Sacred Heart Church Marks 150th Anniversary

Andrew Reitz, OFM In the Headlines

TAMPA, Fla. — According to parish historians, Feb. 14, 1860, is the day that Sacred Heart Church officially became a parish. The first resident pastor had arrived and with this, the church became a parish. Its boundaries covered much of what was then mission territory in South Florida, down to the Keys.

On Feb. 14, 2010, Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, and the friars at Sacred Heart concelebrated a Mass commemorating this event and the parish’s 150 years of serving God’s people in the sunshine state. 

First named St. Louis Church, its early years were rough on its pastors; many died of yellow fever and are buried in the town cemetery. In 1888, the bishop of St. Augustine heard of Jesuits who had survived yellow fever and then had immunity to the disease, so he invited them to take over the parish. 

In 1898, the Jesuits decided that a larger church was needed and began working on the new building that they would name Sacred Heart Church. Its dedication took place in 1905. The Jesuits remained until 2005, when the Franciscans arrived.

The 150th anniversary year began in January with a concert featuring the musicians of Sacred Heart Church: choirs, instrumentalists and soloists. Later in the month, Catholic Schools’ Week kicked off with a ceremony honoring the Sisters of the Holy Names who had founded Sacred Heart Academy and staffed it for many years. Twenty sisters who had taught at the school or who were vocations from the parish were recognized at the celebration.

In the coming months, a variety of special activities is planned to celebrate the parish’s history. Throughout the year, there will be a series of concerts, Masses to honor various groups, a parish mission/retreat and a display of the parish’s history at the newly opened Tampa Bay History Center. John Anglin, OFM, from the Province’s Ministry of the Word, will lead the parish in a Lenten retreat March 6 through 10. A photo collage of couples married at Sacred Heart is currently on display.

scollagePlanning for this yearlong celebration began more than a year ago. Several memorial objects have been created for the anniversary as well as a calendar (shown behind the above photo) with a history of the parish and photographs from the parish archives. A sun catcher Christmas ornament showing the church and a handcrafted sterling silver medal with the parish logo were specially made for this occasion.

The varied groups of people who will be honored later in the year include: those brought into the church through the RCIA, married couples, volunteers, veterans, teachers and staff, the deceased and the Jesuits who ministered here. In October, historian Dominic Monti, OFM, will present a talk on the “Spiritualities of St. Francis and St. Ignatius.”

Our celebration will conclude Jan. 9, 2011, with Bishop Robert Lynch of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Fla., celebrating a Mass to close the anniversary year. 

Sacred Heart has a long history of service to the people of Florida; we’re going to take the whole year to celebrate this.

— Fr. Andrew, a native of Western New York, has been pastor of Sacred Heart Church since 2005 when Holy Name Province took over administration of the parish. He serves the community along with George Corrigan, OFM, (shown with John in the above photo) Sean O’Brien, OFM, and Juan de la Cruz Turcios, OFM.