History of the Cathedral Parish and the Cathedral School

1839    Bishop Rosati of St. Louis appointed Rev. George Hamilton to serve as the first resident priest for the mission of Springfield (there were fifteen stations in his mission all lying from 20-60 miles from Springfield). Rev. Hamilton attempted to build a church, but was unsuccessful and Mass was held in private homes.

1848    A small frame church, dedicated to St. John the Baptist, was built on Adams Street between Eighth and Ninth Streets.  

1856    The membership of St. John’s Parish in 1856 counted about three hundred and eighty families and the little frame church had become inadequate to accommodate the large attendance. Father Quigley therefore bought the half block on Monroe Street and began excavating for a new church that would accommodate all the English speaking members of the parish. The German-speaking members retained the old frame church for which they paid $1800.00.

1859    The English-speaking church, placed under the patronage of the Immaculate Conception (now known as Old St. Mary’s), was dedicated on March 20th.

1860    A school opened for the boys of the parish. The school house was a small, one story frame building, built in the space just north of the church and was placed under the charge of the Holy Cross Brothers from Notre Dame, Indiana. The school was built in the shape of a “T” and stood back in the yard about forty feet from Seventh Street. The south end of the front room was partitioned off and served as the sleeping quarters for the Brothers. They took their meals in the parish rectory and at the Old Jefferson House on the southeast corner of Seventh and Washington Streets. The younger children did their lessons in the back room while the higher grades were taught in the front room facing Seventh Street.

1860s  The congregation had grown to the extent that an addition was added to the church. The front was extended twenty feet, the floor lowered three feet and a gallery was set back over the entrance.

1866    Rev. Louis Hinssen established a school for the girls of the parish, who had previously been attending the Ursuline Academy. He purchased the old St. John the Baptist Church from the German congregation (SS. Peter and Paul) and remodeled it into a school for the girls.

1867    The Sisters of Notre Dame from Milwaukee, Wisconsin took charge of the school for the girls on August 24th. The interior of the school (the former St. John the Baptist Church) was partitioned off into small rooms. They had a large and small classroom, reception room, chapel, Sister’s dining room, kitchen and bedrooms. The Sisters later bought the large two story frame house just west of the school. The Sisters taught not only the girls, but the little boys in the first three grades.

1875    The cornerstone for St. Mary’s School was laid. The boys and girls occupied opposite sides of the eight room brick school building. The Sisters of Notre Dame continued to teach the girls and the younger boys and the Holy Cross Brothers continued to teach the older boys.

1890    Rev. Timothy Hickey wanted the school to be managed exclusively by the Sisters of Notre Dame, but their constitution forbade the Sisters to take charge of boys over a certain age. Fr. Hickey approached the Dominican Sisters in Jacksonville, who agreed to take over management of the entire school.

1906    A convent, located on the northwest corner of Monroe and Seventh Streets, was built for the Sisters who taught at the school.

1923    Pope Pius XI issued a Papal bull, dated October 26th, designating the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Springfield to be the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and so the Episcopal See was transferred from Alton to Springfield. Reverend James A. Griffin, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, was appointed the first bishop of Springfield in Illinois (fourth of the diocesan see) on November 10th.

1924    George Cardinal Mundelein ordained the Most Reverend James A. Griffin a bishop at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago.

1928    On June 12th, the last class to graduate from the Old St. Mary’s School received their diplomas from Bishop Griffin. On September 4th, the Old St. Mary’s School was transferred to the new Cathedral School building, a two-story school that was built on the corner of Sixth and Cass Streets. It contained twelve large classrooms, an office room, and a large recreation hall in the basement. A convent for the Dominican Sisters was also built and was connected to the school. On October 14th, amid a four-day diamond jubilee celebration of the founding of the diocese in the original see of Quincy, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception was solemnly dedicated. Reverend Peter Curran became the first rector on October 28th.

1929    Monsignor Patrick Fox became rector of the Cathedral.

1934    Monsignor Timothy Maloney became rector on February 7th.

1935    Monsignor John Franz became rector on January 15th. He would later become the first bishop of Dodge City, Kansas, in 1951.

1948    Bishop James Griffin died on August 5th and was interred in the sanctuary of the Cathedral. Pope Pius XII named Reverend William O’Connor, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, the fifth bishop of Springfield in Illinois on December 28th.

1949    Samuel Cardinal Stritch ordained Bishop William O’Connor at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago on August 7th. Bishop O’Connor was installed as the bishop of Springfield the next day.

1951    Monsignor Robert Eager became rector on October 2nd.

1953    In commemoration of the Cathedral’s silver jubilee, Bishop O’Connor ordered minor repairs and painting for the Cathedral Church.

1958    Monsignor Irvin Will became rector on February 14th.

1975    Bishop O’Connor retired due to ill health. Bishop Joseph A. McNicholas, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Louis since 1969, was installed as the sixth bishop of Springfield in Illinois in the Cathedral on September 3rd.

1976    Monsignor Charles Mulcrone became rector on October 1st.

1983    Bishop McNicholas died unexpectedly on April 17th. Bishop O’Connor, bishop-emeritus, died on November 14th. Both bishops were interred in the sanctuary of the Cathedral.

1984    Bishop Daniel L. Ryan, auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Joliet in Illinois since 1981, was installed as the seventh bishop of Springfield in Illinois on January 18th in the Cathedral.

1986    Monsignor John Ossola became rector of the Cathedral on August 1st.

1999    Bishop Ryan was named bishop-emeritus of the diocese on October 19th. On the same day, Reverend Monsignor George J. Lucas, until then a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, was named the eighth bishop of Springfield in Illinois. Bishop Lucas was ordained and installed as bishop in the Cathedral on December 14th.

2007    Reverend Christopher House became parochial administrator of the Cathedral Parish on July 1st.

2008    Reverend Peter Harman became pastor of the Cathedral Parish on January 1st. Following the Built on Faith, Renewed in Hope campaign, the Cathedral Church closed in September for fifteen months and underwent its only major structural project since being built in 1928. During the time of closure, the parish celebrated its Masses at Sacred Heart Church of St. Katharine Drexel Parish and Blessed Sacrament Parish.

2009    During the Cathedral restoration project, Bishop Lucas was named archbishop of Omaha on June 3rd. Archbishop Lucas solemnly dedicated the Cathedral Church anew, in the presence of Francis Cardinal George, OMI, archbishop of Chicago, several bishops, and the clergy, religious and lay faithful of the diocese on December 2nd.

2010    The Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki, auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago since 2003, was named the ninth bishop of Springfield in Illinois on April 20th. Bishop Paprocki was installed as diocesan bishop in the Cathedral Church on June 22nd.

2013    Reverend John Nolan became pastor of the Cathedral Parish on July 1st.

2014    Reverend Christopher House became pastor of the Cathedral Parish on August 31st.

2015    During the Jubilee Year for Consecrated Life, the Cathedral Parish celebrated 125 years of ministry by the Dominican Sisters of Springfield to the parish and school. Bishop Ryan, bishop-emeritus of the diocese, died on December 31st and was buried with his parents in the Diocese of Joliet.

2016    The original Wicks pipe organ from 1928 was replaced with a refurbished four-manual, fifty-eight rank pipe organ from the Reuter Organ Company.

Rectors of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
1928 - 1929 Rev. Fr. Peter Curran
1929 - 1934 Rev. Msgr. Patrick Fox
1934 - 1935
Rev. Msgr. Timothy Malloney
1935 -1951 Rev. Msgr. John Franz
1951-1958 Rev. Msgr. Robert Eagar
1958-1971 Rev. Msgr. Irvin Will
1976-1986 Rev. Msgr. Charles Mulcrone



Rev. Msgr. John Ossola

Rev. Fr. Christopher House (Parochial Administrator)

2008-2013 Rev. Fr. Peter Harman
2013-2014 Rev. Fr. John Nolan
Present Rev. Fr. Christopher House