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History of Sacred Heart Church

History of Sacred Heart Church

Sacred Heart Church began in a small store front in Palm Desert on November 1, 1956, with Fr. Edwards as pastor.  Bing Crosby, who at the time was Honorary Mayor of Palm Desert, hosted a fundraiser in April, 1958, to benefit the construction of a permanent church.  Performers and attendees at the event included Buddy Cole, Rosemary Clooney, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Commare, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Manzo, Mrs. Major Slater, Mrs. Mon Walgren, Mrs. Olga Sutherland, Robert Coates, John Moran, Joe Biccino, Daniel Ryan, and A.C. Pelletier.  On December 21, 1958, the Church's permanent location was formally dedicated.  Since the dedication, the Church has grown enormously in size and scope.

In its early years, Sacred Heart was a popular church among the celebrity and wealthy visitors to the Palm Springs area.  Most notably, John F. Kennedy attended Mass at the Church whenever he was visiting the desert.  To this day the church has a dedicated pew where Kennedy used to sit while attending Mass. Others, such as Bing Crosby, were regular attendees.  The Desert was a popular vacation place for people from Los Angeles County, and Sacred Heart was a popular church for vacationers.

Throughout the years, the desert population continued to grow and, by the 1970s, it became a popular retirement location. During that time, Fr. McNellis, pastor of Sacred Heart from 1968 until 1982, sought to serve this older population at Sacred Heart.  He constructed a community of duplexes rented to low income, Catholic, senior citizens, called La Paz.  It was located directly adjacent to the Church property and served its intended purpose into the 21st century.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the desert continued to expand by attracting year-round families, weekend visitors from Los Angeles and Orange Counties, and-- most significantly-- a deluge of "snowbirds" from the north, Midwest, and eastern states every winter.  Sacred Heart grew and evolved to serve these parishioners and visitors.

The Pastor of Sacred Heart during this time (1982 - 2001) was Fr. Anthony Timlin. Father Timlin accommodated the increase in parishioners at the Church by expanding the original Church. A new office building was added on the property, as a larger staff was needed to facilitate the numerous ministries, programs, and religious education classes offered. 

Fr. Timlin also built a kindergarten and elementary school on the church property in 1984.   The school continued to expand by adding a new class each year.  Today, the school serves over 620 children from preschool through eighth grade, offering a science lab, technology lab, library, and large gymnasium.   In 2006, Sacred Heart School was one of 250 schools in the nation to be named by the U.S. Department of Education as a No Child Left Behind-Blue Ribbon School.

Monsignor Howard Lincoln, the current pastor, has continued the growth of the church, its outreach, and the school.  During his tenure as pastor, six new buildings have been constructed, together with two large parking lots.  The school's square footage has more than doubled, an adoration chapel has been constructed, and the configuration of the church offices is significantly changed to accommodate an every-growing parish which, in season, serves more than 9,000 people attending weekend Masses. 

As the physical church expands, Msgr.Lincoln has also emphasized a spiritual expansion for the parish community.  Roughly 600 parishioners participate in ministry service, volunteer work, and outreach programs.  Parishioners participate in the sacramental ministry as Eucharistic ministers and lectors, catechists, and visitors to the sick.  There are over twenty active ministry groups, such as the Women's Guild, Music ministry, and Scripture Study.  Parishioners reach the outside community of the Coachella Valley through very successful programs like the Mecca Reading Program, East Valley Outreach, and Kairos Prison visitors.  The Sacred Heart Church Community is grateful and blessed throughout its 64 years to be able to continue serving God with a tradition of ministry and outreach to all who are in need.


Pastors Emeritus

Rev. A.G. Edwards 1956 - 1967

Rev. John Desmond 1967-1968

Msgr. Hugh McNelis 1968-1982

Rev. William J. Marcott (Administrator 1982)

Rev. Anthony J. Timlin 1982-2001

Rev. Msgr. Howard Lincoln 2001-2021