Historic South Phoenix Church to reopen for Christmas


PHOENIX – The ecclesial community of the Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart is a testimony to the power of faith, hard work and sacrifice. Closed and barricaded 36 years ago, the Sacred Heart and the spirit it embodies have never wavered. So on Christmas Eve morning, volunteers cleaned the windows and mopped the floor before late afternoon mass.

“Over the years they have been very clear, this church is part of their history and so I want them to own it and benefit from it,” said Father Paul Sullivan, pastor of the Sacred Heart.

The church, located near 16th Street and Buckeye Road, is 70 years old, built by its parishioners. “Give a brick or a dollar” is what the parishioners said to the first parish priest of the Sacred Heart, Father Albert Braun.

By the mid-1980s, Phoenix City Council had other plans, bulldozing the neighborhood and bringing in the church to make way for the Sky Harbor Airport expansion. Years later, the city council attempted to demolish the church.

“I remember the day in 2017 when the city council voted that the community would lose their church,” said Father Sullivan.

But that never happened.

Pressure from the community led the city council to change its mind and a year later, in 2018, plans were made to renovate and reopen the Sacré-Coeur.

“I just feel like there is a miracle happening here,” said Paul Moreno.

Moreno’s brother got married at the Sacred Heart, his uncle used to tell stories about how the community came together and helped build the church. Moreno says he and his wife will attend Christmas Eve mass.

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Father Sullivan will celebrate Mass from the original Sacred Heart altar. And a miracle will happen.

“This building is much deeper, much more important than a simple building,” said Father Sullivan. “It touches the hearts of the people … this is where they bring their needs to their God.”

The Sacré-Coeur will close after Christmas until the other renovations to the church are complete. Father Sullivan hopes for a permanent reopening in 2022.

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