History of Sacred Heart Parish - Conroe, TX

History of Sacred Heart Parish

 

Sacred Heart Parish’s roots began in 1898. Conroe was a sawmill town in Montgomery County, when Andrew Jackson Madeley invited the Reverend Joseph I. Kline of Plantersville to visit Conroe and offer Mass. The first known Mass in Conroe was celebrated in the Andrew J. and Hattie Fitzgerald Madeley home located on at the corner of Second Street and Sherman Street near the railroad tracks. Later Father Bernard Lee, Pastor in Plantersville, made a twenty-nine mile journey on horseback to administer the sacraments to the Madeleys' daughter, Nellie.

In the fall of 1900, Bishop Nicholas A. Gallagher of Galveston sent Father Bily from New Waverly to administer the last rites to Mr. Andrew Madeley. The zeal and faith of the Madeley family were well rewarded. In fact, one of their descendants, a grandson, the Most Reverend Vincent M. Harris, served as first Bishop of the newly created Beaumont Diocese, and later as Bishop of the Austin Diocese.

In Plantersville, Fr. George Wilhelm succeeded Father Kline in Plantersville and was the next missionary to visit Conroe. Throughout five or so years until 1912 Father Wilhelm made occasional visits to Conroe alternating between the James McDade and Andrew Madeley home.

The first church was a small frame building located on the west side of South Main Street at the intersection of Avenue G. The McDade family graciously donated the land for the mission church, a plot 199' x 150' about 3 blocks from the courthouse, and "considered to be the residential district" said Father Wilhelm to Bishop Gallagher in his letter dated May 26, 1910. The basic funds for the church came from the Catholic Church Extension Society and local citizens, both Catholics and non-Catholics donated generously. On November 14, 1912, Father Wilhelm wrote Bishop Gallagher that "The carpentry work is completed and the building is painted inside and outside, and will be ready for paper after the lumber is seasoned  We have no furnishings whatsoever, but intend to put in a temporary altar and Communion rail soon and we have about 25 souls in our care.”

Father George Apel succeeded Father Wilhelm at Plantersville, and paid his first visit to the Conroe mission in 1913. On October 25, 1916 during Father Apel's tenure, Bishop Nicholas A. Gallagher of Galveston made his first trip to Conroe. The Bishop confirmed a class of seventeen, and dedicated the new church of St. Mary's of the Woods.

When Father Apel was transferred to Cameron, Father George Dykal was placed in charge of the Conroe mission for a few months. He was followed by Father Henry Ropps who served for about year. Father V. C. Pfiffner succeeded him. Sometime later, Conroe was changed from a mission of Plantersville to a mission of St. Joseph Church, New Waverly. Father Henry Parmentier served as pastor of New Waverly, and it was during his tenure that a larger and more substantial church was built in Conroe.

A brick church was erected at the present site on land partly donated by the James McDade family. Both Mr. William Pfifner and Mr. George Strake, who discovered the great Conroe oil field in 1931, made substantial gifts to the church, as did Mrs. Blanche Bender who donated the marble altar in memory of her husband. Rumor has it that George Strake donated most of the money to build the church just after being tapped on the shoulder at Mass by an old field worker who whispered to his employer "We've hit a gusher"'. On November 9, 1935, Bishop C. E. Byrne consecrated the altar and dedicated the new church to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Reverend Fabian Stindle and Reverend Max Budnik were missionaries who succeeded Father Parmentier in New Waverly. In the early 1930's Conroe became a Mecca for wildcat oil exploration and the Catholic population grew. The McDade family again donated several acres fronting on McDade and Madeley streets for the new church.

Bishop C. E. Byrne appointed Father Thomas M. Cemon the first permanent pastor to Sacred Heart, Conroe on March 19, 1943. Father Cemon slept on a cot adjacent to the church sacristy in a single kitchenless storage room, the first parish rectory. He took meals with his parishioners, many with the John Heintz family, either in their home or at their grocery store. Father Cemon built the first parish hall, a white frame building, which served to bring Catholics in the Conroe area together for parish meetings, socials clubs, and religious classes. Father Cemon was frequently seen with hammer in hand, and the hall was erected by men in the parish who donated their time and labor, making very little outside help necessary.

In January 1951 Bishop Byrne appointed the Reverend Timothy T. Cronin as the second pastor of Sacred Heart Church, Conroe. During Father Cronin's tenure the parish not only grew spiritually, but physically and financially as well. In 1953 the brick rectory was constructed. The two-story brick convent and chapel, and many fine adornments as well, were made possible by a generous gift from Mr. William Moran. Heinz Furniture donated many furnishings for the rectory and convent as well.

Father Cronin was aware of the need for Christian education, and encouraged his lifelong and respected friend Mrs. Blanche Bender to build the parish school, consisting of six classrooms, offices and library, which was completed in 1959. During this time, parochial schools were at the peak of expansion, and Sisters were scarce. After much correspondence, wires and travel, Father Cronin finally prevailed on the Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati, Ohio to staff the school. In September of 1959, Sister William Mary, principal, and three other Sisters of Charity, opened the doors of Sacred Heart School for the first time. In June 1968 Father Cronin dedicated the cafeteria and new parish hall, built with able assistance from the building committee who secured $80,000 in pledges from parishioners. Father Timothy Cronin retired as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in that same month, after seventeen years, and over forty years of devoted and loyal service in the priesthood.

Bishop John L. Morkovsky appointed the Reverend Fred P. O'Connor to succeed Father Cronin as the third pastor of Sacred Heart Church on June 16, 1968. During Father O'Connor's tenure, the old parish hall was removed to increase parking space, and three acres of land were acquired directly behind the cafeteria for playground for future expansion. In March 1969, Mrs. Lily O'Grady purchased the Earthman home and donated it for the site of the present church building, which was dedicated in 1972.

Father Laurence Connelly came to Sacred Heart Parish in March 1974. Under his guidance, the all-purpose building housing the present church offices, gym, and cafeteria was completed in fall of 1978. In 1985 Father Richard A. Edelin was appointed to serve in Conroe by Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza. In 1986 an ecumenical service organization, St. Vincent de Paul Society, emerged in the community with the logo "Ecumenism in Action". The Tree of Life Lutheran Church and Sacred Heart formed a Christian service organization whose purpose is to assist those in need with food, shelter, referral services and other special services which has grown to a large organization with over 200 volunteers. Monsignor David W. Kennedy succeeded Father Edelin at Sacred Heart Parish, Conroe on November 3, 1986.

In 1990 the Oscar Romero Building was dedicated to house the growing St. Vincent de Paul Society under the direction of Mrs. Charlotte Bickford, the first Social Service Director. In 1997, a 33,000 sf brick school building was dedicated with Mrs. Margaret Looper as the first principal. In 1998, a Mother’s Day Out Program was added to utilize the old church building located on the corner of Frazier Street and McDade Streets. In 2000, the Administration Building which serves the parish office staff was remodeled to handle the fast growing parish office needs.

In 2002, Sacred Heart Parish collected funds and built a new home for a deserving family through Habitat for Humanity. We titled it "Home Built From the Heart" and this project was completed in 7 months. Fr. Hubert Kealy succeeded Msgr. Kennedy on July 1, 2006 and remained here until his passing March 11, 2010 after a long battle with cancer. Fr. Christopher Plant as our Parochial Administrator Pro-Tem with Fr. Tommy Hopper, Parochial Vicar until May 2010. Father Philip Wilhite was welcomed to Sacred Heart as our pastor May 15, 2010. In 2012, Fr. Joseph Manapuram joined Sacred Heart as the Parochial Vicar.

Sacred Heart continues to grow and now serves more than 6,500 families with approximately 70 active ministries, over 1,000 in religious education and approximately 300 students in our parish school. There are two priests and two religious sisters that reside on campus, and currently there are 18 staff members working at the parish and 46 staff members at the school. In addition, we are currently completing Phase I of the Master Plan which includes a new St. Vincent de Paul building, a security fence around our school, renovation of our Auditorium building adding a commercial kitchen, larger bathrooms and table/chair storage, a new maintenance office and storage facility, and additional parking and infrastructure needed prior to beginning future phases of the Master Plan which in Phase II includes a new Church and additional of a commercial kitchen, bathrooms and lobby in a new Parish Fellowship Hall in the existing church. Phase III includes renovating the existing Church into a Parish Fellowship Hall, renovating the “Old Church” into a Daily Mass Chapel, and constructing a new Administration/Ministry meeting rooms. Phase IV includes renovating the school offices and constructing additional school facilities.

In summary for close to 100 years, Sacred Heart Catholic Church has been serving the people of Montgomery County, Texas while watching the area grow and change from generation to generation. Although there has been continual change surrounding Sacred Heart Catholic Church over those 100 years, one thing has not changed — the commitment of our parish to the faith through devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus Christ. Since the days of the first Masses in the original church, the establishment of Sacred Heart Catholic School over 50 years ago and continuing through the current changes in Phase I of Sacred Heart Parish’s Master Plan, the people of faith have gathered together for prayer, worship, service to the poor and fellowship as part of our parish. As a parish community, some of our proudest moments come through the children served through our religious education programs and our school creating the next generation of Catholics to serve her locally and to share the message of Christ throughout the world.