Our Town Dyersville: Basilica a Backbone of Faith

By Travis Bockenstedt, Our Town Producer

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By Becky Ogann

DYERSVILLE - Father Donald Hertges is new to the Dyersville community, but he’s not unfamiliar to the basilica. "Everyone is astonished and amazed that in a town of 4-thousand that there is this beautiful basilica and they are very awestruck,” said Hertges.

Built in 1889, the Basilica of St. Francis Xavier has stood in Our Town Dyersville as a backbone of faith. The entire community came together to build the church.

Jerome Kramer is an usher at the Basilica, "It goes back to our forefathers the way they built this church, the faith they had. They mortgaged their farms and businesses to build it. The cost was less than a hundred thousand dollars at the time.”

Little did they know, years later their hard work and dedication would pay off. A German cardinal came to Dyersville for the dedication of the Catholic grade school. He was so impressed he helped the parish elevate the church to the rank of Minor Basilica in 1956, Kramer remembers the event. "Being a junior in high school I volunteered to work that day. So I actually got to park cars; in fact I got to park the arch bishop’s car,” said Kramer.

While many in the community were excited, others didn't know what being named a Basilica actually meant for the church. "For a lot of people I think it increased their faith and devotion for others it was an honorary position and for some it was the same church they always went to whether it was a basilica or not,” said Kramer.

The Basilica of Saint Francis Xavier is actually the Popes church. Inside, clues set this church apart from others. In the corner, a red umbrella sits waiting to protect the Pope from sun and rain if he ever visited the area. Today the church holds 4-masses every Sunday and one of those is still held in Latin. The Basilica is a favorite for tourists to visit and even more popular for those planning a wedding.

"I have a calendar for 2009 and its getting weddings on it in a hurry. A lot of people like to book them two years in advance just so they can get a spot, especially if they want to have that June wedding. Of course you may not get it otherwise,” said Hertges.

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