Fashion show pays tribute to Sacred Heart history

(Featured photo is of Mackey Hewitt, a descendant of John P. Mulherin, a choir director at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News)

A May 16 fashion show honored the legacy of the founders of Sacred Heart Catholic Church.

It’s been 125 years since the cornerstone to the building, now the Sacred Heart Cultural Center, was placed and descendants of those founders styled fashions from Dillard’s at a meeting of the center’s guild.

There’s not one single large event marking the anniversary, according to Millie Huff, the center’s executive director.

 “We’ve been incorporating the 125th anniversary into everything we do,” she said.

At the recent garden festival and a garden party, organizers gave a nod to the founders’ Irish heritage and the milestone.

 On Tuesday, the names crafted into the stained-glass windows came to life through their descendants.

 The transfiguration window depicting Moses and Elijah appearing to Jesus is the J.F. Armstrong window.  Meggie Armstrong Nichols can trace her lineage back to J.F. Armstrong. Also, Ann Marie Schweers McManus can follow her family tree back to the founders. The window of St. John the Evangelist is dedicated to her great-great-uncle August Joseph Schweers.

Seven descendants modeled two fashions each from the Augusta Mall store.

Highlighting the windows was important as Huff said they will soon be promoting a new brochure that tells more about the windows.

The church was built as Irish immigrants moved to the Augusta area. The Church of the Most Holy Trinity on Telfair Street was constructed in 1810, but with the influx of Irish families in the late 19th century, a new church was needed.

The first service at Sacred Heart was on Dec. 2, 1900, according to the Sacred Heart website.

 It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places, with towering twin spires, arches, 15 distinctive brick styles and the Italian marble altars.

Over the years, its membership declined, and on July 3, 1971, the last mass was held. The church was decommissioned and sat vacant for many years, enduring vandalism and decay. It faced the wrecking ball before the family of Peter S. Knox stepped in and saved it.

It was renamed the Sacred Heart Cultural Center and underwent massive restoration.

“This is a shining example of historic preservation,” said Anne Schweers Proctor, who grew up in Sacred Heart and was married in the church, as she introduced the fashion show.

The meeting also recognized the volunteers who helped with the garden festival.

The Guild of Sacred Heart has close to 200 members, according to Barbara Fiebiger, guild president, but new members are always welcome. To learn more, click here.

Charmain Z. Brackett is the publisher of Augusta Good News. Reach her at Sign up for the newsletter here.

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