Parish History

Established in 1891

Brief history of the parish

It was a very small beginning for the Catholic community of Tillamook in 1860, with Fr. Adrian Croquet, then assigned to Grand Ronde, coming to celebrate the Eucharist in the homes of parishioners, once or twice a year until 1891. With the first church being completed in 1891, Fr. Demerias became the first resident pastor.

Fr. Schell, who succeeded Fr. Demerias was instrumental in extending the horizon of parish program to education by purchasing a land for the school in 1897. Sisters of The Immaculate heart of Mary from Scranton, Pennsylvania arrived here to teach in the school, named as St. Alphonsus Academy (also fondly called as Cheese Box).

About 1902, a property was acquired for a parish cemetery. As it was heavily forested, men of the parish had to use horses in clearing the ground; the cemetery is still in use today. In the fall of 1903, the Sisters of St. Mary, Beaverton, Oregon took over the operation of the Academy.

The membership of the church saw an increase and eventually the need for a new church to hold more people for the sacraments was seriously felt. The new church was dedicated by Archbishop Christie in 1914 and it served the people of this parish until 1969, when the ravages of time had taken a heavy toll on the building that it had to be torn down and make way for the construction of our present church.

From 1891 until 1917 the parish had been served by the priests of the Archdiocese of Portland in Oregon. Then it was taken over by the Benedictine fathers of Mt. Angel Abbey. We owe a lot to the committed service of all those Benedictine fathers under whose pastorate the face of the parish has shone phenomenally. Under such leadership, the involvement of the parishioners grew considerably.

In 1920, the Third Degree Council of the Knights of Columbus was formed, and to this day, the members of this organization have contributed very much to the spiritual and physical growth of the parish. In 1956, a group of men were initiated into the Fourth Degree Knights of Columbus, forming Fr. Vincent Koppert General Assembly.

After having grown into a self-sufficient parish, the parish mission was extended to the small towns in the vicinity like, Wheeler, Rockaway, Garibaldi, Bay City and Cloverdale with the priests serving masses there. While St. Joseph’s church in Cloverdale was dedicated in 1922, (it still remains as a mission of Sacred Heart Parish) St. Mary’s church by the sea was completed in 1928.

In 1932, St. Alphonsus Academy was torn down for want of space for the increase of the enrollment, and the new Sacred Heart Academy and Sisters’ convent were put up. For almost 18 long years the Academy served both grade and high school students of the parish.

The service of the Sisters of St. Mary was so inspirational to many women in the parish that, in 1944 fifty three women formed the organization of a local court of the Catholic Daughters of America, Court Sacred Heart. The members of the same have been contributing considerably to the growth of the parish even to this day.

In 1947, the mission church in Rockaway was bifurcated from Sacred Heart parish to function as an independent parish. However, the pastoral needs of the parish grew so much that the discussion about having to come up with a new church started making its rounds. Hence in early fifties, the first of a series of fund raising drives was conducted to raise money for building the new church.

After many years of planning and fund raising, the process of constructing the new church began. In May of 1969, the old church was torn down, and after ten months of favorable weather and much hard work by so many members of the parish, the church was completed. On May 17, 1970 the new church was dedicated by Archbishop Robert J. Dwyer.

In 1974, the work on the Gymnasium was started with the financial aid of some great and generous donors who had their hearts for the youth of the parish. In the meantime, because of the low enrollment in Tillamook Catholic High School, it was closed after the graduation exercises in 1976 and the grade school was closed on May 30, 1980.

Earlier, on March 1, 1980 the pastoral care of the parish was again taken over by the priests of the Archdiocese of Portland. We would like to record our deep sentiments of gratitude to all the Benedictine Fathers who had done great things for so many years in the midst of several hardships. It is our earnest prayers that God might reward them for their meritorious service.