History of Sacred Heart

Sacred Heart Parish was established on December 18, 1919 by Bishop Thomas D. Beaven. The need for a church in the southeast section of Pittsfield had long been recognized. In 1915 property on Elm Street, near Pollock Avenue was purchased for a church and a rectory. However it was later felt that this was too near the proposed parish boundary and the house at the corner of Elm and Meadow Lane was purchased. The formation of the new parish was first announced in October 1919, during the Diamond Jubilee of St. Joseph's. It wasn’t until mid-December that Bishop Beaven appointed the Reverend George W. Welch, then assistant at St. Joseph’s, to be the Pastor of the new Sacred Heart Parish. It is interesting to note that the first Mass said in Pittsfield, at the home of Thomas Daly in 1835, was celebrated within the limits of the present Sacred Heart Parish.

The first floor of the residence at the corner of Elm Street and Meadow Lane had been made into a Chapel, and it was here, on December 21, 1919 that Father Welch celebrated the first Mass for Sacred Heart Parish. The Chapel was filled to overflowing for this first Mass. The number of parishioners in the new parish was approximately 800, including children. In 1923 Sacred Heart Parish was able to pay off its debt, which was $29,000. Then, plans began for a new church on the property at Elm and Meadow Lane. But before the plans could be realized Father Welch died in June 1931.

Father Patrick Dowd was appointed the second Pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in July 1931. The following month, after the former Chapel had been moved down Meadow Lane, ground was broken for the new Sacred Heart Church. The cornerstone was laid in November 16, 1931. Almost a full year was to pass before the first Mass was said in the new church, October 30, 1932.

Bishop Thomas M. O’Leary dedicated the new church on May 21, 1933. On the same day, the first confirmations were held with 82 people being confirmed.

For the next eleven years, the parish worked hard to clear the debt incurred in building the new church. Finally on December 18, 1944, the Silver Anniversary of Sacred Heart Parish, Father Dowd was able to liquidate the church building debt.

In February, 1946, Father Dowd was transferred and Father John P. Donahue was appointed the third Pastor of Sacred Heart Parish.

One of Father Donahue’s main projects as Pastor was the renovating and redecoration of the church which took place during the years 1947-1948.

On June 1, 1952 Bishop Weldon established the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine at Sacred Heart Parish.

Father Donahue was transferred in April, 1953 and Father Henry M. Burke was appointed the fourth Pastor of Sacred Heart Parish.

A disaster occurred in the Parish on April 13, 1957 when fire broke out in the church. There was extensive damage by fire, water and smoke throughout the entire church. Through 1957 and 1958 the church was renovated and redecorated as a result of the fire.

In December, 1959 the Parish Celebrated its 40th Anniversary. At that same time, the Parish celebrated the 40th Anniversary of Father Burke and the 40th Anniversary of Coleman E. Madden as Sexton of Sacred Heart Parish.

On November 6, 1960 Father Burke announced the opening of the campaign for Sacred Heart School. Construction of the school began in the early month of 1961 and on September 5, 1962 Sacred Heart School was opened.

Father Burke was raised to the rank of Monsignor and the investiture was held in Sacred Heart Church on November 14, 1963.

In January, 1966, Sacred Heart Parish began Sacrificial giving which continues today. By means of this type of giving as well as the successful school building campaign, Monsignor Burke was able to liquidate the school debt in 1967.

Monsignor Burke retired in February, 1979, becoming Pastor Emeritus, and continued to live in the rectory until he died on April 12, 1982.

Rev. Edward Callahan, the new pastor, was well known to Sacred Heart, having already served as assistant to Monsignor Burke from January 1977 to February 1979. It was under Father Callahan that two men from the parish, Rev. Mr. James Hager and Rev. Mr. Eugene Momnie, were ordained permanent deacons in January 1983. Father Callahan inaugurated St. Patrick’s Day celebrations and constructed a Parish Meeting room in the basement of the rectory which he dubbed “The Sunshine and Shamrock Room.”

Rev. Raymond A. Lanoue, pastor from May 1983 until his death in October 1988, inaugurated the RCIA program, Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults. Father Lanoue was responsible for introducing the computer program to organize and store parish information and for hiring the first parish secretary in 1983. He placed an alarm system in both the church and rectory and renovated and redecorated the church.

Rev. James K. Joyce served as pastor from December 9, 1988 until his retirement on March 1, 2016. During this time Sacred Heart had grown to some 4,700 parishioners, one of the largest in Berkshire County. Having served as Director of Pittsfield Catholic Schools for several years, he was already acquainted with many parishioners. Under Father Jim’s pastorship, the exterior of the church was beautified; a new fundraising program called “Spring into Summer Festival” became an economic and social success. He also reactivated the parish family picnic. The parish is also blessed with the presence of Rev. Mr. James Hager, deacon, who ably assists father Jim.

In 1994 Sacred Heart Celebrated its Seventy-Fifth Anniversary as a Parish. Sacred Heart can be proud of its history and look forward to 2019 when it will celebrate its centennial.

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