The Early Days
On March 2, 1866, Mr. John O'Brien of the County of Brazoria sold to the Most Reverend Claude.M. Dubuis, the second Bishop of Galveston, three and one half lots of Block 75 in the town of Richmond. This is the site on which Sacred Heart stands today. Bishop Claude Dubuis visited the Catholic community in Richmond in June 1868. There was a small chapel here with living accommodations above it. Father John Barlemann used to come to offer Holy Mass. He died in 1873. Madam St. Ambrose, an Ursuline nun, opened a school here, and in 1868 she had 18 or 20 students, of which only 5 or 6 were Catholic children. There is no information as to what happened to that chapel, but in 1901 a collection was taken up by Catholics interested in building a church. History is sparse here and for the next thirty years.
The First Church
In the fall of 1934, a small group of Fort Bend citizens led by William N. Covell, Mr. & Mrs. Arthur C. Wendel, Mr. H.B. Ross, Mrs. W.R. Douglas and Mr. Pete Mahiczek called on Bishop Christopher E. Byrne in Galveston and asked permission to build a church in Richmond. The Bishop praised their pioneer spirit , as "true pioneers of the spirit" and promised to assign a pastor if they were successful.
The construction was a work of love by both Catholics and non-Catholics of Richmond, who donated materials and their labor. It began on January 15, 1935, under the direction of contractor J.E. Nicholson. On February 8, 1935, Sacred Heart Parish was officially established. The cornerstone was laid and blessed on March 10, 1935, and the church was dedicated by t he Most Rev. C.E. Byrne, D.D., Bishop of Galveston, on May 9, 1935, at ten o'clock. The church's total cost was $8000, and had a seating capacity of 240 persons. Many non-Catholics as well as Catholics of the area contributed. In addition to monetary offerings, the community donated lumber, other materials, and a significant amount of tradesmen's time. According to architect C.N. Nelson, locals also offered "rock bottom pricing" on materials.
In his homily that day, Bishop Byrne told of the organization of the parish by a small dedicated group of Catholic laity. He said, "I congratulate Fr. Reybaud on having a church and a certain amount of organization before the parish even had a pastor. Sixty or seventy years ago, Mass was said here. There was no church, but priests from Annunciation in Houston offered masses." The Bishop also praised those of other faiths for their financial support and cooperation in other helpful ways in the building of the church.
Also on January 15, 1935, fourteen ladies met at Mrs. Wendel's home, and organized the Sacred Heart Altar Society, which was later renamed The Society of Saint Margaret Mary. Also the first Bazaar and Turkey Dinner was held in the fall of that first year.
On May 8, 1935, Msgr. George Wilhelm consecrated the church's high altar. The relics in the altar are of St. Desiderius, St. Honorata and St, Theodore.
After the church was completed, work was begun in 1936 on a seven room rectory which served as the parish office and the priest's residence until 1989. Sisters from Sacred Heart Dominican Convent in Houston were brought to Richmond each Sunday by members of the parish. This was the first religious education program. Much later in the history of the parish, Sister Dorothy O'Neill from the Dominican Convent would become a full-time Directory of Religious Education for the parish.
The church bell was blessed on February 12, 1960.
Msgr. James J. Madden was pastor from 1967-1969 and from 1973-1988. During his first term as pastor, the Education Building (CCE) was built. During his second term, the original church was renovated and the beautiful stained-glass windows were added. Construction was carried out by parishioner Bill Leifrig. In 1970, Fr. Patrick O'Brien instituted the Sacred Heart Parish Council. The chapel was refurbished in 1971 by parishioner volunteer labor to newer norms for liturgies introduced since Vatican II.
Fr. Eric Pitre came to Sacred Heart in July of 1988. In 1989, the temporary classrooms were added and a concrete parking lot was built. The work on the parking lot was directed by parishioner Howard Ladner and performed by a crew of volunteers from the parish. During the summer of 1989, construction was started on the new rectory. Architect was Don Purser and contractor was Greg Harris, both members of the parish.
In order to create space for the new church, the old rectory had to be moved. It was purchased by parishioners John and Barbara Lipinski and donated to the Fort Bend Women's Center in Richmond. Members of the Knights of Columbus under Grand Knight Don Ries spent over a year refurbishing the house once it was moved.
The Second Church
During Fr. Eric Pitre's tenure the new church construction began in May of 1990. Architect was Christopher DiStefano who designed the new county courthouse in Richmond; contractor was Earl Barbin of Needville. A good deal of local labor was utilized in the building process. The Church was completed in January, 1991, with a seating capacity of 600, and was dedicated on February 23, 1991, by Rev. Joseph A. Fiorenza, Bishop of Galveston-Houston..
The windows in the body of the church represent the titles we use to address Jesus Christ. Windows in the east and west wings symbolize the creation of the world and the resurrection. Windows were done by the Cavallini Company, Inc. of San Antonio, Texas. The beautiful baptismal font was constructed of marble quarried in Madras, India. It was designed and constructed by Daniel J. Krizak of Highlands, Texas. The altar, pulpit, pews and church furnishings were built by Amish and Mennonite craftsmen in Modesto, California. Lighting for grounds was done by parishioner Phil Tyner. Funds for landscaping were donated by Milton and Lillian Polansky in memory of their son, Jeffrey. Labor was supplied by members of the parish under direction of Chris Hajdik.
Parish offices were constructed by members of the parish under the direction of Glen Nelson and Robin Reiland, with much of the labor being supplied by the RCIA class of 1991. In July of 1991, offices were moved from the new rectory to their present location.
As the parish and its religious education program continued to grow, the Pastoral Council reflected its concern that there be enough land for future expansion. Encouraged by the visit of Bishop Joseph A. Fiorenza in 1992, the parish set out to acquire the block directly across the street from the new church. Approval was given for a second bank loan from Texas Commerce Bank and the initial purchase was made January, 1993. Purchase of the final portion of the property was made in July of 1993 as a result of a generous donation by Fred and Hattie Fischer in memory of their son, Thomas. The Family Life Center was built between August 1997 and 1998. The kitchen was dubbed "Jodie's Coffee Shop" after long-time parishioner County Judge Jodie Stavinoha. The larger house was repaired by members of the parish and a playground built by the Knights of Columbus. The property is used for CCE classes, social functions, meetings, high-feast day Masses, and basketball.
The Prayer garden and gazebo was created and landscaped by Mario Contreras of Greg Harris Custom Concepts in 1999.
The Chapel was extended to contain restrooms and the Bridal Room in 2008, and a closed circuit television system was installed so that the Chapel could be used for church overflow. Between 2009 and 2010, Sacred Heart purchased and renovated the old house across the street from the chapel and the church offices, for use of the church CCE offices, the Youth Ministry and the Deacon's offices.
Characteristic of Sacred Heart has been a generous attitude of stewardship of time, talents, and treasures. Parishioners have always volunteered when needed. Both "IN THANKSGIVING BUILDING FUND DRIVES" were conducted without the help of outside professionals. At Sacred Heart, Larry Horrigan, Julius Maresh, and Kent Myers directed a large group of volunteers during both fund drives.
In 1935 there were 105 families, 612 people. In 1988, the parish consisted of 445 families. With the help of priests from Strake Jesuit, five masses were celebrated then on the weekends in the little chapel. By 2017, Sacred Heart had grown to be a parish of 1300 families.
Pastors who have served Sacred Heart Parish:
Rev. James K. Reybaud 1935 - 1936
Rev. Thomas A. Ryan 1936 - 1937
Rev. Michael M. Murray 1937 - 1939
Rev. Anthony J. Nicholson 1939 - 1954
Rev. Eugene C. Fowler 1954 - 1958
Rev. Thomas J. Prendergast 1958 - 1967
Msgr. James J. Madden 1967 - 1969
Msgr. Victor A. Diprimeo 1969 - 1970
Rev. Patrick J. O'Brien 1970 - 1973
Msgr. James J. Madden 1973 - 1988
Rev. Eric J. Pitre 1988 - 1999
Rev. Howard Drabek 1999 - 2010
Rev. Ralph O. Roberts 2010 - 2010
Rev. Josefino P. Templado 2010 - 2015
Rev. Michael J. Truongluan Nguyen, C.Ss.R. 2015 - 2017
Rev. Joseph Ho, C.Ss.R. 2017-Present