There were very few Catholics living in East Berlin prior to the success of the Berlin Iron Bridge Company in the 1880s. For many years, they would travel to either Middletown or New Britain to attend Mass. Often these excursions were very inconvenient. When St. Paul's Church was built in Kensington around 1880, they went there to worship.
As the Bridge Company grew and developed, it required more and more labor, causing a great and rapid growth in local Catholic population. In the spring of 1893, some of these people became interested in having Mass celebrated in East Berlin. Sacred Heart Church was formed in 1896 in response to this need.
On August 12, 1896, a suitable plot of land was secured for $400 and plans for a new church, proposed by Architect Joseph A. Jackson of Waterbury, were adopted. Mr. R. O. Clark of East Berlin was awarded the contract.
On September 23, 1967, Sacred Heart Church was established as a full parish, in its own right, by the Archdiocese of Hartford. Archbishop Henry J. O'Brien appointed Rev. Robert J. Carroll as its first pastor. Under his guidance, the parish was solidified into a self-sustaining organization.
An important factor in the successful accomplishment of the work was the warm encouragement as well as the generous financial aid given by the Berlin Bridge Company, whose president, Charles M. Jarvis, contributed the sum of $300 toward the building of the church. Under these happy conditions the work began.
The design chosen was architecturally significant as a good example of the Gothic Revival style which was one of the more popular styles of the era with its pointed-arched stained glass windows.
The cornerstone was laid by Bishop Tierney on November 8, 1896 with many people in attendance. Since that time, the work steadily progressed until the structure was completed at a cost of $7,300. Today, it is the oldest church still in existence in the New Britain Deanery.
Following its completion, the Sacred Heart Church of East Berlin was dedicated to the service of Almighty God on Sunday, May 30, 1897. At the dedication, the Rt. Rev. M. Tierney, assisted by a number of clergymen, conducted the impressive ceremony in the presence of a large congregation. The sermon was preached by the Rev. M.H. Barry of Norwalk. His discourse upon the "Unity of the Church" was eloquent and in every way worthy of the important occasion.
It was not long after the dedication that the need for the church became evident. James Mcintyre, the son of Thomas and Mary Mcintyre, was born on May 30th, the date of the dedication, and became the first child to be baptized on June 13, 1897.Church records have revealed that the first funeral Mass was offered, coincidentally, for Mrs. John Mcintyre, the grandmother of the newly-baptized child, on September 12, 1897. Records also indicate the first wedding at Sacred Heart to be that of Kate Coffey and John Murphy, both of Cromwell, on June 19, 1901.
Since the church was in its infancy, it had to be designated a mission of St. Paul's Church in Kensington. Pastors from the mother church, Rev. Michael Sullivan (1896-1902), Rev. James P. Degnan (1902- 1911), Rev. John C. Brennan (1911-1934), and Rev. Thomas L. Greylish (1934-1967), were responsible for servicing the needs of the Catholic population in their newly-dedicated church until 1967.
One of the major activities which the parish relied upon for financial assistance was the Food Booth at the Berlin Fair. This was started in 1951, the second year of the Fair, upon the suggestion of Clara Miglioli of the Ladies Guild, and continues to flourish today. Fairs were nothing new to Sacred Heart Church, with the first one being held as early as 1896.
Henry Boryczki, Lena McCarthy and Thomas McCarthy, (Lena's son), became the first Eucharistic Ministers of Sacred Heart Church on January 29, 1973. Andrew G. Berezowski served as organist and Choir Director from 1976-1999.
Father Carroll not only guided Sacred Heart Church but also served the community as Chaplain for the State Police, the East Berlin Volunteer Fire Department, and the Msgr. Greylish Council, Knights of Columbus. The parish and the community were saddened on February 4, 1985 when Father Carroll passed away after a long illness.
Deeply feeling the loss of their first and only pastor, the parishioners sought to perpetuate his love for their children by establishing a scholarship in his name, which was funded with private donations. Kristen Pfahler, a Berlin High School senior, received the first award in June, 1986. The Church Hall has also been dedicated in his name.
Father Isaac Raney of Holy Apostles Seminary was asked by the Archdiocese of Hartford to serve as administrator of the parish until a new pastor was appointed. Father Raney accepted and was administrator until March 15, 1985 when Father Thomas C. Culotta was named pastor.
Father Culotta came to Sacred Heart, a small rural parish in East Berlin, from Holy Rosary, a large national parish in Ansonia. At Sacred Heart, where many of the descendants of the founders are still parishioners, Father Culotta initially had to provide leadership for a parish that had suddenly lost its pastor of seventeen years. He has since managed to blend the old and the new, carrying on where Father Carroll left off, at a time when Sacred Heart was again a growing parish due to residential development.
Father Edmund Nadolny joined Sacred Heart in 2006 after a 12-year tenure at St. Stanislaus Church in Meriden, CT. Those who know him realize that he is a man of great faith and humility, and through his hard work, does so much for his parishioners, the church and the community.
A celebration was held on June 14, 2006 at the Holy Cross Church in New Britain to recognize Father Nadolny's 50 years of service to the Roman Catholic Church. He celebrated his 80th birthday in February 2013.
Father Nadolny retired in 2014 and performed his last Mass on June 29th to a packed church that was eager to wish him well but sorry to see him go.
Sacred Heart church begins a new chapter in its long and rich history as we welcome Father Edmund Karwowski. Welcome! The parish members are eager to celebrate the Glory of God with you.