Looking Inward, Looking Outward in Tampa

Andrew Reitz, OFM Features

TAMPA, Fla. — For the past two months, the long overdue restoration and repainting of the inside of Sacred Heart Church has been taking place. The Botti Studio of Architectural Arts of Chicago is undertaking the $700,000 project. 

The last time the 105-year-old church’s interior was painted was in the 1970s. At the time, the dome was repaired because of termite damage.

It was now time for a facelift. The Botti Studio was chosen because a year ago it had been contracted to restore the four murals over the side altars. Botti’s competency and thoroughness were two qualities that prompted us to ask the company to fully restore the church.

Looking Inward
Every day, three lifts take the work crew to the ceilings and walls that need to be cleaned and repaired before painting can begin. A lighter wall color has been chosen, that will allow the beauty and detail in the church to stand out. Decorative features are highlighted in bronze-gold. 

From June to September, there will be no weddings in the church, while the scaffolding goes up in the sanctuary and the nave. It’s a big job, but not that big for Botti Studio, which has worked in cathedrals and basilicas around the world. Completion will hopefully be before Christmas.

Work has already begun on the celebration of the parish’s 150th anniversary. The actual date of the beginning of the parish was Feb. 14, 1860. Tampa Diocese Bishop Robert Lynch and Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, have already been contacted about the liturgical celebration for Feb. 14, 2010. 

During 2010, there will be monthly activities, including liturgies, concerts, displays, lectures, receptions and dinners.

At the time the parish began, it was the only Catholic church in this part of Florida. Over the years, 38 parishes were founded in the area that Sacred Heart once served. A parish calendar of events will have photos and historical information about the parish for each month. The parish has grown from 1,200 families to 1,800 families since the friars arrived in July 2005.

Looking Outward
Changes in the community are also being made.

A long process has begun to establish a facility/program for the homeless. This will be modeled after Pinellas Hope, begun by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of St. Petersburg in Pinellas County. The new facility would be called Hillsborough Cares.

Ever since Sacred Heart has allowed the homeless to sleep on its steps, the need to have something more permanent and comprehensive became evident. When the diocese began Pinellas Hope, we went to look over this facility — a tent for each person, a secure place for their possessions, meals, health services and opportunities to enter back into the work world. This seemed to take care of all of the basic needs of the homeless and give them the opportunity to move forward to re-enter the work world and become self-sufficient.

The diocese has land in our county, but the process to get Hillsborough Cares going has been long and tedious. In May, there was a zoning hearing. Bishop Lynch has indicated that he wants this facility to open and Catholic Charities is behind the venture. We hope that it can get going by November.

This July, we will complete our fourth year at Sacred Heart. These years have been filled with challenges, but also with excitement as we watch the parish grow every day. 

—Fr. Andrew is pastor and guardian of Sacred Heart Church and Friary in Tampa.