Since last November, and continuing until this November, Sacred Heart Church is celebrating its 125th year history in service to Roman Catholics in Jeannette and surrounding areas.
Beginning in November 1889, with the first organizational meeting and the first Mass celebrated in a blacksmith shop on the corner of Clay Avenue and North Seventh Street, Sacred Heart has seen its share of good times and challenges.
In the fall of 1890, land was purchased on North Seventh Street, which is the present site of the church. The original building housed a school and rectory on the first floor and the church on the second floor.
A convent was added in 1891 for the Benedictine Sisters from Pittsburgh, as they would assume charge of the school.
In 1893, the church was expanded and a one-story brick school was built on the corner of North Seventh Street and Patton Avenue, and between 1904 and 1921, the process for funding and permission to build a new church took place.
In March 1923, the ground breaking began, and on Sept. 16, 1923, the cornerstone was laid for what is the present day Sacred Heart Church.
The stained-glass windows that still remain were created by Hunt Stained Glass Windows and wood Stations of the Cross were purchased from the Oberammergau Passion Players of Bavaria, Germany. They were covered with Plexiglass in 1981, and were completely restored, piece by piece, beginning in 2008 and completed in 2013.
In 1951, the church saw the construction of a new convent and in 1961 a new school was built and was dedicated on Aug. 20 by Bishop William Connare.
A pipe organ, one of only a few left that is still operational, was purchased in 1975 and was used for the first time on Easter 1976.
The church was renovated for its 100th Anniversary in 1988 and 1989, some pews were removed and a gathering area was created in the back of the church.
The â€œOld School,â€� as referred to by parishoners to this day, was demolished in 1990 and a parking lot was built in its place.
In June 1995, Sacred Heart School closed it’s doors. Kathy Goodall, the facilities manager of Sacred Heart, was awarded a full-time position one month before.
â€œFrom the day after we closed the school, we’ve had a paying renter. We have nine out of 14 rooms still being used.â€�
The school housed the Sr. Veronica Learning Center from 1995-99, and from then until 2005, Queen of Angels Catholic Elementary School utilized the space while its school was renovated.
Seton Hill Child Services Day Care, Head Start and pre-k programs, and Westmoreland Intermediate Unit autistic preschool and reverse mainstream program still call the building home. In July 2013, Westmoreland Community Action Head Start Program became the third tenant in the building.
A carillon, a large electronic musical instrument housed in the bell tower, was installed in March 2008 under the direction of the Rev. Leon Hont.
In 2008, the Rev. John Foriska was named pastor of Sacred Heart and administrator of Ascension Church.
Plans for this year-long celebration began in 2012. That same year, Foriska was reassigned to Holy Trinity Church in Ligonier and the Rev. Paul Lisik was named as the pastor of Sacred Heart and administrator to Ascension. Goodall called the November 2013 jubilee a â€œsoft-opening,â€� with this past Sunday serving as the official grand opening of the 125th Celebration, with Archabbot Douglas Nowicki celebrating Mass.
Sacred Heart will continue the festivities through November. An oldies dance is scheduled for Feb. 15 from 6-10 p.m., with tickets at $6 per person and $10 per couple. Only those older than 21 are invited. Alcohol is not provided, but attendees can bring their own, if they wish.
Music will be provided by DJs Frankie Day and Marko. Tickets are available by calling Stan at 724-244-1652 or Harry at 724-523-9464.
Sacred Heart has 125th anniversary T-shirts available for purchase in February and March, an Easter egg hunt is planned for April and a fish dinners are set for Fridays during lent; and in May a Mass and social is planned to honor the Benedictine Sisters.
On July 20, the 90th anniversary of the dedication of the church building and the parish anniversary celebration family picnic at Idlewild Park will be held.
Goodall said a school homecoming/alumni celebration is being discussed and would be open to any graduate/ alumni from Sacred Heart School. Anyone who wants to volunteer can call the parish office at 724-523-2560.
The festivities will close Nov. 23 with a Mass and dinner at Ferrante’s Lakeview with the Bishop Lawrence E. Brant as celebrant.
Maria Tyger is a contributing writer.