Cerro Gordo County Iowa
Part of the IaGenWeb Project




Rev. Father Lawrence H. BURNS, pastor of the Church of the Sacred Heart and at the head of the Sacred Heart Academy, is a man of well-deserved consequence in the community, whose respect he enjoys not only as an ecclesiastic of fine parts, but also as a man of broad views and common sense. Father BURNS was born in county Tipperary, Ireland, in 1847, his parents being John and Mary (RYAN) BURNS. They were married in their native country and there their children were born. In 1862 they decided to seek the greater opportunity offered by the new world and accordingly set sail, locating soon after their arrival in Philadelphia. The parents made the Quaker City their home for the rest of their lives, and not only they, but their children, with the exception of Father BURNS, have ever since resided there.

Father BURNS acquired his early education in the public schools of Ireland and soon after arriving in America he became enrolled among the students in St. Charles Academy, situated about fifteen miles from Baltimore, Maryland. After four years attendance there he was sent to Allegany, Cattaragus (sic) county, New York, where he entered an ecclesiastical seminary. He was graduated from this institution and in 1878 was ordained to the Catholic priesthood.

His first charge was Key West, Iowa, to which he was sent almost immediately after receiving orders. His ministry was of two years duration there and he was then transferred to West Union, Fayette county, Iowa, where he remained for four years and a half, those in authority sending him at the end of this time to Ackley, Iowa, where his pastorate lasted three years.

The ministry of Father BURNS in Rockwell began in October 1887, and the succeeding years have witness great advance in the growth of church and academy. When he arrived the church building was a small frame edifice forty-five by thirty feet, and he added forty-five feet to its length, with the intention of making a school room out of it. By the year 1890 he had been successful in the realization of his ambition to have a new church, which was a substantial affair of veneered brick. Unfortunately, however, this building was not long to endure, for in 1905 it was visited by a conflagration. In 1907 a beautiful new church was built to take its place, this being superior in many respects to it predecessor. The parochial residence, a comfortable and commodious house where many members of the Catholic clergy have found shelter and entertainment, has been built since Father BURN'S arrival. He is essentially a builder, the Academy of the Sacred Heart having been erected in 1900. It is one of the largest parochial school buildings in this part of Iowa. It is one hundred and ten feet long and sixty feet wide, has a basement and is three stories above ground. The attendance of Sacred Heart Academy is not restricted to the youth in this part of Iowa, for there are pupils enrolled from various parts of the United States. The Dominican Sisters or Sister of the Order of St. Dominick has charge of the school.

~ ~ ~ ~


The Sacred Heart Academy, situated in Rockwell, is one of the most important educational institutions in this part of Iowa. It was erected in 1900, during the pastorate of Rev. Father Lawrence H. BURNS, who is at the head of its management, Rev. Father J. J. CLUNE assisting. The location of the academy is ideal, for it is upon the highest elevation in the town, this being toward the northern boundary. Its construction is extremely substantial, the walls being built of brick, a tier of solid ones outside and backed by hollow ones, which insure its being very warm and dry. It is three stories high and has a basement besides, and is one hundred and ten feet long by sixty feet wide. In the center of the main building towards the back is a wing thirty three by thirty-eight feet, with an eighteen foot ceiling, which is to be used as a chapel. Toward the extreme outer ends are two stairways, each seventeen by fifteen feet.

The height of the basement is eight feet; the first story twelve feet; the second story eleven feet; and the third story ten feet. The basement is used for fuel, boiler and storage rooms and also for the kitchen, dining room, laundry, pantry and so forth. The first floor is used exclusively for school purposes, here being found the school and music rooms and the living rooms for the sisters. Upon the second floor are to be found the quarters of the sisters, and dormitories and the like. The third story is a large hall, supplied with numerous dormer windows and suitable for entertainments and exercises of various sorts and also as dormitories for pupils. In front of the building is a tower surmounted by a cross, from the top of which to the ground is a distance of eighty feet.

The academy was built at a cost of twenty-five thousand dollars and presents a handsome and imposing appearance and will be an enduring monument to the courage and persistent energy of Rev. Father Lawrence H. BURNS and to the self-sacrificing devotion of the many members of the parish who contributed so liberally towards the funds which made it possible.

The Sacred Heart Academy enjoys a wide reputation and students are enrolled from various sections of the United States. The curriculum qualifies a graduate to enter the freshman class of the state university. The sisters who constituted the teaching force are exceptionally well versed in the respective branches and whole community has been elevated by the influence of the institution.

NOTE: Rev. Father BURNS died at Rockwell on April 29, 1924. ~ Archdiocese of Dubuque.

SOURCE: Wheeler, J. H. History of Cerro Gordo County, Iowa. Vol. II. Pp. 457-58. Lewis Pub. Co. Chicago. 1910

Transcription and note by Sharon R. Becker, February of 2011



  • Return to Biographies Index Page

  • Return to Cerro Gordo Home Page


    © Copyright 1996-
    Cerro Gordo Co. IAGenWeb Project
    All rights Reserved.