HISTORY OF SACRED HEART PARISH
Organized by the Benedictines, the parish of Sacred Heart was established south of Forsyth Park in Savannah's Victorian district. Aided by money, from the Benedictine Abbey in Latrobe Pennsylvania, and from Mother Mathilda Beasley, Georgia's first Black Nun, Rev. Oswald Moosmeuller began the new Parish and school for Negro children. The school was run by the Sisters of Mercy. Though the date of the first Mass is uncertain, the first cornerstone was laid in October 1880, on a corner lot at 31st Street and Habersham. By the turn of the century the Parish had out grown the small church and with the purchase of an entire block of land the present Sacred Heart Church and educational building was begun. The cornerstone of the new Church was laid in 1902, with the dedication taking place in 1905. Fr. Aloysius O'Hanlon, pastor in 1901, was followed by Fr. Bernard Haas who steered the growing parish through acquisition of a parish school in 1916 and remodeling of the two buildings already existing. Benedictine College, a high school for Catholic boys, was established on property adjacent to the Church. The grade school was staffed by Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet and opened with an enrollment of 125, including students in grades one through five.
Benedictine priests continued to care for Sacred Heart Parish until 1969 when the Diocese assumed administrative authority. At that time Sacred Heart School became an Inter Parochial School, under the direction of the Franciscan Sisters. In 1990 Sacred Heart School merged with Cathedral Day School and became Notre Dame Academy, though still under the direction of the Franciscan Sisters. Notre Dame eventually relocated to the downtown campus next to the Cathedral.
In 1973 renovation began at Sacred Heart, including installing a new marble altar which faced the people. In 1977 the little Chapel in the rear of the Rectory was renovated as a memorial to Fr. Timothy James Flaherty.
In 1995 the Rectory became a Parish Center housing classrooms, offices, wonderful meeting rooms and retaining the beautiful Chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe, where Mass is celebrated daily.
In 1997 an Historical Marker was placed in the front of the Rectory/Parish Center, detailing the life and times of Mother Mathilda Beasley.