Celebrating Sacred Heart


Hallela Hinton-Williams

The Sacred Heart Chapel is alight with activity. People mill around before finally taking their seats in the pews.  Everyone holds on to their program filled with pictures and songs that celebrate something special happening within the church, its 100-year anniversary.  A sister’s voice fills the room, as she describes the church’s rich history.

It started on October 5, 1911 when they had a groundbreaking that continued on until October 13, 1912 when there was a celebration for the laying of the cornerstone. After those two milestones, there was a rift between the sisters and the constructor.  The constructor told the sisters that a dome for their church wouldn’t be possible, but the sisters, especially Priscilla Schmidtbauer, insisted.  As we all can see now, there is a dome.

Things went much smoother after that. The church was built and over time became more elaborately decorated. Stained glass windows were added to the dome and oil paintings depicting four great Benedictine Abbesses (Hildegard, Mechtilde, Walburga, and Gertrude) were included at the base of the dome.  After the Vatican, the church later was re-arranged and the sisters were able to sing and pray in their vernacular.

After twenty-nine years, the Chapel was completely paid for. The sisters could then focus their energy on planning the consecration ceremony.  The five-hour ceremony took place on October 24, 1943. The following years were ones of progress. In 1947, 1948, and 1952 sisters were sent out to establish four new daughter houses in which they helped with schools and/or hospitals.  Sisters who stayed at the monastery honed their creativity and artistry by creating pottery, paintings, and other works of art.

Fast-forward to present day: the sound of the Guzheng played by a College of Saint Benedict sophomore fills the church and one can’t help but think back on the history of the church, the renovations it went through, and sisters it has seen come and go over these last hundred years.