On July 13, 1919, a meeting of parishioners of Cathedral Parish living in northeast Lincoln was called by Most Reverend Bishop Charles J. O’Reilly to make arrangements for the forming of a new parish. This meeting was held in the office of the DeWitt Grain Co. (also known as Partington’s Trading Post), at 27th and X Streets. The parish was placed under the direction of the Franciscan Capuchin Fathers of the Irish Province.
When negotiations were completed, Fr. Casimir Butler, O.F.M. Cap., was put in charge. The Provincial Chapter in Dublin that year appointed Fr. Edward Walsh, O.F.M. Cap, as first pastor and superior, with Fr. Ferdinand Glenny, O.F.M. Cap as assistant.
The first location was at 25th and Y Streets, and was comprised of seven city lots with two houses, one used as a rectory costing $14,250.00. On two of these lots construction of a hall, built in cement blocks, which served as a temporary parish church, was begun by Father Walsh on October 13, 1919. Prior to this, Mass had been offered in the rectory. Christmas Day, 1919, the first Mass offered in the new building.
In 1922, Fr. Walsh was succeeded by Fr. Adrian Sharkey, O.F.M. Cap. Under Fr. Sharkey, the Altar Society and BVM Sodality were formed. In the summer of 1925, Fr. Raphael Quinn, OFM Cap., succeeded Fr. Sharkey as Superior of the parish.
As a result of a conference in 1925 between the Most Reverend Bishop Francis J Beckman, Bishop of Lincoln and the Very Reverend Joseph Fenelon, Superior of the American Missions of the Irish Capuchins, a new property more centrally located was purchased at 31st and T Streets. This property consisted of 8 lots and two buildings, a Friary and a Sisters’ convent, and was purchased at the cost of $13,425.00. The parish boundaries are 20th Street on the west; north side of “O” street on the south; Hartley Street on the north; and on the east, 56th Street from “O” to Holdrege and 48th Street from Holdrege Street to Hartley Street.
In the fall of 1926, Fr. Quinn and his assistant moved to the Friary at the new location. On August 21, 1927, the cornerstone was laid for the new combination church, school and parish hall. This building is presently used as the main school and parish hall. Rt. Rev. Msgr. P.L. O’Loughlin officiated. The cost of the building was approximately $43,000. The new auditorium-gymnasium was opened November 25, 1927 with a bazaar and entertainment. The dedication of the church and school took place Sunday, December 18, 1927, with the Most Rev. Bishop Frances J. Beckman officiating.
Fr. Quinn was re-elected superior in 1928, and that fall Sacred Heart School was opened under the direction of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. At this time two more priests were added. The assistants to the pastor were now Frs. Conleth Killian, Damien Ginnell, and Donatus Ahern. A Father was assigned to the missions of Greenwood and Ashland, the others being occupied on missions and supply work. Later, at the request of Bishop L.B. Kucera, the fathers exchanged the mission work at Greenwood and Ashland for the chaplaincies of the State Penitentiary, Reformatory for Men, and the State Hospital. The school choir furnished music at these institutions for Christmas and Easter for several years.
The Third Order of St. Francis was established in the parish in 1927 under the direction of Fr. Conleth Killian. A number of receptions and professions in this Lay Franciscan Order took place during the administration of the Capuchins.During the early years of the parish, financial assistance was given by the Order’s house in Abbotstown, Pa. to the amount of $4,600. When the parish was well established, these contributions ceased. In 1927, the property was deeded to a newly formed corporation known as the Franciscan Capuchin Order for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, enabling the Capuchins to borrow money for the building erected, and for payment of the balance of the new property. A loan of $32,500 was procured from the Lincoln Trust Co. Three notes totaling $18,000 were given to the Central National Bank for money borrowed. These were taken over by the First National Bank when the banks consolidated. A building fund was established in October, 1926, to which parishioners subscribed each year; and this, together with proceeds from parish entertainment and bazaars as well as other donations and legacies made up the fund from which interest, principal, insurance and paving taxes were met. The balance of the Y Street property was sold at auction in the spring of 1929; part having being sold in 1927; and the proceeds deposited in the building fund.
In the summer of 1931, Fr. Quinn was appointed for a third term as Superior of the parish. The following three years we had a financial depression with many heads of families out of work for long periods. The First Trust Co., trustee for the Lincoln Trust Co., extended the principal payments on the loan. Interest on indebtedness was paid in full during this time. In 1934, Fr. Quinn obtained consent of the bond-holders to reduce interest rate from 5½% to 4% owing to financial conditions. The First National Bank also reduced the rate on the notes from 6% to 4%.
On January 8, 1933, the Friary was destroyed by fire, in which the aged caretaker died and Fr. Quinn was severely burned. A new home had to be secured for the priests, so the corner property west of the old Friary was purchased and remodeled. Assistants were Frs. Conleth Killian, Benignus Brennan and Reginald O’Hanlon. Insurance from the fire loss and the work of unemployed parishioners took care of the purchase and remodeling expenses. The old Friary lot was divided into part playground space and the balance was landscaped.
At the Provincial Chapter in the summer of 1934, Fr. Terrence Anglin, OFM Cap was appointed Superior to succeed Fr. Quinn who had served the parish for nine years. That fall the school enrollment, 136 pupils, was the largest since the school’s opening, a testimony to the parish growth. Early in 1937, the Bishop had articles of amendment filed, changing the name of Sacred Heart Parish of Lincoln, Nebraska. Fr. Anglin was assisted during his term by Frs. Benignus Brennan, Donatus Ahern, and Ephrem O’Sullivan.
In September, 1937, the Very Reverned Stephen Murtaugh, OFM Cap., superior of the Capuchin houses in this country, visited here and brought the information to Bishop L.B. Lucera that at a meeting of the order’s General Chapter in Dublin, Ireland early in the summer, the decision was made to leave the Lincoln parish. It was explained that they Lincoln house was far from their other houses located principally on the West Coast and therefore did not fit into the plan of a Province. Aside from that, the priests were needed for building and staffing friaries and for foreign mission work in Africa and India. So, after 18 years service in Sacred Heart Parish, the Capuchins withdrew and diocesan priests took charge.
Reverend Thomas M. Kealy was then appointed pastor of the parish. Fr. Kealy was in charge until the spring of 1938 when he was appointed diocesan director of the pilgrimage to the International Eucharistic Congress held early that summer in Budapest, Hungary. Reverend George J. Schuster, newly ordained was in charge of the parish during Fr. Kealy’s absence. In September of that year, Fr. Kealy went to Washington DC to attend the Catholic University to study Canon Law, and Fr. Schuster was still in charge.
During these years, junior and senior units of the CYO were formed in connection with the sodality, Study Clubs were started for fall and spring sessions, a boy Scout troop was organized and the PTA became an active unit. In 1939, Fr. Schuster had the parish debt re-financed-bondholders being paid 50% as settlement, a new loan of $25,000 being made by Keenan and Clary of Minneapolis and again payments of the debt resumed.
Sacred Heart Parish since its beginning has been outstanding for its number of converts. There have been approximately 468 baptized into the church by the priests of Sacred Heart and covert classes are held regularly.
In September 1939, Fr. Schuster was given the opportunity to attend the Catholic University of America, and Reverend Howard B. Hart, pastor at Superior, Nebraska, was appointed as the new pastor. He was installed on Sunday, August 29, 1939 by the Retired Reverend A.M. Mosler, Vicar General of the diocese.
From the year 1939 to 1944, the 25th jubilee of the parish, $10,000 was paid on the parish debt reducing it to $15,000. The special Crusade Campaign in 1941 to which the people subscribed generously together with bazaars and debt fund donations were responsible for this great reduction in the parish debt. Also during this period, Fr. Hart made many renovations and repairs on the parish property. Among these were the entire redecoration of the interiors of the church, school, hall and Sisters’ Convent. In 1943, the first floor of the rectory was remodeled. The parishioners donated much of their own time and labor to bring about these improvements.
On July 3, 1946, Bishop L.B. Kucera assigned Fr. Kenneth Schnoebelen as the first assistant to the Pastor, since the growth of the parish made it necessary to have four Sunday Masses. In the fall of the same year, the Novena to Our Sorrowful Mother was opened, the Reverend Clarence Brissette, O.S.M. coming from the National Shrine in Chicago to install the stations.
In 1948, chiefly through the donated time and labor of the men of the parish, for corn cribs were transformed into a one-story building across the street from the combination church and school. A two-way communication system between the rectory and the two school buildings was installed. The one-story building was first used as the parish Junior High School. Later it served as either 3rd and 4th or 2nd and 4th grade classrooms. In 1966, the 4th grade moved to the main building and the one-story building was remodeled inside and made into a one room building housing the 2nd grade.
Two houses and a lot were purchased east of the convent for future use. Later one of the houses was moved across “S” Street in order to make playground space available. This house was then used as the convent.
In the spring of 1949, a new basement was dug north of the rectory and in July, the rectory was moved to this site to make room for the future new church.
The building fund was increased by an annual bazaar. The one held in 1948 was the most successful netting almost $7,000.
On May 26, 1949, the parish celebrated its 30th anniversary and the 15th anniversary of Fr. Hart’s ordination. On July 1, 1949, Fr. Schnoebelen was transferred to Bellwood and Fr. Patrick Lyons was made the new assistant.
A building committee was formed to make plans for the new church to be built on the northeast corner of 31st and S Street. Mr. Martin Aitken, who was engaged as architect, met with the committee and it was decided to postpone building until a more opportune time, but a campaign for pledges was begun.
Father Lyons was transferred to Blue Hill and Fr. Edward Szczech from St. Cecelia’s in Hastings was appointed assistant on September 17, 1950. Fr. Szczech re-organized the adult choir soon after beginning his assignment.
Block Rosaries were formed in the parish in the fall of 1950, each group meeting once a week to recite the rosary for Peace and the conversion of Russia.
Some of the school classrooms were remodeled in the summers of 1951 and 1953.
Ground breaking ceremonies for the new church were held on July 7, 1953 followed by Benediction. The general contract was awarded to Westcott and Bowen and work commenced soon after.
On January 10, 1954, the cornerstone of the new Sacred Heart Church was laid with Bishop L.B. Kucera officiating. The debt at this time amounted to $100,000 and the cost of the completed church was estimated to be about $215,000.
On December 22, 1954, the new church was dedicated by the Most Reverend Bishop L.B. Kucera.
Father Hart was invested in the robes of Domestic Prelate with title of Retired Reverend Monsignor on May 10, 1955 by Bishop Kucera. John N. Buechel, a parishioner, received the title of Knight of St. Gregory at the same time.
In 1956, Fr. Edward Szczech was appointed pastor of St. Wenceslaus Church in Wilber and Fr. Leander Ketter was made assistant at Sacred Heart. The adult choir grew and flourished under the guidance of Fr. Ketter, appearing on KOLN-TV and singing Easter and Christmas pageants. Fr. Ketter remained until 1959, when he was appointed pastor of St. James Church in Cortland. The newly ordained Fr. Raymond Roh was appointed to take his place in May. Fr. Roh stimulated the athletics program at Sacred Heart School.
Also in 1959, Sacred Heart parish lost about 100 families to St. John’s, a new parish established north and east of Sacred Heart. Since we were the mother parish, it was necessary that we contribute $25,000 toward the new parish. The rectory was moved north and east to 3144 T Street to make room for the new convent which was soon to be erected.
The same year, in 1960, the great Diocesan Campaign occurred to gather funds for new buildings throughout the diocese. Pius X High School was built at this time. Fr. Roh taught at Pius X after its completion. In 1962, Fr. Roh was replaced by Fr. Paul J. Rutten, who, in addition to his parish duties, taught at Sacred Heart School and Pius X High School.
The present Sacred Heart Convent, a beautiful sandstone brick matching the Church and School buildings, was erected north of the church at 530 North 31st Street, and was completed on January 6, 1961.
March 1963 saw the establishment of the Justithe system of contributing, and soon after, construction on the new Rectory was started and it was completed in March, 1964.
Reverend Ronald Patterson, a member of the parish, was ordained on March 20, 1964, in Sacred Heart Church by the Most Reverend James V. Casey and said his first Mass here on the following Sunday, March 22.
Fr. Rutten was replaced in 1965 by Fr. William Kalin who taught both Sacred Heart School and at Pius X during his stay here.
Monsignor Hart began Perpetual Adoration in the parish in May 1967. Fr. Kalin was assigned to the South American Missions in Venezuela in August, 1968, at his own request, and Fr. Gerald Vap, formerly of the Cathedral of the Risen Christ Parish was appointed to take his place. Fr. Vap is in the process of renovating the athletic program at Sacred Heart and also teaches at Sacred Heart in addition to his regular duties.
The housekeeper for the Rectory Miss Ella Dolnicek. She took on these duties in March of 1965. Miss Alice Dumpert, was the housekeeper of the convent, and had been at Sacred Heart since August 1966. Head Organist for Sacred Heart Church was Miss Marie Hassel, a graduate of the University of Nebraska. The children’s choir was directed by Sr. Mary Phillip Fitzgibbons.
On November 24, 1968, the parish celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Sisters of Charity, BVM of Dubuque, Iowa at Sacred Heart School. During these 40 years, 50 living and 6 deceased Sisters have given our children a fine secular education as well as making Christ more meaningful to them, their families and others. Under their guidance the schools enrollment has increased from 115 pupils in 1929 to 250 at present time.