Sacred Heart of Jesus Highlandtown

The material and photos were provided by John H. Foertschbeck, Sr. We are very grateful.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, Highlandtown (Heilige Herz Jesu)

Sacred Heart of Jesus, also known as Highlandtown’s Cathedral, began as a mission of St. Michael’s, Wolfe Street. In 1870 the growing number of Canton’s German Catholics petitioned Archbishop James Roosevelt Bayley for a church in their neighborhood. The Archbishop requested, Rev. Peter Zimmer, the pastor of nearby St. Michael’s, Wolfe Street, to assess the request. Fr. Zimmer charged Fr. Joseph Mueller with this task. Fr. Mueller began visiting Canton’s Catholic families and seeking financial support for a church. By 1872 Fr. Mueller had collected sufficient funds to select and acquire property for a church. He proposed acquiring the abandoned Civil War Fort Marshall, also known as “Snake Hill”.

In the spring of 1873 a meeting was held at St. Bridget’s and the assembled group voted unanimously to acquire the Fort Marshal property. The property included two city blocks measuring 450’ X 300’ (ca. three acres) at a cost of $17,000. The property was bounded by Canton Ave. (Fleet St.) on the north, First St. (Highland Ave.) on the west, Aliceanna St. (Foster Ave.) on the south, and Third St. (Conkling St.) on the east. Second St. (Baylis St.) was not cut through at that time. Ground breaking occurred on September 7, 1873 with Archbishop Bayley laying the cornerstone. More than 40 priests and many others representing German Societies from other parishes witnessed the event. The new church would rise to a three stories cruciform building measuring 50’ X 112’ with a steeple 25’ to 30’ above the roof. The first story was dedicated to a school and the second and third stories to the church.

The first school at Sacred Heart opened in 1874 with 116 pupils enrolled. Miss Caroline Paschelhofer taught the girls and Mr. Nicholas Clossert, sacristan and organist, taught the boys. The original four classrooms were later expanded to nine.

April 2, 1876 two School Sisters of Notre Dame, Sr. M. Prosper and Sr. M. Gottharda, began teaching at Sacred Heart. They walked the approximate one and a half miles from St. Michael’s to Sacred Heart. The first convent at Sacred Heart was completed on August 30, 1876 and was immediately occupied by Sisters Prosper, Gottharda and house sister Audacta. It was a three story brick structure 20’ X 40’ which cost approximately $3,500.

October 13, 1878 Sacred Heart became an independent parish with Rev. Francis van Emstede as the first pastor. The parish boundaries were set – WEST: east side of Patterson Park Ave. and Gwinn St., EAST: Back River, the whole section of North Point Road and Old Trapp Road, NORTH: beginning at Patterson Park Ave. the south side of Philadelphia Road to the City limits or to Loney’s Lane and from Loney’s Lane the whole section along Philadelphia Road to Five Miles Point or Rosedale, SOUTH: along the bay and Patapsco River beginning at Gwinn St. This included the neighborhoods of Canton, Highlandtown, Dundalk, Middle River, Rosedale and Sparrows Point.

At this time the German parishes all had a “Knights” Society that were created to: foster religion, preserve good order, confer sick and death benefits on members and their families, serve as honor guards at church events and aid the church financially. In May 1885, the Knights of St. Francis (St. Franz Ritter) was founded at Sacred Heart to fill this role. The Knights of St. Francis were disbanded in May 1918 as a result of the U.S. entering WW I.

On August 15, 1884 a new rectory on Aliceanna St. (Foster Ave.), a two story brick building 40’ X 48’ containing 12 rooms, was annexed to the church and blessed.

On August 15, 1888 a new hall on First St. (Highland Ave.) was blessed. Mayor Ferdinand Latrobe was guest of honor at the accompanying grand parish fair and bazaar.

German was taught at the school and church services until 1908. At that time English sermons were preached at the 7 a.m. Mass on the Third Sunday and the High Mass on the fourth Sunday of the month. The German language slowly was slowly replaced with English. German speaking priests remained at Sacred Heart and heard confessions and ministered to the remaining German immigrants into the early 1960’s.

The parish continued to grow and in 1908 ground was broken for a new church and rectory on Foster Ave. and Conkling St. The cornerstone was laid on October 4, 1908 by the Right Rev. Owen B. Corrigan, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The new church included a basement or lower church which was completed and blessed by Cardinal Gibbons on October 31, 1909. Furnishing for the church came from St. Michael’s, St. James and the old Sacred Heart churches. Parishioner Fr. Bernard Niehaus celebrated the last Solemn High Mass in the old First St. (Highland Ave.) church on January 31, 1910. Parishioner Fr. Otto Bauer, ordained at the Josephinium College, celebrated his first Solemn High Mass in the new lower church on June 18, 1911.

The First Street (Highland Ave.) Church was converted into classrooms in 1912. School opened that year with new Kindergarten with 62 children taught by Sr. M. Liguori. Total school enrollment was 725 students in 1911, 833 in 1912 and over 1,000 in 1916. In May of 1922, ground was broken for a new school on Highland Ave. and Fleet St. School enrollment was 1,340. The new school building was a two story brick structure, 11’ X 66’ X 40’ high, which included 12 classrooms and a full basement with a bowling alley.

The new upper, present day, church was not completed until 1922. Fr. Edward Weigel, former Rector and builder of the church, blessed the church.

On October 9, 1932 the Archbishop Curley laid the cornerstone for a new school and auditorium. The old church was razed and the new school built on Highland Ave. and Foster Ave. The new school complex includes 14 classrooms, a hall basement, kitchen and Administration Building that houses the principal’s office, nurse’s room, library and meeting room. The auditorium seats approximately 800 and includes a stage equipped for plays and showing movies.

Sacred Heart remains a vibrant parish in the twenty-first century. The German emphasis diminished with WW I partly as a result of the anti-German feelings and partly because of natural assimilation. Parishioners of Polish, Italian, Irish and other ethnic groups readily mixed with the old German families. In 2011 Sacred Heart became a center for Southeast Baltimore Hispanics under the name Sagrado Corazon de Jesu.

John H. Foertschbeck, Sr.

March 17, 2013


Diamond Jubilee Book, Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, 1873 – 1948, Parish History compiled by Rev. Eugene Helldorfer, C.Ss.R.

Parish Annals at the Redemporist Archives, Brooklyn, NY.

Additional Photos-Courtesy of John H. Foertschbeck, Sr.

Redemptorist Rectors of Sacred Heart of Jesus Church, 1873-2012

Peter Zimmer 1872-1877

Joseph Helmpraecht 1877-1878

Francis van Emstede 1878-1882

Francis Eberhardt 1882-1887

Henry Urben 1887-1893

Henry Dressmann 1893-1898

John Klang 1898-1904

John Hausser 1904-1907

Edward Weigel 1907-1915

Francis Dauenhauer 1915-1921

Henry Otterbein 1921-1927

Francis Parr 1927-1930

John Beierschmidt 1930-1936

Michael Will 1936-1942

Francis Dotzler 1942-1947

Paul Stroh 1947-1953

Charles Fleckenstein 1953-1959

John Flick 1959-1961

Carl Langhirt 1961-1967

James Donlan 1967-1972

Arthur Mahoney 1972-1978

James King 1978-1985

Sylvester Feeley 1985-1988

Richard Poetzl * 1988-1993

Dennis Foley 1993-1996

Thomas Loftus 1996-2001

Gerard Szymkowiak 2001-2007

Gerard Knapp 2007-2010

Robert Wojtek 2010-

Father Poetzl became the first native parishioner to become pastor.

SSND Superiors at Sacred Heart of Jesus Community

Sr. M. Beda 1876-1877

Sr. M. Elizabeth 1877-1878

Sr. M. Landelina 1878-1881

Sr. M. Damascene 1881-1894

Sr. M. Vincens 1894-1910

Sr. M. Cortona 1910-1913

Sr. M. Flavia 1913-1915

Sr. M. Ambrose 1915-1921

Sr. M. Petra 1921-1927

Sr. M. Flavia 1927-1933

Sr. M. Constantia 1933-1936

Sr. M. Sylvia 1936-1941

Sr. M. Joanne 1941-1948

Sr. M. Aloise 1948-



Rev. Charles Guttenberger

Rev. John Tribull

Rev. John Wise

Rev. Elgius Rainer

Rev. Bernard Rainer

Rev. Gerard Ellinghaus

Rev. John Guntner

Rev. Joseph Fisher

Rev. James May

Rev. John Kresslein

Rev. George Guntner

Rev. Mathias Zeiler

Rev. John Bauer

Rev. Richard Poetzl


Fr. August Bocklage

Fr. Bernard Dorn

Fr. John Schiminsky

Fr. Gerard Kurek

Fr. Joseph Gorney


Rev. Bernard Lochboehler

Rev. Albert Grau


Rev. Joseph Noppinger

Rev. Louis Schenning


Rev. John Mattes

Rev. Balthasar Mattes

Rev. Frank Mattes

Rev. Bernard Huebschmann

Rev. Otto Bauer

Rev. Clement Nuedling

Rev. Conrad Heimbach


Rev. John Reinsfelder

Mr. Carroll Bender


Bro. Charles F. Eckhardt


Gerarda Schneider

Kilian Hock

Michaela Elbel

Stylitta Drescher

Alphonsus Ligouri Batz

Alverus (Anna) Riehl

Annaclete Drescher

Blanco Pasco

Calasanctia Haverkamp

Clotildis Sammet

Domitilla Wunder

Eustelle Hess

Hubertina Zinkand

Irenea (Josephine) Jaeger

Irmina (Philomena= Kief

Paohnutia Koenigbauer

Regula Woytowitz

Rose Leikam

Ruth Merling

Serphica (Anna) Feldmann

Sienna Siebenhaar

Sybilla Heil

Viatora Haverkamp

Vincent Ferrer Mattes

Herman Joseph (Agnes) Noppinger

Pacifica (Marz) Kern

Thomasella (Anna) Roberts

Blanche (Marie) Andrewscovitz

Ambrosia (Eliyabeth) Vasold

Karola (Louise) Kern

Joan of Arc (Catherine) Schumann

Seraphia (Margaret) Dorn

Marlene (Gertrude) Mueller

Generosa (Catherine) Sibiski

Dorinda (Clara) Ellinghaus

Angelia (Edna) Reif

Alexandra (Mary) Linz

Leonelle (Frances) Zeller

Xavier (Marie) Linz

Paulanna (Mary) Tribull

Conrada (Clara) Linz

Le Clere (Catherine) Zeller

Jonata (Anna) Eckes

Francis Joseph (Lucille) Mehring

Marie Charles (Margaret) Grauer

Emmanuella (Wilhemina) Rainer


Sisters Mary

Donata (Amelia) Busch

Deodigna (Mary) Huebschmann

Stephanie (Agatha) Busch

Clarissima (Margaret) Dietz

Clare Joseph (Anna) Kroenung

Saint Raphael (Anna) Voosen

Magdalen (Margaret) Friedel

Anne Jerome (Dorthy) Epple


Sisters Mary

Charitina (Margaret) Reiss

Damaris (Ada) Twigg


Sister Aelred Joseph (Anna) Sojak


Sister M. Clare (Marian) Pohlner


Sister Mary of Jesus (Marie) Eckhardt


Sister John of Jesus and Mary (Dorothy) Wise


Sister Mary Alphonsus (Mary) Busch


Sisters Mary

Beata (Anna) Siebenhaar

Valeria Dorn

Barbara Smith


Sister Magdalen of St. Gerard (Christina) Dietz