Sacred Heart Church History Abbeville, S.C.
Established October 24, 1885
The Sacred Heart Catholic Church is located on the corner of North Main and East Pinckney Street in Abbeville, South Carolina. It is steeped in history dating back to the middle 1800’s. An Irish gentleman named John J. Enright settled in the Abbeville area, purchasing multiple land plots, one of which was his estate that he willed to the Catholic Diocese in Charleston for the construction of a church. Under the direction of John J. Monaghan, Pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Greenville, the construction was completed and Sacred Heart Catholic Church became a reality and was dedicated on October 24, 1885.
According to an old news article, “there was a large crowd from the city and county to enjoy the auspicious occasion. Ceremonial music of the highest order was furnished by the choir of the Cathedral of Charleston. The Reverend Henry Northrop, from the diocese of Charleston conducted the opening ceremony followed by mass to officially establish the church as a parish of the diocese.” The membership consisted of the Edward Roche family, the Patrick Roche family, the Bonham and Dundas families. Also included in the membership of the church were the members of the family of J.W. Westbury.
Sacred Heart Church, the fourth oldest church in the town of Abbeville, is a beautiful example of Norman-Gothic architecture. A special feature is the beautiful stained glass windows. Over the vestibule is a large rose window, in the center of which is a dove bearing an olive branch. The three figured stained glass windows in the sanctuary represent the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Saint Joseph. All of the glass is late 19th century and of exceptional quality. The bell in the tower was donated by Trinity Episcopal Church in Abbeville.
The original organ was made in 1863 by the Cornish Company in Washington, N.J. and bought by the Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Abbeville after the dedication of the church in 1886. It was later sold to Miss Frances Gilliam of Abbeville and replaced by an electric organ.
Sacred Heart church was part of the Greenville missions from its dedication in 1885 until 1930. The church was then transferred to the Anderson mission until 1946, after which the church was assigned to the pastor in Greenwood. The following priests succeeded the Rev. J. Monaghan in the pastorate:
Rev. McCormick, Rev. Hirschmeyer, Rev. Budd, Rev. Gwynn and Rev. McElroy. We were part of the Anderson missions from 1930 to 1946. Rev, Henry L. Spiesmen, Rev. Maurice R. Daly, and the Rev. Charles Baum serviced the church from St. Joseph’s parish in Anderson.
In 1935 during the pastorate of Father H. L. Spiesman, the church was redecorated for a Golden Jubilee ceremony. The altar rail, altar and floor around it were painted a beautiful white, with many coats of enamel to cover up the ravages of age. The walls were painted deep rose and a mole grey rug was laid down the center aisle. The golden jubilee service held on December 17, 1935, was a great affair attended by the former priests of this church, The Most Rev. Emmet M.Walsh, D.D. Bishop of Charleston was the principal speaker.
In 1946 Father William Doyle was appointed pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in Greenwood and Sacred Heart in Abbeville. Father Gerald Ernest succeeded Father Doyle in 1949. Both of these priests were responsible for masses in Greenwood, Abbeville and Joanna. In 1955 Father Nicholas R. Bayard was appointed pastor for Abbeville and Greenwood and Father Ernest continued in Joanna. Father Henry Burke succeeded Father Bayard in 1961 as pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes and Sacred Heart. It was during this time that the existing parish hall named in memory of Thomas G. Enright was dedicated on June 6, 1965. The new parish hall served as a gathering place for meetings and religious programs. It also provided living quarters for a priest.
Father John Adair succeeded Father Burke as pastor of the two parishes in 1966. He was succeeded by Father Fred Suggs in 1968 who served until 1973. Monsignor Donald Hamburger served as pastor of the
two churches until 1975 at which time Father Ernie Bowen was appointed as the first resident pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Abbeville. Monsignor Hamburger continued as pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes. Within two years, Sacred Heart’s existence as a mission ended and Good Shepherd Church in McCormick now became a mission church of Sacred Heart, Under the leadership of Father Bowen both churches grew in numbers.
Sacred Heart Church was planning the celebration for their 90th anniversary when Father Bowen took over. Two celebrations commemorated the church’s anniversary. The first was a Eucharistic celebration which was concelebrated by Fr. Bowen and four priests from the local area on October 28, 1975. Taking part in this service were Monsignor Charles Baum, Monsignor Donald C. Hamburger, Rev. Paul Seitz and Rev. Nicholas Bayard. The principal celebrant was Monsignor Charles J. Baum who had also participated in the Golden Jubilee of Sacred Heart in 1935. The second celebration, on November 4, 1975, was ecumenical in nature, as pastors from the Christian churches throughout the Abbeville area joined Father Bowen in the service. This ecumenical spirit is a credit to all of the Christian denominations in Abbeville and reflected Father Bowen’s philosophy of involving himself in the whole community in the area to which he was assigned. At both celebrations, Father Bowen gave the history of Sacred Heart Church, whose construction permanently established the Catholic Church in Abbeville.
For almost all of its entire 90 year history, Sacred Heart has been a mission of either Greenville or Greenwood, S.C. The original membership of the church consisted of three families, so necessary yearly maintenance for the building was difficult to keep up. In 1935, Father Spiesman requested the help of the parishioners in making repairs and painting their beloved church for the Golden Jubilee. In 1956 under the direction of Father Bayard, the church received a complete facelift restoring it to its original beauty.
Tragedy came upon the church in 1985 when the interior of the church was destroyed by a fire which started in the basement. Although the flames were contained within the storage area, heat and smoke entered the sanctuary of the church, causing extensive damage. One of the stained glass windows on the side wall broke out, but all the other windows just had extreme smoke damage. At this time the church had grown to about fifty families. Father Emmett Zachman was pastor of the church during this time and once again the church was restored to its original beauty. An icon of the Sacred Heart carved in mahogany granite was given by the residing priest, Father Zachman. The depiction of Christ includes a heart, a crown of thorns, a flame and a cross to symbolize his love and suffering for mankind. This icon stands erected in front of the social hall today.
Since 1978 the parish has had several priests who have helped to maintain our parish and increase the membership to over 65 families. Some of these included Father Edward Mullen, Father Emmett Zachrnan, Father David Schiller, Father Daniel Creagan, Father Robert Fix, Father Edward Geary, Father Richard Harris, Father Allam Marreddy, Father Jeremi Wodecki, and at the present time Father Robert Sayer is the presiding priest of Sacred Heart Catholic Church. There was a seven year time span where a priest was not available to serve this parish and Sister Joan Kobe administered the needs of the parish. The parishioners are most proud of their church, which is steeped in such rich historical roots in Abbeville. All the priests who have served the church are deeply appreciated for their devotion to the church and its people.
Past and present church members are deeply grateful for the Enright family for their kindness of giving the land and monies to build the Catholic Church in Abbeville. The tablet on the side of the church bears his name for their kindness. Mr. and Mrs. Enright and their son are buried in Long Cane Cemetery in Abbeville. Their daughter, known to the present generation as “Mother Patricia” of the Ursuline Convent, is buried in Columbia.
On May 11, 2008, a beautiful prayer garden was dedicated in memory/honor of our parishioners, family and friends of Sacred Heart Catholic Church. A marble statue of Our Lady of Grace overlooks the prayer garden where one can sit and meditate among the beauty of flowering plants and flowers in silent prayer.
We are still the caring loving church whose mission is to celebrate and proclaim the love of Jesus through Word and Sacrament. Through the spiritual growth of our youth and our service to others, we strive to create a legacy of faith with a special love for the Eucharist, Mary our Mother, our Parish family, and the entire Community.