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History of Sacred Heart Church - Lancaster

The early history of Sacred Heart Church is a bit sketchy, but in the 1870’s the earliest records indicate that the Antelope Valley was served by priests from San Buenaventura Mission, Ventura. In the 1880’s Fr. Patrick Barron, the pastor at St. Malachy’s in Tehachapi, would make the trip to Lancaster and celebrate Mass. In 1886 he helped begin the building of the first Catholic Church in Lancaster which was completed in 1890, the year the parish was established.

Several other priests continued to serve the parish and area missions, including Fr. Joseph Wanner, who in 1907 was named pastor of Sacred Heart Church while serving and living at St. Malachy. In 1916 Fr. John Meehan was named pastor and in 1918 he moved into the rectory in Lancaster which had been built next to the church.  

The interior of Sacred Heart Church, circa 1935

From 1921-1928 several different priests served as pastor and then, on Nov. 15, 1928, Fr. Charles Kennedy was named pastor. Fr. Kennedy would remain at Sacred Heart for almost 40 years, until his death on February 11, 1968, spending all but 3 years of his priesthood at Sacred Heart. One year before his death Fr. Kennedy was invested with the church title of right reverend monsignor.

In 1932 the parish conducted its first barbecue, which quickly became a community tradition that drew Catholics and non-Catholics alike. In 1936 Fr. Kennedy enlarged the first church building erected by Fr. Bannon and on May 3, 1936, the enlarged church was dedicated and blessed by Most Rev. John J. Cantwell. Early in 1949 was the ground breaking for the new Parochial School and Convent and on September 8, 1949, Sacred Heart opened the Valley’s first Catholic elementary school with 112 children (staffed by Immaculate Heart Sisters). In 1953 Fr. Kennedy began work on plans for a new church to meet the growing needs of his ever increasing flock. On Sunday, October 28, 1956, His Eminence James Francis Cardinal McIntrye, came for the solemn dedication and blessing of the new church (the current church).

After the death of Msgr. Kennedy in 1968 at age 74, Fr. Charles Dachtler, became the next pastor. Fr. Dachtler had previously served Sacred Heart as an associate from 1950-1960. In his first year as pastor the “Kennedy Hall” was built and dedicated to Msgr. Kennedy’s memory. Fr. Dachtler served as pastor from 1968 until his death in 1976 at the age of 66.

Fr. John Alvarez became pastor after the death of Fr. Dachtler but only served two years when he died in 1978 at age 51. Fr. Jerome Elder succeeded Fr. Alvarez and remained at Sacred Heart for 13 years until leaving in 1991. 

From 1991-1999 the pastor was Msgr. Timothy O’Connell. Over 2000 registered families (when he started) packed seven weekend Masses in the church that had been recently renovated. In 1999, Fr. John Vogel was named Sacred Heart administrator and pastor in 2000. Fr. Vogel was succeeded in July of 2005 by our current pastor, Fr. Tom Baker.