The history of Blessed Sacrament Cathedral Parish stretches back more than two centuries. From a hilltop on North Main Street, the grand English Gothic style structure handsomely towers above the city of Greensburg. The parish dates from March 10, 1789, when a group of laymen representing about 25 area families paid five shillings, the equivalent of less than $1 today, for the 1.5 acres that comprise the current site.
Their intent was to build a Roman Catholic Church and public burial ground. Construction of a log church was started, and then called to a halt because of a lack of funding. The space was never completed, never used and the townspeople worshipped for the next 50 years at sites in Latrobe and Crabtree.
The second church of the parish was built in 1846, a collaboration of Redemptorist Father John Nepomucene Neumann (later named bishop of Philadelphia and canonized a saint by Pope Paul VI in 1977) and the priests and monks of the Order of St. Benedict, who established Saint Vincent Monastery in Latrobe that same year.
The brick structure was built on the site of the present rectory, facing south toward the Westmoreland County Courthouse, and measured 30 feet by 70 feet. A small rectory was built in 1850 to accommodate Father William Pollard, a priest of the Diocese of Pittsburgh, who served as pastor for three years.
The Benedictine priests from Saint Vincent Monastery assumed responsibility in 1853, a service they held for nearly 100 years. Benedictine Father Agatho Stuebinger took his place as pastor, erected a new rectory in 1885 and a new church building in 1887. This, the third church, was built of brick with natural stone trim. With dimensions of 45 feet by 100 feet, it held 400 people.
Through the turn of the century, as the area continually prospered and grew, so did Most Holy Sacrament Parish, necessitating the establishment of six additional parishes in outlying areas: St. Bruno Parish, south Greensburg; Holy Cross Parish, Youngwood; the former St. Bede Parish, Bovard; the former St. Gilbert Parish, Hunker; St. Paul, southwest Greensburg; and Our Lady of Grace, Greensburg.
The need for an even larger structure was realized in the early 1920s. A building fund campaign was organized in 1923. The architectural firm of Comes, Perry and McMullen, Pittsburgh, handled the design of the present English Gothic style. Built of sandstone with Indiana limestone trim, it was dedicated in May 1928.
Until the establishment of the Diocese of Greensburg March 10, 1951, Most Holy Sacrament Parish prospered under the leadership of several priests of the Benedictine community. Most Holy Sacrament was designated Blessed Sacrament Cathedral in May of that year with the Benedictines relinquishing pastoral responsibility.
A cathedral gets its name because it is the church where the cathedra (Greek and Latin for “chair”), or bishop’s chair, is placed. In ancient times, the chair was seen as the sign of authority to teach, and early bishops usually preached while seated. When the pope teaches formally, authoritatively and infallibly, he is said to be speaking “ex cathedra,” – from the chair.
Bishop Hugh L. Lamb of Philadelphia was named the diocese’s first bishop. After his death on December 8, 1959, Bishop William G. Connare was ordained and installed as the second bishop in ceremonies at the Cathedral May 4, 1960.
Additionally, Bishop Norbert F. Gaughan served as the only auxiliary bishop in diocesan history to date and was ordained at the Cathedral June 26, 1975. After the retirement of Bishop Connare in December 1986, Bishop Anthony G. Bosco was installed as the third bishop in ceremonies at the Cathedral June 30, 1987.
Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt, was installed as the fourth bishop of the Diocese of Greensburg in ceremonies at the Cathedral March 4, 2004. The Most Reverend Edward C. Malesic, our current bishop, was ordained and installed as the fifth bishop of Greensburg at the Cathedral on July 13, 2015.
Blessed Sacrament Cathedral was renovated by the architectural firm of Celli-Flynn & Associates, using the guidelines of the Second Vatican Council for liturgical renewal as a basis for the new layout and design. The main altar was relocated from its previous position in the apse; its new position in the sanctuary emphasized the communal aspect of worship by bringing the congregation as near as possible to the altar. Existing marble from the original baldacchino was used throughout the sanctuary. The new main altar was then fashioned from the top and sides of the previous altar, marble columns salvaged from the baldacchino were cut into thin discs to pave the major portion of the new sanctuary floor, and a marble column capital was hollowed out to form the new baptismal font.
In 1983, after years of physical deterioration and limited availability of space in the present rectory, discussion regarding the need for an expanded facility began. After many investigations and much discussion with diocesan officials and parish pastoral council members, it was voted to erect a new parish administration center.
Under the direction of Msgr. Donald J. Mondello, rector, and the architectural firm of Celli & Flynn Associates, the design of the building was established. It was to be practical, suitable to the needs of the parish and also allow for additional parking. An extensive campaign began and together, the people of the parish, along with assistance of the diocese, pledged funds to complete the project.
In June 1987, the facility was completed and an open house was held for the parish two months later. The center continues to serve, not only as housing for our priests, but also as an office space, archives and a hub for a multitude of meetings, both on the diocesan and parish level. Truly, the center has extended the charm and beauty of the cathedral as well as affording many diocesan leaders and local parishioners a place to carry on the continuing mission of the church.
In 2003, the parish purchased and renovated the former grounds of the Sisters of Charity convent to create a new formation center. Dedicated October 7, 2003, the center increased the space available for religious formation and catechesis at the cathedral. The building has three stories with each one bearing its own special name: the Sower and the Seed (top floor), the story of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton (street level), and the story of the Good Shepherd (lower level).
In 2010-2011 a restoration project at the cathedral made many repairs and renovations to the 82 year-old church building. The project included work on the stained-glass windows, the ceiling, improvements to the interior and exterior lighting, an upgrade of the electrical system, painting and plaster repair, refinishing of the pews, replacement of the kneelers, and new floor coverings. A new Ambo, Cathedra, credence tables, enhanced Stations of the Cross, a new baptismal font, and apse wall enhancements were also part of the restoration. A Baldachino giving homage to the 1949 Baldachino was also added in the apse.
Volpatt Construction Corp., Pittsburgh, served as the general contractor. CFB (Celli-Flynn Brennan) Architects and Planners, Pittsburgh, was the architect; and EverGreene Architectural Arts, New York, did the design.