PHOENIX — The church community of Sacred Heart Catholic Church is a testament to the power of faith, hard work, and sacrifice. Closed and boarded up 36 years ago, Sacred Heart and the spirit it personifies never wavered. So on Christmas Eve morning, volunteers cleaned windows and washed the floor in advance of the late afternoon Mass.
"Over the years they've been very clear this church is part of their history and so I want them to own it and enjoy it," said Father Paul Sullivan, Pastor of Sacred Heart.
The church, located near 16th Street and Buckeye Road, dates back 70 years, built by its parishioners. "Donate a brick or a dollar," that's what parishioners said Sacred Heart's first Pastor Father Albert Braun would say.
In the mid-1980s the Phoenix City Council had other plans, bulldozing the neighborhood and boarding up the church to make way for the expansion of Sky Harbor Airport. In later years the city council tried to demolish the church.
"I remember the day in 2017 when the city council voted that the community would lose their church," Father Sullivan said.
But it never happened.
Pressure from the community led to a change of heart by the City Council and a year later in 2018, plans were made to renovate and reopen Sacred Heart.
"I just feel there's some miracle happening here," said Paul Moreno.
Moreno's brother was married at Sacred Heart, his uncle used to tell stories of how the community came together and help 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 Sacred Heart's original altar. And a miracle will be realized.
"This building is far deeper, far more important than just a building," Father Sullivan said. "This touches people's hearts... this is where they bring their needs to their God."
Sacred Heart will close after Christmas until the rest of the church renovations are complete. Father Sullivan is hoping for a permanent reopening in 2022.