Sacred Heart Cathedral (Raleigh, North Carolina)

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Sacred Heart Cathedral
Sacred Heart Cathedral (Raleigh, North Carolina) is located in North Carolina
Sacred Heart Cathedral (Raleigh, North Carolina)
Location in North Carolina
35°46′51″N 78°38′31″W / 35.78083°N 78.64194°W / 35.78083; -78.64194Coordinates: 35°46′51″N 78°38′31″W / 35.78083°N 78.64194°W / 35.78083; -78.64194
Location 200 Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, North Carolina
Country United States
Denomination Roman Catholic Church
Founded 1879
Dedicated October 1924
Style Neo-Gothic
Groundbreaking 1922
Completed 1924
Materials Stone
Diocese Diocese of Raleigh
Bishop(s) Most Rev. Michael F. Burbidge
Rector Rev. Justin Kerber, C.P.

Sacred Heart Cathedral, sometimes referred to as Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, is the cathedral of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh.[1] As of 2015 the bishop seated at the cathedral was Michael Francis Burbidge.[2] When the current building was completed in 1924 as a parish church, North Carolina was the only state in the United States of America without its own Catholic diocese. Sacred Heart Cathedral is the smallest Roman Catholic cathedral in the continental United States. The cathedral is located in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina on Hillsborough Street.[3][4] The Cathedral also hosts the Cathedral School, formally called the Sacred Heart Cathedral School, a Catholic elementary and middle school.


Sacred Heart Cathedral serves as the Mother Church of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Raleigh and the throne of the current bishop of Raleigh. The cathedral is named after the Sacred Heart of Jesus and has a statue of Jesus Christ above its entrance.


Roman Catholics have been present in the city of Raleigh since the 1820s, but, until 1839, only a visiting priest ministered to the city’s then tiny Roman Catholic congregation. Sometime before 1860, the congregation secured for their services a former Baptist church building on Capitol Square called John the Baptist Church.

As the Roman Catholic population of Raleigh grew after the Civil War, and the inadequate space and poor condition of the churchhouse soon became an issue. For a time in the 1870s, mass was celebrated in a meeting hall in the Briggs Hardware building on Fayetteville Street. Then, in 1879, Father James White purchased the former Brian Grimes homeplace (also known as the Pulaski Cowper mansion) on Hillsboro Street, and the parish of Sacred Heart Church was established. He expanded the mansion so that it could be better used as both churchhouse and rectory.

In 1899, Father Thomas Griffin was appointed pastor, a position he held for 31 years. A parochial school was established in 1909 and named the Cathedral School. The church campus was later expanded with the addition of a separate rectory and convent. The cornerstone of Sacred Heart Church was laid in 1922 and the neo-gothic stone building dedicated in October 1924.

North Carolina at that time was the only state in the United States of America without its own Roman Catholic diocese. The leadership of the faith within the state had for some time anticipated the creation of a separate diocese, and large churches had been erected in Asheville and in Wilmington in hopes of acquiring the status of cathedral. However, these cities were at opposite ends of the state and the Vatican decided that the cathedral of the bishop of the new diocese should be in a more central location, so Raleigh was chosen.

In December 1924, therefore, Sacred Heart Church became Sacred Heart Cathedral, the seat of the newly created Diocese of Raleigh, with the Most Reverend William Hafey of Baltimore as its first bishop. His ecclesiastical authority extended over the entire state of North Carolina with the exception of the eight counties under the spiritual leadership of the Belmont Abbey abbot. Bishop Eugene McGuiness of Philadelphia succeeded Bishop Hafey in 1937. He thought that the modestly appointed Sacred Heart should “look more like a cathedral”, so in 1939 the terazzo floors and the magnificent stained glass windows seen today were installed; later, he added marble altars and reredos.

The interior of Sacred Heart Cathedral has undergone several renovations over the years, with a major restoration in 1998. Further improvements made in the following ten years returned the cathedral interior very nearly to its 1939 appearance.

The cathedral itself seats only about 350 people, but there are over 3,000 parishioners.[5] Eleven masses are necessary per weekend to serve everyone.[2]

Papal honors[edit]

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge presided at Solemn Vespers held on Sunday, January 11, 2009, to celebrate the bestowal of Papal Honors by Pope Benedict XVI on Sacred Heart Cathedral's the Reverend Monsignor David D. Brockman and Kathleen Walsh. The appointments were announced in November, with Monsignor Brockman being elevated to the title of Prelate of Honor and Miss Walsh, director of Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Raleigh, receiving the Cross Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice.

Golden Jubilee[edit]

Monsignor Thomas P. Hadden celebrated his fiftieth anniversary of priesthood with a Jubilee Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral on Saturday, December 20, 2008. Monsignor Hadden was ordained in Rome in 1958 as a priest of the Diocese of Raleigh upon his graduation from the North American College in Rome. Thirty priests concelebrated the liturgy in the presence of Michael F. Burbidge. Monsignor Gerald L. Lewis was the homilist.[3]

New cathedral[edit]

Burbidge announced the building of a new Cathedral for the Diocese of Raleigh to replace the existing Sacred Heart Cathedral which is too small. Fund-raising began in September 2011. The new facility, located on 39 acres where the diocese offices and Cardinal Gibbons High School were located, will be named Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral. Groundbreaking took place January 3, 2015 on a $41 million building which will hold 2,000 people and will be finished in two years. At that time, $34.7 million of the cost had been raised.[6][7][2]


Cathedral School, formally Sacred Heart Cathedral School, a Roman Catholic Pre-K through eighth grade cathedral school, is hosted at Sacred Heart Cathedral. The school was established in 1909 and educates young Catholics and prepares them for High School. Cathedral School feeds into Cardinal Gibbons High School. Cardinal Gibbons High School had originally been at Sacred Heart Cathedral and was called Sacred Heart High School and then Cathedral Latin High School.[8] In 2007, Cathedral School received a National Blue Ribbon of Excellence Award.[9] In the future, Cathedral School is to move to the Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral site.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Diocese of Raleigh -". Retrieved 29 December 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d Quillin, Martha (3 January 2015). "Raleigh diocese breaks ground on new cathedral". News & Observer. Retrieved 4 January 2015. 
  3. ^ a b "Sacred Heart Cathedral". Retrieved 29 December 2014. 
  4. ^ "Sacred Heart Cathedral". Retrieved 29 December 2014. 
  5. ^ "Raleigh’s Sacred Heart Cathedral: Ecclesiastical Grandeur in a Small Package - Goodnight Raleigh". Retrieved 29 December 2014. 
  6. ^ "Diocesan News". Retrieved 29 December 2014. 
  7. ^ "Catholic Diocese of Raleigh to break ground on cathedral Saturday". News & Observer. 2 January 2015. Retrieved 3 January 2015. 
  8. ^ [1][dead link]
  9. ^ "Cathedral School". Retrieved 29 December 2014. 

External links[edit]