Capuchin Franciscans founded Sacred Heart parish in Yonkers in 1891—in the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi.
Parishioners believe in the future and are committed to the education and spiritual guidance of the parish community’s youth, so that they will continue the Franciscan mission with the help of God. Parish members believe in nurturing their faith and community, and they will continue to welcome all to their parish family. Thus says the mission statement of Sacred Heart parish in Yonkers.
Father Matthew Janeczko, the parish’s newly appointed pastor, elaborating on the mission statement, told CNY, “We’re a very diverse community that is full of life—we’re very dedicated to service. We have a growing population of people from around the world who worship together.”
Father Janeczko added, “We’re truly a melting pot—it is absolutely multicultural. The people are incredibly generous to the parish, and incredibly generous to each other. We have about 800 families.”
Also serving the parish are Father John McHugh, O.F.M. Cap., parochial vicar, and Brother Roger Deguire, O.F.M. Cap., parish associate.
The parish has a high school on campus, with more than 300 students in grades 9-12, and it hosts a regional grade school off-campus, with more than 400 students from PreK3 to grade 8.
Karen DeCecco is the high school principal, and Casimiro Cibelli is the elementary school principal.
Deanne May is coordinator of the religious education program, which has more than 150 students, and the RCIA program has 14 people this year.
The Vigil Mass Oct. 7, celebrated by Father Michael Greco, O.F.M. Cap., provincial of the Capuchin Franciscan Province of St. Mary, was a multipurpose celebration.
“It was a great celebration,” Father Janeczko said. “We were celebrating the 100th anniversary of the dedication of the upper church, the 125th anniversary of the Capuchins arriving in Yonkers, and my installation as pastor of the church.”
Father Janeczko was parochial vicar of the parish for three years, his first assignment after ordination, before he become the pastor in August.
Sacred Heart has three Masses on Sunday and one Mass on Saturday, which is alternately celebrated at two senior housing buildings, Monastery Manor and Finian Sullivan Tower, named for Father Finian Sullivan, O.F.M. Cap., who served two tenures as pastor of Sacred Heart before his death in 1970.
Given the multicultural makeup of the parish community, all Masses are celebrated in English. Parishioners come from backgrounds from all over the world from Europe to Asia to AFrica to Latin America.
“The love of God is a universal language,” Father Janeczko said.
Isabelle Kielb, 84, a lifelong parishioner, has lived across the street from the parish since age 2. “It’s important, it has been very important,” Mrs. Kielb said of the significance of the parish to her birth family and later to her family by marriage.
“I have six children, so I also was involved with the school.”
Over the decades, she served as a song leader with the choir, ran Bingo, was a teacher’s aide and helped many other capacities. The grandmother of 16 remains active. Her husband, Chester, who died 10 years ago, was also an active parishioner, serving as an usher and with the Holy Name Society.
According to the parish history, Father Bonaventure Frey, O.F.M. Cap., arrived in Yonkers in 1891 to serve as the founding pastor of Sacred Heart. The dedication of the first church and monastery took place on Nov. 15. May 1893 brought the arrival of Sisters of St. Agnes, who served at the parish until 2002, and the opening of the elementary school.
In July 1904, Father Solanus Casey was ordained, and Sacred Heart was his first assignment. Father Solanus, who was beatified Nov. 18 in Detroit, served at Sacred Heart parish and friary in Yonkers from 1904 to 1918. For most of those years, he was assigned to be a friary porter, or doorkeeper, a ministry he would carry out for the rest of his life.
On May 14, 1905, the cornerstone of the elementary school was laid. On Oct. 7, 1917, dedication of the new church was held. The high school opened in 1923.
On Oct. 30, 1966, a new convent was dedicated and the cornerstone was laid for a building added to the high school. In 1987, the Franciscan Sisters of Peace moved into the convent. The Franciscan Handmaids of the Most Pure Heart of Mary arrived in 2013, and the Religious of the Divine Compassion came two years later.
From September 1994 through the following summer, the monastery was gutted and rebuilt.