History

of Sacred Heart Catholic Church

Humble Beginnings

Sacred Heart Parish in Vidalia is made up of Toombs, Truetlen and Montgomery counties. It was serviced by GlenMary priests before being turned over to the Diocese in 1984. In the beginning, Father Mathis did mission work in this area from his home base in Claxton. The first Mass was offered in the Toombs County Courtroom in Lyons on Easter Sunday, March 29, 1959.

The First Church Building

In September 1959, property was acquired. It was located on State-Farm Road 147, South of Lyons. Groundbreaking services were held in March of 1961. Bishop Thomas McDonough dedicated the chapel in October 1961. Fr. Paul Ackerman joined Father Mathis in serving this parish.

Fr. Will Steinbacher soon arrived to replace Fr. Ackerman and to assist Fr. Mathis. These two priests were replaced in October of 1965 with Fr. Richard Steinkamp and his assistant, Fr. Jim Hite. Fr. Hite moved to the Lyons Chapel and ministered almost exclusively to Toombs County, as well as serving as Chaplain at Georgia State Prison.

In 1967, Toombs Colunty was separated from Claxton. Fr. Del Holmes, who became the first "Pastor of Sacred Hearth Catholic Church" replaced Fr. Steinkamp. He was also chaplain of the prison, where he implemented many worthwhile reforms. Later that year, a rectory was purchased in Vidalia.

In October 1969, Fr. Francis Schenk replaced Fr. Holmes. Then on August 1, 1971 Fr. Clem Borchers was appointed as pastor. At that time, there were approximately 30 Catholic families, with the majority living in Vidalia. In 1972 all the parishioners, along with the Parish Council, voted to move the Church to a more central location between Lyons and Vidalia. In 1972 Fr. Borchers was appointed chaplain of the Georgia State Prison. CCD classes were scheduled to be taught by lay ministers.

In September 1974 Saturday evening Masses were held in the Episcopal Church in Vidalia. Sunday Masses were still held in the Lyons Chapel. A residence was purchased on Maple Drive to house Sister Mary Michaeline and Sister Jane Francis who volunteered their services in the area. Two seminarians, James Callahan and Dan Dorsey, arrived in the parish the same year to help Fr. Borchers. At the end of 1974, Sacred Heart Parishioners had grown in number to 58 families.

In 1974 all religious and fraternal organizations were functioning smoothly, a Youth Group and Men's Club were formed. The congregation had grown to 64 families. A Women's Guild and a choir were formed the following year.

Three sisters arrived in May of 1979. They were Sr. Jean Evelyn, Sr. Francis Agnos, and Sr. Carol Jean.

In September 1979 Sr. Florence arrived and the Sacred Heart Parish moved to it's new home, the Catholic Center. The church and the rectory were built by Brothers Larry and Joe Steen. The Early Learning Center was opened in one wing of the new facility. Fr. Borchers, who worked so hard to make this new church a reality died saving a religious brother's life, who was drowning in the ocean. He never occupied the rectory he helped design. His eulogy was written by Sr. Jean Durbin.

June 3, 1979 we were blessed by having two men ordained permanent deacons. Clayton Burke and Jack Martin.

November 11, 1979 Fr. John Jennings arrived as the new pastor. He was reassigned to Boston in June and Fr. Marquardt became the pastor. The parish continued to grow in size as well as their involvement in church and community. In 1980 some of our parishioners joined the Cursillo movement. Since then we have had close to 100 member go through their Cursillo weekends.

By 1982 no subsidies were needed. Latin American migrants start attending Mass as Sacred Heart. June 13th Sr. Florence leaves. On July 2nd Fr. Frank Korzinek took over for Fr. Marquardt. The parish continued to grow and flourish both religiously and financially. An Altar Society was formed and the Legion of Mary was operating at its peak. Fr. Korzinek discovered he had cancer and was called back to GlenMary Headquarters for treatment, where he eventually died.

A council of the Knights of Columbus was started in January 1984. On October 15 Fr. John Loftus came out of retirement to be the acting Pastor. During Fr. Loftus' stay at Sacred Heart, the parish was turned over from a GlenMary mission to a parish in the Diocese.

Joe Claroni was ordained to the Permanent Deaconate in May of 1985 and continues to faithfully serve this parish. In June of 1985, Fr. Frank Higgins arrived as the first Diocesan Pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Fr. Higgins organized the first parish office, placed new pews and carpet in the sanctuary and began a third Mass in Spanish. He was followed by Fr. Frank Patterson in 1988, who created a Parish Hall where the Day Care Center had been. He also had the parking lots paved at that time.

In 1993 Fr. Raul Perez, pastor and one year later, Fr. Juan Lopez, pastor, ministered to the growing Hispanic community in the area. They continued the Sunday evening Mass in Spanish. Since there now was a Parish Hall, Fr. Lopez brought the tabernacle into the main multi-purpose room, thus making the room strictly a sanctuary. A new CCD wing was added onto the Catholic Center. The CCD classes had grown to the extent that the rectory (including the garage) had to be used as a classroom. There were now 125 families on the church register.

In 1996 Fr. Mark Ross became pastor. Fr. Ross started a Pro-Life Holy Hour on Wednesday evenings upon his arrival. Fr. Ross also continued refurbishing the Catholic Center and added new lights, ceiling fans, stained glass windows and beautiful wooden pews to the sanctuary. Fr. Ross also had marble and carpet donated to the church, and replaced all of the flooring in the sanctuary and office areas. Fr. Ross also had a new altar and ambo built by one of our parishioners, Mr. Ed Wonn. In 1999 the playground and parish hall were enlarged. The ceiling over the altar was raised and 2 skylights were added to create a more pleasing atmosphere for prayer. Fr. Ross was also very active in the prison ministry, visiting the local prisons at least twice each week.

In July of 2003 Fr. Raul Perez arrived as pastor. Fr. Raul relocated the sacristry, confessional and cry room as well as painted the interior of the rectory, office areas and Burke Educational Building.

Fr. Wes Lamb arrived in July of 2004 as the Parochial Administrator. He was an active member in the Toombs Area Ministerial Association and helped to build bridges with our protestant brothers and sisters.

Fr. Steven Angell was appointed Pastor in August of 2006. He added new outdoor benches to the church campus, erected a pro-life billboard on the church campus and began our on-line giving process for parishioners.

Fr. Ben Dallas was appointed Parochial Adminstrator in February 2011, and Pastor in June 2012. Fr. Ben renovated the rectory, parish offices, moved the sacristry to a larger room, installed security lights, renovated the interior of the sanctuary and enlisted the help of the Women's Guild to give the parish kitchen a beautiful facelift including new flooring and countertops. Fr. Ben also helped our Knights of Columbus to build a much needed new privacy fence for the rectory. Fr. Ben began having First Friday Healing Masses and reinstituted Adoration and Holy Hour on Wednesday evenings.

Pastors

  • 1959-1965 Fr. Mathis
  • 1961 Fr. Paul Ackerman
  • 1961-1965 Fr. Will Steinbacher
  • 1965-1967 Fr. Richard Steinkamp
  • 1965-1967 Fr. Jim Hite
  • 1967-1969 Fr. Del Holmes
  • 1969-1971 Fr. Francis Schenk
  • 1971-1979 Fr. Clem Borchers
  • 1979 Fr. John Jennings
  • 1979-1982 Fr. John Marquardt
  • 1982-1984 Fr. Frank Korzinek
  • 1984-1985 Fr. John Loftus
  • 1985-1988 Fr. Frank Higgins
  • 1988-1993 Fr. Frank Patterson
  • 1993 Fr. Raul Perez
  • 1994-1996 Fr. Juan Lopez
  • 1996-2003 Fr. Mark Ross
  • 2003-2004 Fr. Raul Perez
  • 2004-2006 Fr. Wes Lamb
  • 2006-2011 Fr. Steven Angell
  • 2011-Present Fr. Ben Dallas