Sacred Heart Catholic Church celebrates 150 years of history

On Sunday, Sept. 9, Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Monticello will hold a special celebratory Mass in honor of the church's 150th anniversary as a congregation. (Photo by Kim Brooks)

This photo shows members and clergy of Sacred Heart dedicating the current church's cornerstone on Aug. 10, 1914. The dedication was led by Rev. George Hauck. (Photo submitted)

On Nov. 5, 1968, Sacred Heart celebrated its 100th anniversary with a Mass of Thanksgiving. This photo appeared in the Monticello Express on Nov. 7 with former presidents and associate pastors on hand for the celebration. (Express file photo)

The statues of Mary, St. Joseph holding Jesus, and Sacred Heart of Jesus seen inside Sacred Heart Church today were originally housed inside the second home of Sacred Heart on Seventh Street. (Photo by Kim Brooks)
Special Mass planned for Sept. 9
Kim Brooks
Express Editor

     In its 150-year history, Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Monticello has served its congregants in three different church buildings with 19 different priests.

     This year marks the Catholic church’s 150th year since its congregation (parish) was established in 1868. On Sunday, Sept. 9, the church invites the public to celebrate this unique milestone with them with a special Mass and afternoon picnic.

     The first Catholic residents in Monticello actually arrived well before 1868. These people came to Eastern Iowa to work on the Dubuque-Southwestern Railroad. After the project was complete, these folks decided to remain in Monticello. Fr. Daniel Cogan of Ireland was the first priest to serve Sacred Heart Church from 1988-71. He was responsible for organizing a Catholic congregation in Monticello.

     The Monticello sesquicentennial book from 1986 offers this insight into the early history: “In 1868, Monticello was but a small place and had but few Catholic residents, but Father Cogan was a resourceful man and was not discouraged by the outlook.”

     In the early years, different residents hosted Mass. Then, a plot of land near what is now S. Maple St. and Varvel St. (Angle St. at the time) was purchased for a church. This site was thought to be a centralized location.

     A frame 30-by-60-foot church was erected.

     Those members who contributed to the building project were: Michael Breen, Cornelius Brown, Henry Burroughs, Andrew Burns, Patrick Cunningham, Patrick Cushing, John Fleming, Daniel Kinsella, Edward Kinsella, Mrs. Ela McMahon, John Matthews, John McConnon, Andrew Monday, Patrick O’Toole, Michael Quirk, Robert Shane, and Mrs. Peter Young.

     The name “Sacred Heart” wasn’t actually given to the congregation until after the church was built.

     By the time the second priest, Rev. James Walsh (1871-73), arrived “the town had made but little progress up to that time and few Catholic families had moved in to join the congregation.”

     During Walsh’s time, the roof of the church was blown off in a windstorm.

     Following Walsh was Rev. J.P. O’Dowd (1873-78). It was under his pastorate that the Castle Grove Catholic Church was built.

     In October 1878, a tornado ripped through Monticello, and Sacred Heart was right in the storm’s path.

     Until a new church could be built, the Monticello school district offered the congregation use of a vacant school building on the corner of Sixth St. and Cedar St.

     A new church was eventually built at a cost of $7,000 for a 30-by-80-foot building. The new Sacred Heart Church was built on a hill in the northwestern part of town behind what is now Carpenter Elementary School on Seventh St.

     The new church was built under the leadership of Rev. P.J. O’Connor (1878-84).

     The church’s cornerstone can still be seen in the house on the old church foundation from 1880.

     With Rev. John Tobin, who came in 1884 (until 1887), the church took on many improvements.

     When Rev. John McCormick (1887-1913) came on board, he was seen as the longest serving priest. When the question of building a new church was discussed, McCormick regretted abandoning the old church.

     McCormick also served as priest at Sand Springs.

     Under Rev. George Hauck (1913-30), the topic of a more centralized Catholic church came up yet again. The sesquicentennial book offers: “Churchgoing had been made difficult for the young and old” at the Maple St. location.

     The church trustees purchased the Boade property on Sycamore St., as well as the Bautremont property on Maple and Third St. This is where the present twin-spired Sacred Heart Church sits today with its Romanesque design.

     The church was built at a cost of $40,000, and the first Mass was held on Christmas Day in 1914. The church was dedicated on June 20, 1915.

     The church bell, Statuary of the Cross (statues of Mary, St. Joseph holding Jesus, and the Sacred Heart of Jesus), and Altars were moved from the former church into the new one, and remain there to this day, 104 years later.

     A few years after the church was built, the beautiful stained glass windows were installed. The windows are the design of Franz X. Zettler from Germany. Different organizations affiliated with Sacred Heart and church members contributed toward the cost of the windows.

     As the story goes, the reason behind the delay in installation was due to WWI. After the windows were shipped from Germany, they sat on the docks in New York for many months because of the war effort.

     Zettler’s name appears in the lower left corner of the “Lord’s Supper” window in the church.

     Sacred Heart secured their first associate pastor in 1952. Rev. William Holzer. He served for just one year.

     In 1966, under Fr. Joseph Kirk (1966-74), the Ecumenical movement was underway in Monticello with clergy from the other churches. To this day, the Monticello Ministerial Association is alive and well.

     In 1968, the church’s centennial (100th anniversary) was celebrated with a Mass of Thanksgiving on Nov. 5, 1968. Special recognition was given in the Monticello Express.

     Cy Locher gave a speech as part of the church’s anniversary. His great grandfather, John Locher of Switzerland, was a settler in Monticello. In his speech, Locher said, “The members of Sacred Heart have always been proud to be a part of Monticello.”

     His conclusion read: “And I now conclude with the hope that the five generations of my people who have and now worship in this parish may be extended to many more.”

     In fact, many generations of numerous families in Monticello have faithfully attended Sacred Heart to this day.

     As Sacred heart Catholic Church looks back on 150 years of history, they have much to proud of, much to celebrate, and much to be thankful for.



Sacred Heart Pastors:

Rev. Daniel Cogan, 1868-71

Rev. James Walsh, 1871-73

Rev. J.P. O’Dowd, 1873-78

Rev. P.J. O’Connor, 1878-84

Rev. John Tobin, 1884-87

Rev. John McCormick, 1887-1913

Rev. George Hauck, 1913-30

Rev. Anton Lorenz, 1930-43

Rev. Herman Dietz, 1944-45

Msgr. Eugene Lorenz, 1945-66

Rev. Joseph Kirk, 1966-74

Rev. Fred Bahning, 1974-79

Rev. Justin Kane, 1979-82

Rev. Thomas Braak, 1982-86

Rev. James Chappell, 1986-92

Msgr. Neil Tobin, 1992-2002

Rev. Donald Schmitt, 2002-07

Rev. Keith Birch, 2007-13

Rev. Paul Baldwin, 2013-present


Sacred Heart Associate Pastors:

Rev. William Holzer, 1952-53

Rev. Thomas Rhomberg, 1953-54

Rev. Carl Manternach, Summer 1954

Rev. William Wilke, 1954-56

Rev. John Herzog, 1956-61

Rev. John Ptacek, 1961-67

Rev. Laverne Manternach, 1967-69

Rev. John Hussmann, 1969-70

Rev. Paul McManus, 1970-73

Rev. John Casey, 1976-77

Rev. Albert Carman, 1977-79



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