Our Sacred Heart Parish Mission Statement proclaims: “Sacred Heart Parish seeks to be a sign of God’s loving presence in the Miles City, Broadus, and Terry areas by working as Roman Catholics to build a community of faith. We challenge each other to grow, to share, to understand our differences, and to bear witness to our baptismal commitment. This commitment calls us to the Church’s three-fold mission: Proclaiming the Good News, transforming one another by the Spirit into a community of faith, and bringing God’s justice and love to others.”
Catholic settlers coming to the Montana Territory area where the then-named Miles Town was taking shape brought their bibles and rosaries with them. Irish soldiers at Fort Keogh and other Catholic residents held prayer services.
The first Mass was celebrated in 1879 in the home of A.P. Flannagan by Father Christostom Foffa, who then came regularly by stagecoach from Bismarck, North Dakota, to serve the area Catholics. Father Eli Washington John Lindesmith, chaplain at Fort Keogh, celebrated his first Mass in 1880 in the log building housing the county courthouse. He held a meeting after Mass to organize a committee to build a church. The first Sacred Heart Church was built in 1881 on the northeast corner of Tenth and Main Street. In 1885 a forty-acre tract of land was purchased for the Calvary Cemetery; which has since been deeded by the Catholic Church to Custer County.
Father Lindesmith also started catechism classes, brought Christianity to the nearby Northern Cheyenne, and worked to secure six Ursuline Sisters from Toledo, Ohio. The Ursulines, under the leadership of Mother Amadeus Dunne, arrived in 1884 to start a school in Miles City and a mission for the Northern Cheyenne. The first convent was built of logs and burned to the ground in 1897 and the Sisters left Miles City. Through efforts of local businessmen, funds were raised to build a brick academy on the corner of Montana Avenue and Leighton Boulevard, and the Ursuline Sisters were asked to return. The building was dedicated in 1902 and provided for students in grades first through tenth. In 1923 the school was changed from private to parochial.
The first resident pastor, Father Cyril Pauwleyn, was appointed in 1887. He also has the distinction of being the first priest ordained in Montana. Father Pauwleyn’s jurisdiction extended from the Dakota line to Yellowstone National Park (about 15,000 square miles). Father J.J. O’Carroll, who came to Miles City in 1907, directed the construction of the current Sacred Heart Church in 1924, at 120 North Montana Avenue. The old church was used as a parish hall for many years; that building no longer exists. Father O’Carroll was also instrumental in bringing the Presentation Sisters of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Aberdeen, South Dakota, to manage the then Custer County Hospital in 1910.
Father Thomas Hennessy came to Miles City in 1931 and in 1935 was given the honor of the title of Monsignor. In 1933, Father Hennessy made possible the purchase of the old Custer County High School and gymnasium next door to the Ursuline Academy. The grade school was transferred to the reconditioned building in 1934. Sacred Heart High School was established in 1935. A grade school was built in 1949, a new gymnasium with parish hall and kitchen was built in 1959, with a new high school building added to the structure and completed in 1964. The high school closed in 1986 and the building is now being used by the elementary school. The former elementary school now houses the parish center, social hall, kitchen, and staff offices.
Sacred Heart Church underwent major renovations from 1969 to 1973 under Father Patrick J. O’Reilly. In 2007, the stained glass windows were all refurbished. In 2009, a new heating and cooling system was installed, and the carpeting and pews were replaced.
In July of 2008, Father Rob Oswald was assigned as pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Miles City and Terry. In July of 2014, Father Phillip Chinnappan, newly arrived from India, was assigned to serve as parochial vicar.
We currently have about 650 registered families in the parish and look forward to continued growth and spiritual development of our members and service to our community.
For more information about our parish’s programs and services, please contact us.
PASTORS OF SACRED HEART CHURCH, MILES CITY
NAME: YEAR ASSIGNED:
1. Fr. Cyril Pauwleyn 1887
2. Fr. J.J. O’Carroll 1907
3. Msgr. Thomas Hennessy 1931
4. Fr. Patrick Donovan 1967
5. Fr. Patrick J. O’Reilly 1968
6. Fr. Dick Schlosser 1983
7. Fr. Joseph L. Ponessa 1984
8. Fr. John J. Houlihan 1985
9. Fr. Kirk Morgan 1994
10. Fr. Gil Hemauer, OFM Cap. 1998
11. Fr. Rob Oswald 2008