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Basilica of the Sacred Heart celebrates 125 years

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The Basilica of the Sacred Heart is the centerpiece of the University of Notre Dame. A special mass Friday celebrated 125 years of worship in the Basilica. Locals, visitors, former students, retired professors, bishops, monsignors and a lot of priests attended the special mass.

Notre Dame's Basilica of the Sacred Heart is a place for people from all walks of life. It has been open since 1888 - an impressive 125 years.

"Truly unbelievable. It's our first time. It was kind of quite breathtaking actually," said Grayston Dancey.

"It's absolutely amazing. We loved everything, everything about it. Gorgeous, I've never seen anything like it to be honest with you," said Hilary Dancey.

A special mass to celebrate 125 years has been in the works for quite some time.

"Father Rocca the rector of the Basilica is the head of a committee that actually started planning the celebration and I'm not quite sure- I know it's been several months," said John Zack of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

A 100 year celebration seems more common, but it just wasn't meant to be.

"Well I think the 100th anniversary, if my math is correct, we were closed for renovations," said Zack.

Fast forward 25 years and people are coming from all over to take part in the celebration.

Notre Dame Business Professor Bob Williamson retired years ago but he's back on campus for the celebration.

"We moved to Arizona and we come back occasionally. We're here now for a family reunion and had to make a visit to the campus," said Williamson.

Deacon Jon Grottron from Toledo says his father attended school here and used to bring him to visit when he was little.

"As a little kid we used to go visit the Grotto when we would come here for football games and that and that draws me back, I try to get back at least one a year," said Grottron.

The best part of visiting: you don't have to be catholic to enjoy or attend the celebration.

"Actually we're not Catholic, but we love Notre Dame because of its value orientation and we have attended many masses in the Basilica, that's for sure, over the years," said Williamson.

You may be wondering what makes it a basilica and not just a church?

It's a building designated by the Pope because of its historical significance.

Hundreds upon hundreds of priests have been ordained here and it's also the oldest church for the Holy Cross Congregation in North America.

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