Succession of Pastors
|1926 - 1929:
||Rev. Philip Brady
|1929 - 1958:
||Rev. Michael Lyons
|1958 - 1970 :
||Rev. Gerald J. O'Driscoll
|1970 - 1981:
||Rev. Thomas H. Markham
|1981 - 1984:
||Rev. Edmund S. O'Neill
|1984 - 2002:
||Rev. Michael O'Hara
|2002 - present :
||Rev. Msgr. Robert P. Walton
Sacred Heart Parish on Thirty-ninth Street in Sacramento was created on January 1, 1926. Hampered by a lack of funds for a new church, members first celebrated Mass in a temporary building at the present-day location of the Sacred Heart School.
The site was originally named St. Stephen with Fr. Philip Brady as pastor. Following the death of Fr. Brady in 1929, Msgr. Michael Lyons, originally from Ireland, was appointed Pastor. With the approval of the Bishop, Msgr. Lyons changed the name of the parish to Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Devotion to Jesus’ ‘Sacred Heart’ goes back to the seventeenth century, which emphasized Jesus’ love and kindness. This view was popular throughout Europe and particularly strong in Ireland. Heavily influenced by Irish bishops and priests like Msgr. Lyons, the Sacramento diocese today counts nine parishes named Sacred Heart.
In 1928, with a generous grant from Mary Ellen Bowden, Sacred Heart Parish was ready to build its new church building. Msgr. Lyons commissioned Harry Devine, architect and Sacred Heart parishioner, to design the sanctuary and rectory on Thirty-ninth and J, across from Mercy Hospital.
The cornerstone was laid on March 15, 1931, and Bishop Robert Armstrong formally dedicated the church September 13, 1931. The exterior of Sacred Heart Church is constructed in the style of a Roman basilica, using red brick and terra cotta-stained concrete in Italian Lombard style. The black bricks are typically called clinker bricks.
The church has Romanesque arches inside and out and decorative designs on the exterior including herringbone hatching on the tower, cross fleurets, Celtic knots, and rosettes. The doorway is tiered and called a tympanum.
The church has a traditional belfry, a modern adaptation of the defensive tower that would have been next to many of the early Roman churches.
Exquisite stained-glass windows in the church were executed by the Harry Clarke Studio of Dublin, Ireland. Clarke was one of Ireland’s most famous illustrators and stained-glass designers of the late nineteenth-early twentieth century. The school of design was called Tur Glone. Clarke’s windows were noted for his use of contrasting colors and vivid blue tones.
The nine hundred families who make up Sacred Heart Parish participate in a multitude of ministries that serve the parish and the community at large.
History from our 75th Anniversary
History section under development
The building of a church tells its own story. If you look beyond the bricks and mortar and architectural details of its composition, you'll find the story of the people who came together to build their church, share their faith in God and create their community. As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of Sacred Heart Church, it's time to share the story of who these people were, what challenges they met, and how they sacrificed and planned for the church that we are so fortunate to enjoy today. Their dedication and faith is evident today in our beautiful church that still sits prominently in the heart of East Sacramento while much around it has changed.
In the early 1900's Sacramento's development path pushed eastward away from the river settlements of Old Town, past the commercial district of Downtown and the residences of Midtown toward the more rural open space of hops farms, dairies, and pear orchards that came to be known as East Sacramento. The Diocese of Sacramento considered Catholics living there to be part of the Immaculate Conception Parish of Oak Park, which was established in 1910.
After World War I, East Sacramento's development continued as veterans returned home, jobs became available in the agriculture processing and packing industry and neighborhoods of new homes were taking shape. In 1922, Bishop Patrick J. Keane purchased property on the Southwest corner of 39th and J Streets, where the East Sacramento Elementary School sat abandoned because the new David Lubin School had been built at 36th and J Streets. The property, with its slight rise of land, was known locally as "American Hill" and was one block west of the site of the Mater Misericordia Hospital staffed by the Sisters of Mercy. The Christian Brothers used the old school house for two years while their new school was being built in Oak Park on 21st Street, since they had sold their facility at 12th and K Streets to the Weinstock Lubin Company for its new store. Three years later in late 1925, Bishop Keane and his Diocesan council readjusted boundaries of the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament, St. Francis and Immaculate Conception parishes in order to create a new one for East Sacramento residents. The next issue on the agenda of the new parish was funding.
A historical account by Sacred Heart parishioner Margaret Bailey written in 1981 sheds some light on the process of how the church was financed, named and constructed. Bailey wrote, "Miss Ellen Bowden, a parishioner of the old St. Stephen's Church (3rd and O Streets) offered to build the new church on two conditions. First, Fr. Phillip Brady (an old family friend and at the time pastor of the Weaverville parish) was to be pastor, and second, the new parish was to be called St. Stephen's." There is a mention in other documents that Miss Bowden's father and brother were both named Stephen.
Bishop Keane accepted these two conditions, and Father Brady left his parish in Red Bluff and arrived in Sacramento on January 1, 1926, as the new parish was being established. The Sisters of Mercy provided him with lodging at the hospital for the first few weeks until he was able to rent a cottage at 921 - 39th Street, which because the priests' residence for about the next two years. As one of his first projects, Father Brady had an altar erected in one of the large classrooms of the old school house and celebrated Mass there on February 7th. It is recorded that Miss Bowden was able to provide about $18,000 for the start of the parish through Father Brady. He purchased six lots at 39th and I Streets when he believed the property at the corner of 39th and J Streets might be too expensive for parish buildings because East Sacramento was fast becoming a fashionable residential area. On one of the lots, Father Brady had a temporary church build quickly, which was called St. Stephen's and he celebrated the first Mass in that building on Palm Sunday in 1926. Because it was to become the parish hall, it was never formally dedicated to its patron saint. The building was later used in September 1934 when Sacred Heart School opened with about 60 children in grades 1-4, and today it serves as the school's gymnasium and auditorium.
In the spring of 1927, Father Brady became very ill with tuberculosis, and it was necessary for him to leave Sacramento and spend time convalescing in the mountain air in Colfax where he remained until the fall. Reverend Patrick Aidan McHugh, B.D., a young, energetic priest was dispatched to function as administrator in Father Brady's absence and remained to serve as his assistant. For the next two years, Father Brady remained in residence at the parish and with his failing health, he spent most of his time planning for the permanent church and rectory while Father McHugh administrated the affairs of the parish. With two priests, a larger house was needed, and they moved to the Bowden home at 3801 H Street. With advice from Bishop Keane, Father Brady decided the permanent church should be built at the corner of 39th and J Streets. During this time, he also expressed his desire that the new church be dedicated to the "Sacred Heart of Jesus". Father Brady died on October 6, 1929, and was the first priest buried in the new St. Mary's Cemetery. His death also coincided with the infamous stock market crash on Wall Street, and shortly thereafter, Miss Bowden suffered financial problems and was no longer able to supply continued funds to build the church.
In November, Bishop Robert Armstrong appointed Father Michael L. Lyons, who had spent 15 years in the Cathedral, as pastor of St. Stephen's Church. Father Lyons consulted with the Bishop to build a parish school, and the Bishop requested many orders of teaching sisters i in the U.S. and Canada, but none could promise sisters for the school. According to church historical records, "Hence, it was decided to build a church and priests' residence and to arrange with St. Francis School and St. Joseph's Academy to take care of all children who could be induced to attend a Catholic school." father Lyons decided to keep the property at 39th and I Streets for a future school, and to this end bought back a lot that Father Brady had sold when he changed his mind and determined the J Street property was large enough for all parish buildings.
Parishioner and well-known Northern california architect Harry J. Devne was commissioned by Father Lyons to prepare plans for a church and parish house. Together they examined many styles of churches and decided on the Romanesque design, which would seat 750 people. Plans and specifications were completed November 5, 1930, and bids were examined on November 22. William C. Keating wa selected as the contractor who had provided the lowest bid of $99,000 for the church and house, exclusive of pews, altars, marble floors, altar tail, and all the brick. Excavation work began on December 9, 1930, and it was expected that the church and house would be completed by July 1. The cornerstone of the church was solemnly blessed and laid by Bishop Armstrong on Sunday, March 15, 1931. Up to that time, 250 members of the parish pledged themselves to contribute $17,000 for the building fund.
Margaret Bailey and Estella Lagomarsino were the first women of the parish to care for the altar from 1926-1930. The present Altar Society was not formed until after the dedication of the new church in 1931. From a news report in the catholic Herald of September 13, 1931, the change of the parish name from St. Stephen's to Sacred heart is explained: "The women of the Altar Society of St. Stephen's full of devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, circulated a petition to be presented to the Most Reverend Bishop, requesting that the new church be dedicated to the Sacred heart. Knowing that such was the wish of the first pastor, the Bishop granted the petition, which was signed by 500 parishioners."