Daily Times News
July 21, 1964

First Mass of Sacred Heart Celebrated in Farm Home, 1870

     First active steps to establish the Sacred Heart Parish here were taken about the year 1870.  The territory was then under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Bishop of the Detroit Diocese.

     The first Mass known to be celebrated in what is now Sacred Heart Parish was said about that same year in the farm home of Thomas Thompson in Union Township.

     Until the Parish had a permanent priest to serve the small band of Catholic settlers, Father Richard Sweeney of East Saginaw would come every month or so to Mt. Pleasant until 1879.  These first Masses were said in different parishoner's homes.

     On August 7, 1872, Hon. I. A. Fancher and his wife gave the growing parish a gift of three acres of land.   At about this time the church organization was formed at the Bamber Hotel.

     On September 9, 1874, a building committee was elected, and on October 31, it was resolved by that committee to build a church, the size "to be 38 by 60 feet, height to be 24 feet between joists and the frame to be of square timber."  Two men were appointed to raise building money and "within a few years the subscription topped $2,600." The work on the church began in earnest on January 25, 1875.

     So, in 1879, when the parish received its first resident pastor, Father McCarthy, the first church - St. Charles' Church - was up and ready for services.  Cost: $930 for materials; $844 for labor (up to June, 1876).

     Father McCarthy had, in addition to Mt. Pleasant in his field, Vernon, Nottawa, St. Louis, Seville, Coleman, Clare, Gladwin and Farwell.  Under his ministry the congregation grew to 175 families in Mt. Pleasant, including about 2,000 people in the surrounding area.  Father McCarthy died in 1885 just when he was nurturing plans for a parochial school house.

     The new priest, Father John Crowley, realized, as did Father McCarthy, that the wooden church was too small to serve the parish.  He bought the present site of the church at the cost of $1,600, sold the old site to a factory and moved the frame church to the new location by 1888.

     The new brick church was begun in that same year and ready for Mass in the basement in 1889, costing about $25,000.  This new church was dedicated to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, so that at this time the name of the parish was changed from St. Charles' to Sacred Heart.

     In 1888 the parish purchased a Sister's Convent, and five Dominican Sisters took charge of the school which was housed in the old frame church.

     Upon Father Crowley's death Father Thomas J. O'Connor came to the parish.  Shortly he set about to have the main body of the church building decorated and equipped for service.  By the fall of 1900 the church was completed as a cost of $10,000.  The priest's residence was also completed about this time.

     The school was placed on the accredited list of three colleges in 1908, and another building was constructed in the next year -- additions were built later.

     By 1938 Sacred Heart Academy had a total of 380 students, and 670 graduates.  Several improvements had been made on the buildings.  Father Farquharson was then priest and served here until 1953.

     Under the ministry of the present pastor, Msgr. Edward Alt, a new addition has been built on the school, a new heating system installed, and the gymnasium and convent built.  Presently work is preceeding on a new grade school unit and cafeteria to handle the enrollment of 750.

     In 1958 Father Alt was elevated to the rank of Domestic Prelate ad given the title Monsignor.  He was also appointed dean of the Mt. Pleasant deanery composed of 23 parishes and other institutions.

     To accommodate the Catholic students at Central Michigan University the Saint Mary's Chapel was built in 1960 with Father McDuffee as pastor.

     This year the academy faculty numbers two priests, 17 Dominican sisters and 14 lay teachers.  At present, Monsignor Alt is assisted in parish work by Fathers Joseph C. McKinney and Charles R. Dautremont.  In September of this Father Dautremont will be replaced by Father Louis Gula.



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