Dallas' First Catholic Parish
In 1869, the Bishop of Galveston established the first Catholic parish in Dallas, Sacred Heart Church. The original church, built in 1872 by Rev. M. Perrier, was located at the corner of Bryan and Ervay Streets, the present-day site of the central post office.
In December 1873, Rev. Joseph Martiniere succeeded Father Perrier as the pastor of Sacred Heart. He oversaw the completion of the church's interior, built a rectory, and persuaded the Ursuline nuns to come from Galveston and open a school. The Ursulines ran the parochial school at Sacred Heart Church, and later at Sacred Heart Cathedral, until 1968.
From Parish Church to Cathedral
When Dallas was established as a diocese in 1890, Sacred Heart was designated as the diocesan cathedral, and Bishop Thomas Brennan was named as the first bishop of Dallas. The Sacred Heart parish soon outgrew its church building, and work began on a new Sacred Heart Cathedral.
The property at Ross and Pearl Streets, where the Cathedral is now located, was purchased for $30,000, a large sum of money by the standards of the day. The Cathedral's cornerstone was laid on June 17, 1898. Father Jeffrey A. Hartnett was pastor at the time. Father Hartnett, a devoted priest and tireless proponent of the Cathedral's construction, did not live to see the Cathedral's completion. He died a martyr to duty during the 1899 smallpox epidemic. He contracted the disease while attending to the spiritual needs of patients in the city infirmary.
On October 26, 1902, the Cathedral was formally dedicated as the Cathedral of the Sacred Heart by Bishop Edward Dunne. Although the booklet from the 1902 dedication credited Bishop Dunne as the Cathedral's designer, the 1989 discovery of original drawings in a Galveston library showed Nicholas J. Clayton to be the architect. Clayton is regarded as the premier architect of 19th century Texas.
Honoring Our Lady of Guadalupe
As Dallas and its suburbs grew, other diocesan parishes were built. By the 1960s, attendance at the Cathedral dwindled. A neighboring parish on Harwood Street, Our Lady of Guadalupe, which had served Mexican immigrants since 1914, had outgrown its facilities. Bishop Thomas Tschoepe invited the parish to merge with Sacred Heart's. In 1975, the old Guadalupe church was closed. On December 12, 1977, Sacred Heart Cathedral was renamed Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe -- the Cathedral Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is one of two cathedrals in the United States to honor Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the Americas.
Symbol of Unity and Community
The Carmelite priests continued to guide the new cathedral congregation with Spanish and English speaking ministries, and the congregation flourished. In 1988, the Carmelites were called to serve in other parishes, and Bishop Tschoepe sent diocesan priests to serve the Cathedral congregation.
The Cathedral is the mother church of the 630,000 Roman Catholics in the nine-county Diocese of Dallas. Today, the Cathedral serves the largest cathedral congregation in the United States -- as well as the largest Latino parish congregation -- with 25,000 registered households. Although English-only-speaking parishioners represent fewer than 10 percent of the Cathedral's congregation, the great diversity of the Cathedral community has enriched and energized the parish The Cathedral Chorale and the Spanish Choir of the Cathedral are but one example of the fellowship and sense of purpose of the parish. The choirs frequently collaborate for special events, and have recorded a compact disc and cassette at the world-class Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center. Entitled Alzad La Cruz!, the recording contains both English and Spanish music, and features the world premier of Missa Guadalupe, a bilingual setting of the Mass commissioned by the Cathedral from Dallas composer Joel Martinson. This unity of diverse cultures as well as the majesty of the Cathedral's spacious and resplendent architecture, gives rise to a spirituality that is a living testament to the catholic notion of community.
Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe is a place where God's grace and great promise transcend the boundaries of race, language, creed and time -- where God's people can worship in peace and joy as one body in Christ.
The Legacy Continues
Today, the Cathedral stands with its neighbors -- the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center and the Dallas Museum of Art -- at the center of the Dallas Arts District. The Cathedral preserves in the heart of the city a sense of the historical evolution of Dallas. Nestled amid gleaming glass and polished stone facings of surrounding buildings, the Cathedral functions as an architectural analogue of God's grace as it continues the mission to serve the needs of its parishioners, the diocese, and the community at large.