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Norfolk Catholics have two reasons to celebrate


Norfolk Past Pastors

Father Thomas Carney, 1881*
Father Joseph Ruesing*
Father Ferdinand Lechleitner, 1886*
Father Thomas Walsh, 1899*
Father W.N Lawrence*
Father Michael Waldran*
Father Thomas Walsh (returned), 1908*
Msgr. J.C. Buckley, 1908-1914
Father D.W. Moriarty, 1914*
Father B. Westerman, 1931*
Father Hugh Gately, 1931-1936
Msgr. Robert P. Burns, 1936-1960
Father Louis Demers1960-1961
Father Peter f. Dunne, 1961-1968
Father Robert Steinhausen, 1968-1970
Father Thomas DeBacker, 1970-1977
Father Martin Conley, 1977-1984
Father Robert Nienaber, 1984-1993
Father Harold Buse, 1993-2000
Father David Belt, 2000-present

* complete dates unknown

By JACLYN TWIDWELL
The Catholic Voice

June 2006 was a month of milestones for the Sacred Heart family in Norfolk. Not only was the parish marking 125 years, but Sacred Heart also was celebrating 80 years in education.

Special activities included a 10 a.m. Mass June 18 at St. Mary Church with Archbishop Elden Francis Curtiss presiding, and the unveiling and blessing of a four-foot bronze statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus donated by sculptor Herb Mignery.

More than 400 parishioners attended the celebration, which also included a dinner.

'The anniversary was fantastic," said Marv Becker, 50-year parishioner of Sacred Heart. 'We have a vibrant parish and a great amount of volunteers. Volunteerism is the back bone of this church."

Sacred Heart Parish

Currently the parish is led by Father Dave Belt, pastor, Father Walter Nolte, associate pastor, and Father Anthony Weidner, assistant pastor.

The three priests serve more than 8,000 parishioners and celebrate a minimum of 19 Masses each week.

Sacred Heart has grown to become one of the largest parishes in the archdiocese, but it didn't begin that way.

The parish was organized with a handful of Catholics in 1881 with the arrival of Father Thomas Carney.

Mass was held in a local schoolhouse until a small frame church was built in 1883 on a plot of land purchased by parishioners for $50.

With dreams for the future, the parish built the present structure in 1899 with a seating capacity for 300.

In the dark days of the depression, the parish registered a debt of $68,000 and was threatened with a mortgage foreclosure. Father Robert Burns rallied his parishioners and the debt was paid off in 10 years.

Msgr. Peter Dunne, who attended the anniversary celebration, arrived in 1961 and the parish began to plan for an additional church to be constructed because the 300 capacity at Sacred Heart was too small for the growing community.

St. Mary Church, located at 2300 Madison Ave., was dedicated July 10, 1966. It has a 12-sided dome design with four rectangular projections and total setting capacity of 800, with 700 in the nave and 100 in the chapel.

Norfolk Catholic Schools

Forty-five years after the parish was organized, the cornerstone for the first school was laid in 1926 at Sixth Street and Madison Avenue. The Franciscan Sisters from Rochester, Minn. were hired to staff the school.

The school was completed in October 1926 and the first 187 students, grades five through 8, started classes.

During the 1927-1928 school year, the school added grade nine and continued to add a grade each year until all four high school classes were included, with the first class graduating in 1931.

Many renovations and additions have been made to the school buildings at Sacred Heart, with major projects being completed in 1953 and 1957.

A new high school built in 1960 was named Nazarene High School, but was later changed to Burns Catholic High School in honor of Msgr. Robert Burns.

A merge with Assumption Academy took place in 1966. The school system included three buildings with grades one through six at Sacred Heart School, grades seven through nine at Assumption Hall, and grades 10 through 12 at Burns High.

In the fall of 1974, the Franciscan Sisters withdrew from the staff of the Norfolk Catholic School System. They were replaced with lay teachers and the Assumption Hall building was eliminated from the school system.

In 1978, the first kindergarten class began classes and in 1996 the preschool was added.

An addition was completed on the high school cafeteria in 1997 and a second story was added in 1998.

Due to growth a new elementary school, activities center and parish center were completed in 2003.

Community support and two capital campaigns helped fund some of the expansions. The first campaign was held from 1997 to 2002 and raised $5.8 million, and the second campaign from 2002 to 2004 earned $5.7 million for the parish center and preschool educational center.

The Catholic Voice

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