(Editor’s note: In an effort to create greater awareness of and appreciation for the seat of the Davenport Diocese — Sacred Heart Cathedral — The Catholic Messenger is publishing a brief series of articles about the home of our diocese. Bishop Martin Amos has designated the second weekend of February as Cathedral Sunday.)
By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
It was an early October morning and Father Rich Adam, pastor of Sacred Heart Cathedral in Davenport, was heading over to unlock the cathedral for morning Mass. There he met a retired couple trying to open the doors to enter Sacred Heart. It was around 7 a.m. Fr. Adam greeted them and opened the doors, explaining that Mass would begin at 8 a.m. The husband and wife explained they were from central Missouri and were on a pilgrimage trying to visit every Catholic cathedral in the United States.
They found motivation and inspiration from their pilgrimage as they saw an incredible faith in cathedrals, they told the pastor. Intrigued, Fr. Adam asked what they particularly were looking for or what they recognized in each church building as especially significant to the faith. Their response brings together the fullness of what a cathedral represents, the pastor said, paraphrasing the couple:
This church is the pillar of faith for the Davenport Diocese. It is a sign of the apostolic tradition preserved through all of history and maintained within this diocese, with the seat of Davenport’s bishop a symbol of the throne of Christ. This, and every cathedral, manifests the grandiose and majestic presence of God alive and vibrant in a particular diocese.
Fr. Adam said he was blown away by the couple’s observations. “Sometimes we take for granted what is before our very eyes until someone from another state, another diocese, stops by to remind us what we have before us — indeed, a grand and beautiful cathedral to call our home!”
Every Roman Catholic diocese in the world has a cathedral. It is the chief church of the diocese, the bishop’s church. It is not uncommon to hear someone refer mistakenly to an especially large or magnificent church as a cathedral. But it isn’t size or décor that matters, it’s the bishop. However, one physical feature sets a cathedral apart from all the other churches in the diocese: the bishop’s throne, usually set on a raised platform within the sanctuary. The Latin word for a raised chair or throne, “cathedra,” is the source of our English word, “cathedral.”
Some of the most important diocesan functions take place in the cathedral, observes Bishop Martin Amos, who was installed as bishop of the Davenport Diocese in November 2006.
“It’s the place where ordinations take place; it’s the place where we celebrate the great Chrism Mass that takes place every year. I’m certainly there for all the Holy Week ceremonies. It’s the place that is very important not just to the diocese, but to me personally,” the bishop said.
“The thing about the cathedral — it has sort of a mystique and aura about it. I’ve helped with RCIA classes that go there for the Rite of Election,” said Deacon Derick Cranston, who serves as pastoral associate for St. Mary Parish, Riverside; Holy Trinity Parish, Richmond; and St. Joseph Parish, Wellman.
“I remember my own ordination. Just walking into the cathedral it has that old, beautiful architecture. It was an incredible time for me. I just remember being filled with joy, soaking it all in,” Deacon Cranston added.
“My favorite thing about coming to Sacred Heart Cathedral is the ordinations to the diaconate and priesthood. It is such a wonderful witness to our Catholic faith,” said Patti McTaggart, youth minister at St. Mary Parish in Iowa City.
Cindy Michel of St. Mary Parish, Riverside, observes that the cathedral is “a great way to build strength and community among our diocese.”
Sacred Heart Cathedral strives to be the “most inviting and welcoming place where Catholics from throughout the diocese and the entire Midwest can come to experience Eucharist, fellowship and community,” Fr. Adam said.
But the cathedral also requires additional financial resources to meet the needs of the people of the diocese. He asks for the support and prayers of all Catholics in the diocese so that “Sacred Heart can continue to be a beacon of faith and sign of a viable and active church.”
(To see a video about Sacred Heart Cathedral, visit Sacred Heart Cathedral’s website at www.rc.net/davenport/shc.)