Sacred Heart of Jesus church in
Bridgeton in the east end of Glasgow has been restored inside thanks to
600 hours of unpaid work by members of the congregation, who have been
coming in at weekends since March to return the church to its Edwardian
The stone church was built in
1910, but the parish itself was founded in 1873. The parish school next
door, also called Sacred Heart, was run from 1874 onwards by Brother
Walfrid, a Marist Brother and the founder of Celtic Football Club.
He started a football team in
1876 for local boys, to keep them occupied in the evenings when their
parents were still out at work. Twelve years later, he founded Celtic FC
to raise funds for his charitable work with the poor of the east end.
Celtic FC have sent a message of
congratulations to Sacred Heart in advance of its centenary celebration.
Tonight, Archbishop Mario Conti
will preside over a special Mass attended by politicians, police chiefs
and local people, followed by a reception at Sacred Heart Primary School
The centenary takes place on the
feast of the Sacred Heart, as the church was opened on the same occasion
Like many other Catholic
churches, Sacred Heart has experienced a decline in numbers in the last
25 years. Built in the Roman basilica style, it has a capacity of 800,
but current Sunday attendance stands at about 180. This has resulted in
pressure on church finances.
However, the dozen-strong team of
parishioners have transformed the peeling paintwork, cracked plaster and
grimy paintings with months of washing, steaming, painting and
polishing, preparing the way for professional plasterers, thereby
reducing a repair bill of more than £20,000 to less than £10,000.
The parish priest, Father Stephen
Dunn, has spent his Saturdays up a ladder with buckets of water cleaning
years of grime off ornate plasterwork and then carefully repainting it
in scarlet and gold.
Dunn, whose family has lived in
Bridgeton for four generations, said: “There are a few areas of Glasgow
that have been core to the building of Glasgow as a city and this is one
of those areas.
“You can see the beauty and the
majesty of this church now. When it was built, people gave of their time
and raised money – in spite of their poor back-ground. They were testing
times, but there was a great sense of community. That showed people’s
commitment to a spiritual life.
“One of the great errors of our
materialistic society is a lack of spirituality and a self-centredness.
This church, and the work that has been done on it, symbolises
Susan McSorley, who is in her
seventies, has been coming to Sacred Heart for 33 years. She is a member
of the volunteer team, which she described as “a big happy family”.
She said: “Seeing the church like
this is uplifting. It has given us new energy.”
The church has been a target of
sporadic sectarian attacks over the years, according to Dunn. As a
consequence, several panes of glass have been replaced with perspex on
the church house after being broken, and grilles cover the lower
Bridgeton had a Catholic
community from the late 18th century onwards following an influx of
Highlanders, chiefly Macdonalds, who came to the area seeking work in
the cotton industry. Their arrival led to the area becoming known as
Celtic FC was formed after a
meeting convened by Brother Walfrid in the church hall of St Mary’s,
Calton, in November 1887.