Until about 1870, there were no Catholics living in Wadsworth. In the early 1870’s, when men were needed to work in the Silvercreek coal mines, Irish miners from Doylestown were enticed by the mine owners to move to Wadsworth. However, these Irish Catholics were not welcomed by the anti-Catholic Protestants who had settled the area.
There was no Catholic church in Wadsworth. To attend Mass, people had to travel to SS. Peter and Paul Church in Doylestown or SS. Phillip and James Church in Canal Fulton, distances of four and nine miles respectively.
John Gallagher, whose house was where Sacred Heart School is now situated, offered his house for Mass. Fr. Edward Vattmann, Pastor of SS. Phillip and James Church in Canal Fulton, Ohio, came to celebrate Mass whenever he could. Parishioners were buried in the SS. Peter and Paul cemetery.
Soon, numbers attending Mass became too great for the small quarters afforded by the Gallagher house. On July 26, 1886, ground was broken for the new frame church, on a lot fifty by one-hundred feet, located where the present church now stands. It seated approximately seventy-five worshippers and had an ornate altar that resembled ones found in Germany, the country of origin of five of the first six priests to serve Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish.
Fr. Thomas F. Quinn was the first Irish priest to serve at Sacred Heart. He was born in Ireland and was the delight of the Irish parishioners. In 1910, Fr. John Ryan, also born in Ireland, became pastor. Fr. Ryan was the last foreign-born priest to serve until Fr. Oldrich J. Korab [later Monsignor], who was born in Bohemia.
In 1923, Fr. Charles Leo Brown became the first resident priest to serve Sacred Heart Church. His charge was to integrate the wave of Europeans who were immigrating to the United States and to enlarge the church. Fr. Brown made all the plans, but Fr. Carl Anthony was installed to actually build the new church.
The new church was begun on August 3, 1929. About three months later, the Great Depression started, and bank where Sacred Heart had deposited its money defaulted and closed. Prayer, ingenuity and sacrifice were needed to complete the church. The wooden church was dismantled and rebuilt on the corner of Broad Street and Durling Drive, bringing in a few dollars. Miraculously, despite the challenges, the church was dedicated on November 24, 1929.
Fr. James Downie served during World War II years. New challenges faced the church: men and women working together; resulting in questionable relationships; new money in the hands of a depressed people who were unaccustomed to dealing with their new emancipation from want; and a shift in the stern moralistic values that deprivation and fear generate.
Fr. Oldrich J. Korab became pastor in 1945, following the end of the WWII. To assist the increased numbers of parishioners, the first assistants were assigned to Sacred Heart: Fr. William Englert and, later, Fr. Donald Fromm. The Church did not have a bell, a casualty of the Depression. Fr. Korab had a bell installed in the belfry.
Fr. Lawrence Andes added the west transept and the new altar. His sudden death on October 15, 1963, while golfing, was the first death of a pastor while serving. His former altar boy, Fr. Thomas McMahon, became pastor in 1963. Fr. Norman Riley became the assistant pastor during Fr. Andes’ tenure and remained during Fr. McMahon’s pastorate.
Fr. McMahon was the first pastor to retire from Sacred Heart. Fr. James Conry became pastor until his retirement. During Fr. Conry’s pastorate, the east nave was built, the old altar was removed and a new one installed. Fr. Paul Schindler became the assistant, followed by Frs. Raymond Durant, Michael Smith, Robert Jackson, Donald Rooney, Dave Ireland and Neil Crosby. The first permanent deacon, Roger Klaas, was ordained during Fr. Conry’s pastorate.
When Fr. Conry retired in 1997, Fr. Joseph Labak became Pastor and serves to the present day. Fr. Michael Ausperk became the Parochial Vicar on January 1, 2010, after thirteen years without an assistant. Richard Michney, D. D. S., was ordained a permanent deacon during Fr. Labak’s pastorate.
In 2011, the Church celebrated its 125th anniversary under the leadership of Chairwoman Kay Carps. Commemorative events were held, including a Mass to officially open the year, a float in the Blue Tip Parade, a parish photo directory, a ‘Celebration of Thanks’ in October and the publishing of a history of the priests who served Sacred Heart Church, entitled Because They Came: A History of the Priests Who Served Sacred Heart Church.
The official opening of the anniversary year was a Mass celebrated by Bishop Richard Lennon on Sunday, July 3 at 11:30 a.m. Civic officials as well as former priests and sisters who served at Sacred Heart were in attendance.
Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish entered the Blue Tip Festival Parade on June 21st with a float of a replica of the Church. It was constructed by several members of the Parish and designed by Sacred Heart School Art teacher and long-time parishioner, Marian Kaufman, who also guided its construction. The float received a first-place award by the Blue Tip Committee in its Youth Floats category.
Publication of the parish photo directory was organized by Kay Carps with assistance from graphic arts professionals, Sharlene Flaherty and Leslie Katzenmeyer, who prepared the format for the directory.
A ‘Celebration of Thanks’ was held on October 1st and chaired by Cece Bees and Tammy Seifert. Tricia Perry Easton and Donna Banfield Sponsler were co-hosts. The meal was prepared by parishioners Maurice and Debbie D’Amicone from A Touch of Tuscany. Nearly 250 guests were in attendance. Dr. Ray Guerendi, a clinical psychologist and radio host on Living Bread Radio, was the guest speaker.
Because They Came: A History of the Priests Who Served Sacred Heart Church, was written by parishioners Caesar and Lynda Carrino and donated to the Church as a fund-raiser to help cover expenses for the year-long 125th anniversary celebration. The cover featured a watercolor painted by Rich Doyle, a local artist and parishioner. The final photo of the Church was a taken by Stephanie Saniga of Kaleyediscope Photographics.
The capstone to memorialize this significant milestone was the completion of the new Parish Center, into which the staff moved on November 21, 2011, a fitting end to the year-long celebration.
Written by Dr. Caesar Carrino