Sarah Wolf/Catholic SentinelTeenagers from Sacred Heart Parish in Tillamook gathered on the yard between the church and parish hall for a game of soccer during the parish’s celebration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus feast day.
Sarah Wolf/Catholic Sentinel
Teenagers from Sacred Heart Parish in Tillamook gathered on the yard between the church and parish hall for a game of soccer during the parish’s celebration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus feast day.
TILLAMOOK — The sun is setting behind the church at Sacred Heart Parish here. The parishioners fill the parish hall where they are enjoying tamales and cake. Teenagers have gathered for soccer in the yard separating the church from the festivities and children are playing games. The parish has come together to celebrate the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

For the parish’s first attempt at such an event, everyone says it has been a success. This is Father Amalanathan Irudayaraj’s perspective. Father Irundayaraj, pastor here, came up with the idea for the feast to make parishioners feel a sense of belonging to one parish family, rather than separate parish communities. What better time to do this than on the feast day for the parish’s patron saint?

“I thought that everybody will focus on the values of Jesus, the heart of Jesus so that that will bring the parish family the unity that we have been working on,” says Father Irudayaraj.

So, after Mass was celebrated by Bishop Peter Smith, parishioners partook in feast day festivities in the parish hall and yard.

In previous years, the parish had a traditional parish picnic sometime in the summer months. But attendance was low and one of the communities was noticeably absent, says Father Irudayaraj.

“It’s not a strange phenomenon to find the tension between the Anglo community and the Latino community,” says Father Irudayaraj. But this parish is different.

“[Both communities] want to work together but for some reason they were not able to come together or the platform was not offered for them [to do so].”

Yet, the desire in both communities for unity was apparent, says Father Irudayaraj.
So the priest started looking out for an opportunity to bring the parish family together. And the first parish celebration of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was born.

Nicholas Williams, president of Sacred Heart’s pastoral council, says part of what makes the parish special is its roots. In the late 1800’s, one of Tillamook’s pioneer families donated the land for the church. It eventually sprawled out to include a church, a grade school and a high school catering to the originally Swiss community.

Like what happened in many parishes around the country, the schools closed and the community faced a decline.

But now Williams sees hope.

“I think when push comes to shove, a lot of the people who maybe stand by or are in the woodwork will rise to the occasion of this parish. I think that’s one of the special things we have.”

The parish aspires to foster and grow, he adds.

“I think we’re facing a lot of the same problems parishes all over the world and the United States are facing. We’re hoping that we can stand and move forward with other parishes that are trying to turn things around,” says Williams.

“God held nothing back in his love for each one of us,” preached Bishop Smith during his homily to the crowd of worshippers. “God held nothing back.

“I wish we could all say that about one another, that we held nothing back from those that we love or are dearest in our lives. But the Sacred Heart of Jesus reminds us — this is God’s love. Nothing is held back.”

Bishop Smith went on to talk about the history of the Sacred Heart devotion and the mercy and workings of God in the community.

“Let us entrust ourselves once again to the Lord and ask that his Sacred Heart filled with love, compassion and mercy for us— withholding nothing— would continue to touch our lives, draw us closer to him and draw in so many others to that love, mercy and compassion that he offers to us all,” Bishop Smith concluded.

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