It all began more than fifty years ago. His name was Joe Bock. He was the Food and Beverage Manager at the Stardust and Desert Inn hotels. At this time, Fr. Richard Crowley, CSV was pastor of St. Viator Roman Catholic Church at the corner of Eastern and Flamingo.
Joe approached Fr. Crowley asking if he would be willing to offer a 4:30 AM Mass for Catholic cooks, bartenders, waiters, musicians, and others in the associated hospitality industry working in Strip hotels to fulfill their Sunday obligation before going home after the last shift. The first such Mass was celebrated in the showroom of the Royal Hotel and Casino in 1958.
As time marched on, the showroom setting presented more and more difficulties. Many expressed a desire to establish a Catholic chapel on the Strip. Casino executive envisioned how this could benefit both the workers and the tourists and several agreed to assist in building such a chapel.
In 1961, Fr. Patrick Toomey, CSV was named pastor of St. Viator Roman Catholic Church. His task was three-fold: Build a church and a school for St. Viator’s parish and a chapel on the Strip for casino workers and tourists. With the help of several community leaders, the donation of the land on the Strip for the chapel and financial support from hotel owners, St. Viator’s Guardian Angel Shrine became a reality on October 2, 1963.
In 1970, Fr. Francis White, CSV became pastor of St. Viator Roman Catholic Church and Guardian Angel Shrine. During his pastorate, the cathedral artwork was completed under the direction of the Piczek sisters from Hungary. Their artistic accomplishments are demonstrated in the stained glass, mosaics, and the sanctuary mural of our Cathedral.
All this time, the entire State of Nevada was one diocese: The Diocese of Reno.
In 1977, His Excellency, Norman Francis McFarland, Bishop of Reno-Las Vegas designated the St. Viator Guardian Angel Shrine as the co-cathedral for the southern portion of the Diocese. Priests assigned to St. Viator Roman Catholic Church continued to provide pastoral and administrative services as both sites.
In 1979, Fr. Edward Anderson, CSV was appointed the Pastor of Guardian Angel Co-Cathedral and St. Viator Roman Catholic Parish. In the following year, 1980, Bishop McFarland designated the co-cathedral as its own parish. It was then that Fr. Eugene Mierzwinski, CSV became the first Rector of Guardian Angel Cathedral. The Cathedral was to be primarily a parish for tourists – their home-away-from-home.
In 1984, Fr. Edward Anderson, CSV was appointed its second Rector. Three years later, in 1987, Bishop Walsh became Bishop of Reno-Las Vegas. In consultation with Fr. Anderson, because of the large numbers of tourists attending Masses at the Cathedral, Bishop Walsh authorized another church at the south end of the Strip: the Shrine of the Most Holy Redeemer.
In 1990, Fr. Patrick Cahill, CSV became the third Rector of Guardian Angel Cathedral. During his term, the Bali Hai Motel behind the Cathedral was demolished and a new chancery and cathedral office complex was constructed: The Catholic Center of the Diocese of Las Vegas. It was also at this time that Bishop Walsh requested permission from Rome to offer at 2:30 PM Saturday Mass of Anticipation for tourists in an attempt to reduce the crowded condition at the other service. The special indult was granted, and it still exists today.
In 1995, the Diocese of Reno-Las Vegas was divided and the Diocese of Las Vegas became its own entity with Bishop Walsh as the first Bishop of the new diocese. With its new status, the Cathedral building and grounds were renovated as you see them today. The angels in the sanctuary and balcony, and the hanging Crucifix, are later additions.
In 1996, Fr. James Crilly, CSV was appointed to the Cathedral as its fourth Rector. He served until 2003 when Fr. Larry Lentz, CSV was named the fifth rector of Guardian Angel Cathedral.
In 2000, Bishop Walsh was appointed to the Diocese of Santa Rosa in California, and in 2001, Joseph Pepe was consecrated Bishop and installed as the second Bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas. He served in this role until 2018.
In May 2011, the administration of Guardian Angel Cathedral was transferred from the Viatorians to the Diocese.
The Cathedral continues to be a beacon of the Catholic faith.