Story by S.L. Hansen
LINCOLN (SNR) - Sacred Heart Parish in Lincoln will celebrate the 60th anniversary of its church dedication Monday, Dec. 22. The festivities will begin with Mass at 7 p.m., and a reception will follow.
To prepare for the event, the parish has been renovating as funds have become available. The tabernacle now sits on a new marble altar in front of freshly painted walls. New lighting, a new sound system and new carpeting have been installed.
Currently, parishioners are sitting on folding chairs for Mass while the pews are being repaired and refinished to a warm pecan color by Cornhusker Industries.
Parishioner Tim Menke has led a team of volunteers in stripping and refinishing the ambo, altar chairs, wood trim and doors to match.
Drawing from his experience in refurbishing his own Victorian-era home, Menke was happy to help transform the old blond finish – common in the 1950s and 1960s – to the richer, warmer color.
“It’s going to match the pews and make the church look a lot better,” he said. “The podium was a challenge. It almost looked like it had yellow paint on it, but you can see the grain now.”
Working with Knights of Columbus and other volunteers, Menke said they’ve made good progress on the altar furniture, interior trim and doors. If the weather holds, they’ll work on some of the exterior doors, too.
Funding for the renovation has come from parishioners and other friends and supporters of the parish.
“It didn’t take us long at all to raise the necessary funds,” Menke reported.
While Father Michael Morin, pastor since 2010, set aside three months for fundraising, the parish was actually able to exceed their goal in about a month.
“It’s an interesting thing,” Father Morin reflected on the generosity of this smaller parish — 344 registered families — located in a modest part of town.
“I really stressed that I didn’t want it to be impacting their regular tithing in a negative way, and it hasn’t,” he said.
The extra dollars came in handy to cover some unplanned expenses. For example, the pews needed more repair work than anticipated, and folding chairs were acquired to give people a place to sit while the pews were being fixed and refinished.
Judy York, who has belonged to Sacred Heart for more than 20 years, spoke for many in the parish when she explained the commitment to maintaining the building.
“It’s like in your own home,” she reasoned. “You need to maintain what you have.”
York said the parish’s primary goals were to improve upon the look and safety of the church, without destroying its original integrity.
“We want our parish to have a safe, warm environment for people to come to worship, and a part of that has to do with the décor,” she said.
Sacred Heart is one of the oldest parishes in the city of Lincoln. It was established in July of 1919 by Bishop Charles J. O’Reilly in response to the growth of the old cathedral parish (now St. Mary).
The first church was built at 25th and Y streets, a combination of seven city lots that already had two houses built upon it. One was used as a rectory, where Mass was celebrated until a cement block hall could be built to serve as the temporary parish church. The first Mass was held in the hall on Christmas Day, 1919.
In 1925, the current property at 31st and T was purchased for a more central location within the parish boundaries. By August 1927, a new cornerstone was laid for a church with school and parish hall all under one roof. Today, that building is the school and parish hall, and the space that was the original sanctuary has been converted to classrooms.
By 1949, the 30th anniversary of the parish, it was clear that the congregation had outgrown its existing church. A building committee was formed and plans were made for a new church at the corner of 31st and S streets. Ground was broken in July of 1953. The cornerstone was laid Jan. 10 of the following year, and on Dec. 22, 1954, the new sandstone brick church was dedicated by Bishop Louis B. Kucera.
The building is an important place to gather, grow and serve, but to Father Morin, it’s the people who really reflect the life of Christ in the neighborhood.
“What was most striking to me when I came here — and I’ve become more convinced of it — I think there is a real concern for the poor within the parish. And not just materially poor.”
York said, “I love the diversity and I love the coziness of our old building… It’s just an inviting place.”
She added, “The people who go to our parish and those outside the parish who donated are very committed to it. The one common goal is to have a safe and welcoming place to worship.”
All are welcome to attend the Dec. 22 anniversary Mass. The pews may not be finished in time, though parishioners are praying diligently, but it is certain to be a joyous occasion.
“There’s a ton of excitement,” Father Morin assured.