According to local tradition (and a history written in 1928 by Rev. John Connolly), the first Mass was said in Yarmouth on November 12, 1856 in the home of Patrick Doran. Thereafter, the families took turns hosting Mass, which at first was celebrated only once every two or three months and always on a weekday. In order to worship in a church on a Sunday, the faithful traveled, often on foot, the 12 miles to Portland.
In the beginning of 1878, the heads of ten Irish Catholic families, eager for their own church, met in the Doran home with a priest from Portland. They were joined by two prominent non-Catholic men, Cyrus Sargent and Dr. James Bates who offered both moral and financial support. Before the year was half over, the necessary funds had been raised, land on Cumberland Street had been purchased, and ground was broken. By the end of July a sturdy little edifice, costing $1700, was dedicated “under the title and patronage of the Sacred Heart of Jesus” and served the parish for the next thirty-two years.
In the 1900's, Sacred Heart community continued to grow as Acadian French mill workers moved to the area with their families. The parish was first a mission church of Portland and later of Lisbon. Reverend James A. Flynn, who was appointed to head the missions, purchased a house on Cumberland Street near the church to use as his rectory.
In 1910, Sacred Heart was served by five priests in quick succession; then in April of this year the Bishop names the Reverend Joseph D. Quinn to lead the parish. He remained as the pastor for the next twenty-seven years. Soon after his arrival, Father Quinn purchased land with a house and a barn on Main Street. The house immediately became the new rectory (which is the same rectory used today) and, by year’s end, the spacious barn had been transformed into a well-appointed church in which Mass was first celebrated on January 1, 1911. Two years later, 1913, the barn-turned-chapel was destroyed by a fire.
Father Quinn bought the historic riverside property and in 1915, dedicated it as Holy Cross Cemetery. For the next seven years Mass was said in the back of the Main Street rectory and the Catholic community entered an unprecedented period of growth, it became clear that a larger, more permanent place of worship was needed.
Freeport joined Sacred Heart parish as a mission church in 1916. An inaugural Mass was said on November 16th in Davis Hall. Freeport later went on to build their own church building, although continued to remain a part of our parish family as St. Jude’s Church. Six years later the mission in Falmouth Foreside was established which eventually became Holy Martyrs parish, 1922.
Part Two: The Road Towards a Parish
Ground was broken for the present day Sacred Heart Church in April. Architecturally unlike any other church in the area, it was built in the grand Romanesque style by master stone mason, Charles Knight, Sr., using stone from a quarry in Pownal.
On Labor Day of 1921, the cornerstone was blessed and placed in position. Construction continued over the next couple of years with the men of the parish assisting with the labor. By 1929, as the local economy started to slow, the decision was made to go ahead and dedicate the church although the interior was still unfinished. The church was dedicated and a historical retrospective was written and presented to the pastor.
Part Three: Renovations
In 1973, the interior of the church was restored to reflect the original plans of Father Quinn, which included exposing the wooden beams of the vaulted ceiling and uncovering the magnificent rose window. In 1984, Reverend Roger Chabot began his pastorate and oversaw more growth and change – the expansion of the music ministry, the adoption of a sister parish in Haiti, the addition of an exterior handicap access ramp, and the installation of a handsome oak-encased restored and rebuilt pipe organ, made possible by the efforts of the whole parish community.
In 1992, the church hall underwent a major renovation, transforming it from a basement into a viable and attractive meeting place. In 2011, Sacred Heart joined the Parish of the Holy Eucharist.
Today Sacred Heart is an active church in the midst of Yarmouth's thriving downtown district, working in partnership with Holy Martyrs, St. Jude and St. Gregory as the Parish of the Holy Eucharist to proclaim and celebrate our faith.
1910 – 1937 Fr. Joseph Quinn
1937 – 1954 Fr. Edward Walsh
1954 – 1967 Fr. James Daly
1967 – 1968 Fr. Henry Pender
1968 – 1973 Fr. Francis LeTourneau
1973 – 1978 Fr. Charles M. Murphy
1978 – 1984 Fr. Conrad L’Heureux
1984 – 1992 Fr. Roger Chabot
1992 - 2000 Fr. Richard O’Donnell
2000 - 2005 Msgr. Paul Stefanko
2005 - 2010 Fr. Ray Picard
2010 - 2012 Fr. Joseph Ford
2012- Fr. Daniel Greenleaf