The new Sacred Heart Church was built in the Victorian style with vaulted ceilings, side aisles and a marble altar, to capture the feeling of the original structure which was destroyed by fire in 2005. Pilot photo/Patrick O’Connor
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WEYMOUTH ? ”Isn’t it great to be in our new church?” asked pastor Father Dan Riley at the conclusion of the first Mass and consecration of the new Sacred Heart Church. After his question, the crowd of 600 parishioners and guests erupted into enthusiastic cheers and applause.
The Mass of Dedication was held Dec. 15.
The previous church at Sacred Heart, built in the 1870s, was destroyed by a seven-alarm fire on June 9, 2005. For the past two-and-a-half years parishioners have worshiped in their “churchatorium,” the name they affectionately gave the auditorium of Sacred Heart School.
According to the State Fire Marshall’s Office, the disastrous fire started with a malfunctioning refrigerator in the church’s basement, and the church itself was a total loss. Several historically significant items were also destroyed, including stained-glass windows, a marble high altar and a Woodbury tracker pipe organ.
The few items saved from the fire are featured in the new building. The tabernacle, recovered by firefighters during the blaze, is located in the main church with a new marble casing. A statue of Our Lady of Fatima is in the corner of the prayer chapel. The wooden cross, once atop the church’s steeple, was found in the rubble and has a prominent place in the basement, near the parish’s new meeting rooms.
These items along with the design of the church capture the feeling of the previous structure, said William Buckingham, an architect at S/L/A/M Collaborative, the firm that designed the new building. The new church is in the Victorian style with vaulted ceilings, side aisles and a marble altar.
Jerry Sullivan, another architect at S/L/A/M, said that it was gratifying for everyone who worked on the project to attend the Mass and watch the objects they arranged in the building become sacred objects.
“When it’s in construction, you see these pieces and you see them come in, the marble altar is all built and then suddenly after tonight’s Mass it’s transformed. It’s no longer a rock; it’s an altar,” he said.
Sacred Heart has also given new life to sacred items from closed parishes, including stained-glass windows in the main church from Blessed Sacrament in Jamaica Plain, St. Joseph’s in Lowell and St. Peter’s in Lowell. The windows in the reconciliation room are from St. Joseph’s in Gloucester and those in the chapel are from Sacred Heart in Lawrence. The light fixtures in the main church, which have symbols of the Sacred Heart on them, are also from Sacred Heart Parish.
The Stations of the Cross, made of plaster on marble and weighing 250 pounds each, are from St. Augustine’s in South Boston, and the altar relics are from Holy Trinity German Church in the South End.
The wood-carved cross and statues of Jesus, Mary, St. Joseph and St. Patrick as well as the marble altar, baptismal font and pipe organ are all new.
The Mass of Dedication began with words from the principal of Sacred Heart School, Mary Reardon Ferrucci, who recalled the scene outside the burning church building.
“On June 9, 2005 many of us here today also were gathered along the Prospect, Washington and Commercial Streets from 9 p.m. into the early hours of the morning watching the great efforts of all the firefighters, and our beloved church burn to the ground. We stood in horror as we witnessed the fire’s destruction of our beautiful stained-glass windows, altar and statues. We just had our memories,” she said.
Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley celebrated Mass for the parish on June 12 and gave his permission to rebuild the church with help from the insurance money on June 17.
“Our despair was replaced with joy, gratitude and excitement,” said Ferrucci. “We sit here today, two years and six months later, in a beautiful place of worship with magnificent stained-glass windows, altar and statues ready to make new memories.”
It took over a year to clear the rubble, design the new church and prepare for construction. The groundbreaking took place on Sept. 8, 2006.
After the principal spoke, Cardinal O’Malley processed in with auxiliary Bishop John A. Dooher, Father Riley and parochial vicar Father Harry Kaufman.
Then, the parish presented the church’s keys and floor plans to the cardinal as symbols of turning the new church over to him.
In his homily, Cardinal O’Malley spoke about how the role of parishes in bringing people to Christ is crucial. Speaking of the story of Zacchaeus from the Gospel of Luke, he said that the crowd kept Zacchaeus from seeing the Lord.
“As a Church we are called to be a community, a family, not a crowd that pushes people away from God, but a community that draws them closer to the door and makes it easier to experience God’s love,” he said. “A parish is a place where we can be forgiven, loved and fed because of Christ’s love for us.”
During the Rite of Dedication, Cardinal O’Malley anointed the altar with oil and then traced the crosses at the four corners of the church with oil. Then, the church was filled with incense, flowers and candles were placed next to the altar and the advent wreath was brought in and lit.
Father Riley speaking at the conclusion of the Mass, praised the cardinal for his dedication to rebuilding Sacred Heart Church. He also thanked all of those who cooperated in the project.
He added, “The greatest thanks of all is for God. God has been so good to us. The Sacred Heart of Jesus, the love of Jesus’ heart, has embraced us. He kept us together. He never let us lose hope, and Jesus’ love, guidance and inspiration will be with us in the future.”
Parishioner Mary Jakubec said after the Mass that the service was very emotional.
“I was just so overwhelmed. My eyes filled up with tears more than once,” she said.
Sheryl Weisse agreed, calling the Mass a “tear jerker.” She added that through the rebuilding of their church, the parishioners at Sacred Heart have remained a strong community.
“We all kept as a family,” she said. “We’re the same as we always were. We’re a very close-knit church community. I don’t think that will ever change.”