘solid,’ ‘immovable,’ ‘opaque’ and ‘locked.’”

The wooden tabernacle was not always lockable due to the situation of its lock and seasonal expansion and contraction of the wood, Father Hennen said. The original tabernacle dates back to the cathedral’s construction in 1891, Deacon Dan Huber said. A fire in the chapel in 2013 caused damage to the wooden tabernacle’s exterior door. Parishioner Jim Carter made and installed a new door, which features the emblem from the original door.


Deacon Huber said wood was a common material for tabernacles for a long time, especially in rural areas and places with poverty. “Since the cathedral was largely constructed at a time of high immigration into this part of the new world, many of the tabernacles in the ‘territories’ and young states would have been constructed of wood.”

Father Hennen consulted with Deacon Huber and Carter about a replacement and kept Bishop Thomas Zinkula and Deacon Frank Agnoli, diocesan director of liturgy, in the loop. Father Hennen, Deacon Huber and Carter worked with Religious Supply Center in Davenport because “We wanted to support our local Catholic vendor,” Deacon Huber said.

“Once we saw the design with the chalice/host motif, we were ‘sold’ on that as it was very similar to the old door,” Father Hennen said. The design fit well into the old housing/reredos “both aesthetically and in terms of its dimensions.”

The new tabernacle is more secure and “a more noble tabernacle for the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament. In this diocesan year of the national Eucharistic Revival, the timing of this seemed particularly appropriate,” Father Hennen said.

Memorial funds from donors honoring a deceased loved one paid for the project. As for the wooden door removed from the original, Father Hennen said it “will be preserved and perhaps included in a future display. We have been discussing some type of history/heritage display somewhere in the gathering space, but we don’t have any specific plans at this time.”

Meanwhile, the tabernacle in the main cathedral, which is made of metal, is “showing some significant wear. However, it has a trick lock, so we may need to see about having it refurbished at some point, but not replaced,” Father Hennen said.

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