History of Holyoke's Churches
Parish of the Sacred Heart
In 1876 Father Harkins purchased land between Maple, Franklin, Chestnut and Sargeant streets, upon which he commenced a church for the people of the southern part of Holyoke. The corner stone of this church was laid July 4, 1876. On December of the same year the side walls were up and the basement was ready for services. In May 1878, the district extending south of Dwight street to the West Springfield line was set off from St. Jerome's under the name of the parish of the Sacred Heart. Its first pastor, Father Sheehan, built the rectory. He died in 1880. The parish numbered not much over 2,000 souls. Upon the parish fell a shadow of a debt of $40,000. There was need of a man who could happily continue financial ability with spiritual leadership. Bishop O'Reilly knew that he had such a man in Rev. P.B. Phelan, whom he sent to Holyoke as pastor of the Sacred Heart in May, 1880. With the assistance of his people, who soon realized the admirable qualities of their leader, Father Phelan quickly reduced the debt of the parish. Then he completed and furnished the upper church. It was dedicated June 3, 1883.
Sacred Heart Church and Rectory
Just twenty-five years ago, in response to the recommendation of the bishops of the Council of Baltimore, Father Phelan began the erection of a parish school. It was at the time a courageous undertaking, but Father Phelan is a man of courage. He plans carefully but not timidly. He moves steadily forward and he achieves results. School and Convent were ready for occupancy in 18876. There are at present 600 children in the school of the Sacred Heart. They are under the care of the Sisters of St. Joseph.
Rev. P.B. Phelan
In 1882 Father Phelan opened Calvary Cemetery, the beautiful resting ground of the parish of the Sacred Heart. The parish was now complete. It was made a permanent rectorship, May 23, 1897. Those who, twenty years before, saw the walls of the Sacred Heart Church rising from the sands in the midst of an almost uninhabited district, could not dream that in a short time those walls would form the parish home of one of the largest and best regulated parishes of the State of Massachusetts. The business affairs of the Sacred Heart have been ably managed by Father Phelan. His superb health and active disposition have enabled him to care also for most of its spiritual needs. Still, even he needed assistants; and he has had efficient curates. Those who shared his labors are: Rev. M.E. Purcell, Rev. P.H. Gollen, Rev. W.H. Dower, Rev. John T. Leonard, Rev. P.J. Griffin, Rev. John McGaughan, Rev. James Curran, Rev. Michael Kavanaugh, Rev. Florence Lane, and Rev. P.H. Boland.
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