Thursday, September 20, 2012

Churches In Our Family History: Sacred Heart

Inside of Sacred Heart Catholic Church taken by Nancy Hurley after the fire restoratoin in 2001.For many of us, our church involvement influenced our upbringing and helped shape who we are today.  There’s no denying that these are among the experiences that impress our lives and play a part in constructing our family history. The families on Indiana Ties have many of those connections that I could write about here, from Germany to New York/Maryland/Ohio and into Indiana.  We have a predominance of Catholics, but there are Lutherans and other denominations participating also. These stories might lead on some interesting paths. We’ll see.

But, for now, I can’t think of a more appropriate place to start than Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Indianapolis, the place that melds ancestors from both the Niehaus and Weber family lines.   

Sacred Heart Catholic Church was established in 1875 to offer a home for the German families growing leaps and 1926 Sacred Heart Catholic School third grade class.bounds in the south side area of Indianapolis, south of McCarty Street.  The parish was characterized by German language and customs.  Among the charter members in the parish were Carl Kuhn and Wilhelmina Scherrer, Tillie Kuhn Weber’s father and his sister. As the south side population grew the church membership swelled, including the Niehaus family that arrived in the late 1880s and made their home on South West St, within a few miles of the church. Our family members have continued to practice the Catholic faith in this parish to this day, some with membership, others visiting this ornate and impressive sanctuary on occasion; some requesting their funeral mass from the church.  My mother, Rosemary Weber, and her brothers and sisters attended mass and were educated in the parish schools. The 1926 third grade class is pictured above. Rose is the fifth girl from the left in the front row.

The story of our family lives involved in this church would be lengthy.  I won’t try to name those who were Sacred Heart Catholic High School , Indianapolis, Indiana.baptized, educated, married and buried.  I’ll tell one story that illustrates my point. My cousin, Marilyn Niehaus Schuster, sent me a message, along with photos, saying that we should include Sacred Heart in this website.  I wholeheartedly agree and am so happy to have her input.  And I believe that Marilyn is a perfect example of Sacred Heart’s influence.  Marilyn’s parents, Gin Weber and Ed Niehaus, were married in this church, after Gin had attended elementary and high school at the parish schools. Gin and Ed raised Marilyn and her two brothers, Bill and Denny, in the parish.  Their home was within walking distance of their schools. My sister, Martha, used to sometimes walk home with Marilyn after high school. Two years after graduating from Sacred Heart High School, Marilyn Niehaus married Jerry Schuster,Wedding of Marilyn Niehaus and Jerry Schuster. a young man from the neighborhood, in this same church.  Although she lives outside of the parish now, I find that Marilyn’s name is on the list of contributors for the  “Splendor of the South Side” history that serves as a reference for parts of this article.  Thanks, Marilyn.

The legacy of Sacred Heart Catholic Church is embedded in our family history. Some of the surname connections with this church, beyond those mentioned above, are Donahue, Hinz, Holzer, Kirn, Lark, Risch, Sauer, Sapp, Schmalz and Stahl.   The schools are no longer operating, but the parish is still strong.  This beautiful church continues serving Catholic families of south side Indianapolis at 1530 Union Street, making more lasting memories.

Do you have your own thoughts about Sacred Heart?  I would enjoy very much including your memories in this chapter of our family history.  (Please comment below).

More photos: I am linking an album below that connects our family history further with Sacred Heart Church. Click anywhere in the graphic below to see them all. 

Here are two places to go if you would like to read more: Sacred Heart Indy website and the Conrad Schmitt 2001 Fire Restoration.

As always, there are more photos, stories and genealogical reports on our Genealogy page at

My History Reference: James J. Divita Professor of History, Marian College, Indianapolis, Splendor of the South Side: A History of Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Parish in Indianapolis 1875-2000, (Indianapolis, Indiana: Sacred Heart Pastoral Council, 2000).

Copyright 2012 Nancy Hurley

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much Nancy for this great article. I still attend Mass and tithe to Sacred Heart church. I consider it HOME for me and my family. All of my children and many of my grandchildren were baptized in this church. We were all devastated when the fire gutted the entire altar and much of the beautiful windows and ceiling architecture. I was thoroughly pleased with the craftsmanship Conrad Schmidt brought to the restoration of this beautiful cathedral. Our 50 year high school reunion is being celebrated this Saturday at Sacred Heart at 5 pm. Can't believe I'm that OLD!!! Your articles bring such joy and reflection to me when I read them. You could start your own newspaper, girl.


Hi: Your own stories or suggestions are welcome here any time. Thanks for being a part of Indiana Ties.