Sacred Heart History
The history of Sacred Heart Parish began with the appointment of Father Aloysius B Dubby as its founder and first pastor. Following World War I there was a rapid growth and development of the north part of the community and it became evident that a new parish would be needed In this section of the city. In view of this situation Father Ryves, the pastor of St. Ann Parish, purchased a lot in the 2800 block on the west side of North 13th Street. When it was definitely decided to build a new parish, a more central location was selected. The north half of the triangle situated between 13th Street, Lafayette Avenue and Barbour Avenue was purchased on December 7th, 1921, as the site of the new parish.
During the period of organization of the parish, Father Duffy said Mass in the home located on the property. Later, this house was remodeled and became the rectory. Another house which was situated on the northwest corner of the property was renovated, enlarged and converted into a convent for the Sisters teaching in the school. Over the years, these two buildings were used interchangeably as rectory and convent.
Soon after Father Duffy had been appointed as pastor and the boundaries of the new parish had been established, a committee of ladies approached Fr. Duffy for permission to establish an Altar Society. In 1922 the Altar Society was formally organized with officers elected: Mrs. James Kane, president; Mrs. Richard Lee, vice-president; Mrs. Charles Vaught, secretary; and Mrs. Frank Decker, treasurer.
Groundbreaking for the new church-school building were held in April 1923 with the pastor and members of the Altar Society present. The cornerstone laying and blessing of the building, which was conducted by Monsignor Joseph Byrne of Holy Cross Church in Indianapolis, took place on Sunday, June 10th, 1923.
The plans were drawn by Johnson, Miller and Miller architects; and the construction contract was awarded to Roehm Brothers. The building is constructed of red brick with limestone trim. It has a frontage of fifty-three feet and a depth of one hundred eight and a half feet. Six classrooms were located on the top floor. The church was located on the first floor and had a seating capacity of five hundred. The first Mass was celebrated in the basement on Sunday, July 29, 1923. The building cost approximately $89,000.
On the afternoon of the cornerstone laying, the entire membership of the parish marched in procession from St. Ann Church to the site of the new building. Mr. Benjamin Van Gorken was the Grand Marshall of the procession while Mr. Billy McHale carried the colors. The Chamber of Commerce Band, under the direction of Okie Denehie, led the first section of the procession and the Hungarian Band led the second section. Monsignor Byrne was invited to conduct the ceremony. By a fortunate coincident, Holy Cross Church was being renovated, so the main altar, the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph shrines and some statues, were donated to Sacred Heart.
The school opened in February 1924 with an enrollment of 186 pupils. The combine church-school building was completed in March 1924. The First Communion for 100 students was celebrated on Sunday, June 8, 1924. The ceremonies of the solemn dedication of the building were conducted by Bishop Chartrand on Sunday, July 13, 1924. At that time, there were approximately four hundred families in the parish.
By the time of the dedication Fr. Duffy had form several organizations including: the Young Men’s Club, the Young Ladies Sodality, a Boy Scout Troop and a Council of Catholic Men, which provided a series of social activities for members of all ages. The Sodality held weekly dances; the Council of Catholic Men purchased a movie projector and provided weekly movies; the Young Men’s Club presented a Minstrel Show and later a carnival. The parish annual festival became one of the most important events of parish activities and was participated in b all organizations. The most successful event was the annual Chicken Suppers served by the women of the parish. During the era of the Depression, these suppers were a substantial source of income to the parish.
In August 1924, Father Conrad Urbach was appointed as Fr. Duffy’s assistant. He took charge of the parish choir. He was transferred in October 1925 to the parish at Lawrenceburg.
Father Len Creedon was then appointed as assistant, with responsibilities for various parish organizations. He, also, served one year.
Fr. Duffy was transferred to St. Malachi Parish in June of 1926 and Father Timothy Kavanaugh took his place as pastor of Sacred Heart. In July, Fr. Ralph Doyle was appointed as assistant pastor. Both were transferred the following year.
Father Omer Eisenman and his assistant Father John Holloran arrived in the parish the first week in July 1927. The parish became a victim of the depression. Because of widespread unemployment the revenues of the parish declined sharply. However, the school enrollment at that period was the largest it had ever been before. On May 27, 1928, Confirmation was administered for the first time to three hundred fifty members of the parish by Bishop Ledvina of Corpus Christi, Texas. Despite the strained financial conditions, the spiritual life of the parish was not diminished. First Communion classes, May Processions, special devotions, and Corpus Christi Processions were held regularly. Fr. Eisenman was transferred from the parish in July 1934.
Father Jerome Pfau was appointed pastor of the parish in July 1934. By this time, the membership of the parish was decreasing because people, unable to find work locally, were moving to find employment. By September 1940 the school enrollment had dwindled to one hundred twenty-five students. Fr. Pfau cut spending to the bare necessities and the Sisters received no salaries.
The assistant pastor, Fr. Holloran, was transferred in August 1925. Father John Kraka was appointed the next assistant. Father Andrew O’Keefe assisted temporarily in the parish from May until September of 1939.
As a means of sustaining the spirit of the parish and for the benefit of the members, Fr. Pfau arranged for the organization of a Court of the Catholic Order of Foresters. The first meeting was held in May 1937 with thirty-three charter members. Besides its particular insurance feature for the help and protection of the members, the Order’s primary interest is the welfare of the parish. Fr. Pfau’s hopes were fulfilled, in that, the Court of Foresters proved to be of invaluable assistance and service to the parish.
Holy Rosary Parish in Seelyville was attached to Sacred Heart Parish as a Mission in July 1924. It was transferred to St. Patrick Parish in June 1939.
Father James Moore was appointed pastor in June 1939. The economic situation was improving, and employment became more plentiful and dependable. Fr. Moore took advantage of these conditions to introduce a program of regular activities and benefits as revenues increased. He organized the Mothers’ Club whose initial meeting was held on October 18, 1939. The Mothers’ Club sponsored a number of activities including: the annual school picnic, the Christmas party, breakfast for the graduates. The annual Fathers’ Night Dinner was the principal social event of the parish.
Shortly before leaving, Fr. Moore planed an extensive program of repairs and renovation for the church. In conjunction with several other priests, he supervised and directed the formation of the Tri Parish Club which began in late June 1940. This venture was to be for the benefit of the parish, but without responsibility on the part of the parish. Over the years, the Club was a source of substantial and consistent financial assistance to the parish. Proceeds from the club were responsible for the of the parish debt in 1949. They were an important part of the financing of the maintenance and renovation of the parish during its existence.
Fr. Moore was transferred from the parish in October 1940. Father James McBarron arrived in the parish on October 15, 1940 to see to the completion of Fr. Moore’s plan of repair and remodeling.
Fr. Kraka was moved from the parish in September of 1941 and Father William Engbers became the next assistant. Fr. Engbers took charge of activities for the teenage group. He reorganized the High School Club, trained Altar boys, and organized athletic activities for the grade school. He was transferred in August 1947.
Father James Dooley became the new assistant pastor in September 1947.
At the beginning of 1950, the north side of Terre Haute saw remarkable growth and expansion which had a favorable effect on Sacred Heart Parish. Membership was increasing and school enrollment was growing. It became apparent that the parish would be in need of a new church. The location selected was the first five pieces of property north of Barbour Avenue on the west side of 13 ½ Street. The property was acquired on August 15, 1950, at a cost of twenty-two thousand dollars.
Another point for consideration was the fact that, with new rooms being added to the school, additional Sisters would be needed. The convent was already too small, so it was decided to tear down the old rectory south of the school and build a new convent. The total cost of the convent was sixty-six thousand dollars. The convent was completed on schedule and was blessed by Archbishop Paul Schulte on Aug. 15, 1953.