In 1856 there were about 125 Catholics in Gardner. They attended Mass at St. Martin's in Otter River since there was no Catholic Church in Gardner. That same year, the first Mass was celebrated in Gardner outdoors in a grove off Baker Lane. The parish history reads that "the women knelt on their shawls, the men held their caps in sincere reverence and the children watched the flicker of candles which each worshipper held." Eighteen years later, Mass would be celebrated in their new church which these people, our ancestors in the faith, built on Cross Street for $26,00. They dedicated it to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Their collective prayer may well have been in some form or another, words we read from the first Book of Kings: "O Lord, my God may your eyes watch night and day over this temple, the place where you have decreed you shall be honored. In those days, the men worked first on the railroads, then in the furniture factories, while many of the women worked in the homes of some of Gardner's more comfortable families. By the year 1880, Gardner boasted 1,500 Catholics and Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish received our first pastor, Father Michael Murphy. We are told that the parish community grew in size and faith. All was going well until Friday, May 28, 1887 when the church was destroyed by fire. People watched in disbelief as the steeple crashed to the ground and in two hours the church was totally destroyed. Though the church they worked so hard to build from their meager earnings was destroyed, the Parish, nevertheless, endured. It endured because these people, like parishioners today, knew every well that "they are the temple of God and the spirit of God dwelled within them." So they simply built a new church on the same site, which Bishop Beaven of Springfield dedicated in 1893. Among the more notable achievements of our ancestors in the faith was the establishment of Sacred Heart School in 1922 with the help of the Sisters of Saint Joseph. That too endured through the thick and thin over the years, but today with seventh and eighth grades recently restored, the school continues to flourish. Over the years, Sacred Heart Parish nurtured 24 priestly and religious vocations. The Parish School must have contributed in no small way to these vocations since there was only one vocation during the 48 years before the school was established. The most recent alumnus to be ordained is Father Keith LeBlanc in 1996. And now a quick look at the present and the future. The parish began a campaign to "assure our future" in 1995. It did so because the need for the church repairs, improvements, and renovations was all to obvious. Also, the school needed to be updated and expanded if it was to continue the great educational and religious tradition started so many years ago. Now, with a newly renovated church and a larger and better equipped, the people of Sacred Heart look confidently to the new millennium and its future generations who will happily share their deep faith in Jesus Christ as members of Sacred Heart Parish.