Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church is located at 200 Third Street N.W. in East Grand Forks. It presently has about 1,200 registered families (about 4,200 individuals) as members from the greater East Grand Forks area.
Because of the rapid growth of northwestern Minnesota, Catholic priests and bishops frantically worked to provide for the religious needs of the pioneers. The first recorded religious service in East Grand Forks was a Catholic Mass held in July 1883 by Father Jacob Schirra in the public school house. Father Schirra resided in East Grand Forks for some time.
The Catholics of East Grand Forks had many discussions about the organization of a parish of their own. East Grand Forks Catholics attended occasional services held by visiting missionaries such as Fathers Schirra and Bauluff. During the late 1880’s, Catholics attended Mass at St. Michael’s Church of Grand Forks.
It seems that five attempts were made to build a Catholic church in East Grand Forks. Such strong feelings grew about the delay that a local Catholic threatened to build a church on the Minnesota Point if the townspeople did not build one soon.
Bishop McGolrick of the Duluth Diocese assigned Irish-born Father P. J. Hendrick to East Grand Forks for the purpose of organizing a parish and building a church. The Courier newspaper editorial considered the venture “foolish” due to the price of wheat, poor crop outlook, lack of money, and past due mortgages. Despite this, the committee moved quickly to build a church. August 6th, 1893, is considered the organization date of the Church of Sacred Heart.
In July 1894, a site for the new church was purchased and ground was broken in September. The building was ready for temporary use by December, and the first service was held in the unfinished building on Christmas Day of 1894. The building had a seating capacity for 500-600 and the ceilings were frescoed. Members of the congregation donated the stained glass windows, and the steeple, at 120 feet, was claimed to be the highest point in both cities at the time.
At the same time the church was being finished, the dedicated Benedictine Sisters from Duluth started a hospital and Catholic school. In 1897 the school transferred to the basement of Sacred Heart Church. In 1900, when the sisters were transferred to Bemidji the school was closed.
On December 1, 1895, just a few days after its dedication, the one year old church was burned in a fire. The fire had spread so quickly, that little could be done to save the church. The church building, which had been debt-free, had limited insurance and the parish was again forced to raise money for the construction of a new church.
The new church cost $12,000 and was built on the same site, with construction believed to have begun in 1896. In 1900, after the church had been rebuilt, the Parish constructed a pastoral residence (located at the present site of the Social Hall).
The third pastor, Father James Hogan, started in the spring of 1909. He served briefly, being reassigned to Duluth in 1911, but it was during his pastorate that consideration was given for establishing a Parish supported Catholic School.
As the parish grew so did the desire for Catholic education. Construction on the 1912 Sacred Heart School building started in 1911, shortly after Monsignor Klinkhammer took over as pastor.
Charged with expansion was the fifth pastor, Father Alexander I. Merth. In 1950 the old church was moved across the street to make room for construction. The first brick was laid June 1950 for the rectory and the cornerstone of the present church in July 1951. The church and high school were completed in 1952 and the grade school in 1958.
Due to the spring flooding of April 1997, all buildings at Sacred Heart were flooded. The elementary and high school buildings, as well as the gymnasium, convent, and the original 1912 school building had to be demolished.
The Church was saved, but the school existed for two school years, 1997-1999, at a temporary site near Highway 2. Under the guidance of then pastor, Monsignor Tim McGee and a dedicated group of individuals, construction of the present gathering space, parish social hall, offices, and school building began in June of 1997 and school classes were resumed at the present site the second week of September 1999.
While multiple parishes today support most of the American Catholic high schools, Sacred Heart Parish is unique in that it is primarily supported by the parish, families, friends, and alumni.
Fr. Larry Delaney was appointed pastor and superintendent in July 2001 after serving as associate pastor for a number of years at Sacred Heart. Msgr. Mike Foltz was appointed pastor and superintendent of the school in July of 2013. In July 2015 Msgr. Mike Foltz became Diocesan Vicar General while also still maintaining his role as superintendent of the school. Fr. Xavier Ilango was appointed pastor of Sacred Heart Church in July of 2015.