Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish was founded by Polish immigrants in 1904.
This parish owes its origins to the settlement of Polish immigrants in the Southwest part of Grand Rapids in the late 1800s, many of whom worked in the local gypsum mines. It was the third such Polish speaking community of faith in the city. The founding parish priest Father Ladislaus Krakowski, along with his fledgling community, were a courageous and creative lot. A sign of life and vitality in any parish is indicated by the sacrament of Baptism. The first baptisms took place in June 1904. But it was on Thanksgiving Day in 1904 when Bishop Joseph Richter presided over the dedication of the school, convent and church complex on Valley Avenue. Shortly, School Sisters of Notre Dame of Milwaukee arrived to staff the school, which opened in January 1905 with 7 grades. The priest’s house was competed in February 1906 and a new expanded convent was opened in December 1908. Because of the growth and development in that side of the city, “running out of room” was the order of the day. The school had to be expanded in 1918. By 1921 there were 650 children enrolled in the school. With 800 children in 1925, an addition was made to the school again with a “bungalow” structure which would serve until the late 1950s. In 1920 a new church building was started. The first Mass was celebrated in the basement in January 1921 and on Christmas Eve 1923 the first Mass was celebrated on the main floor of the structure. Despite the Depression, which began in 1929, the parish grew and great sacrifices were undertaken to pay off the new church building, built in the style of the Major Basilica of St. Paul-outside-the-Walls in Rome. No new construction was undertaken until the “Bungalow School” was replaced by a two-story brick and glass building in 1959. The old school building on Valley Ave. was turned into a gymnasium the same year. All of this brick and mortar growth was made possible by the efforts and financial sacrifices of the parish populace. As the years have rolled on, the complexion of the parish changed. The older generations have yielded their leadership to the new ones, who knew more of the New World than the Old. Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish today is a diverse community of faith and culture, but unified in a more traditional approach to liturgy and social practice. The commitment to Gospel values, and the expression of same, is as vibrant was it was when the parish first started.