By Nicole Sheriff/Delta Democrat Times
GREENVILLE — The 66 window panels that have let light shine into the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church since the early 1900s will have a new look in the upcoming weeks.
To mark the church’s 100th-year celebration, intricate stain glass windows will be displayed at the historic site.
Rainbow Studio of Memphis, Tenn., will help make Sacred Heart’s dream come true once the company completes its stained glass installments over the next several weeks.
The glass, which was built in China, was designed by Rainbow Studio artist Suzy Hendrix,
The process to get patterns and designs for the stain glass was long, Hendrix said, but once the installation is complete, the church will have a new look. The church as set a Jan. 31 deadline for the work.
Father Thomas Mullally, pastor at Sacred Heart, said the project has always been a dream of some of the parishioners, but the 100th-year celebration “pushed it along,” making the dream more of a reality.
The process began about two years ago, when the church reached out to the Rainbow Studio, Mullally said.
“I don’t think we thought that this project would be so long I don’t think people realize it either, it just takes time,” Mullally said.
The designs and negations took about one year, Hendrix said.
“The first year was kind of just planning,” she said. “The second year we got into the design and fabrication.”
Through the designs, Hendrix said she vowed to capture the history of the church, which can be told through the stain glass images.
“It’s a very traditional design, but it’s also inspired by the fact that this is a very historic African-American church,” Hendrix said.
The window designs show details of kente cloths and other symbols that are significant to the church.
“They wanted really bright colors,” Hendrix said. “And they wanted purple and gold because of the school that was here at one time. Purple and gold was their team colors.”
At the church’s request, Hendrix said the four apostles — Mark, Paul, John and Peter — are also included in the design work. The four apostles will be installed in the four front windowpanes of the church, she said, and the Sacred Heart of Mary and Jesus will be in the center.
The variety of images that are painted in the stain glass hold true to the church’s history, Hendrix said.
And historic it is. In its early years, Sacred Heart became the first theological seminary for blacks in America. Mullally said the society established the parish and school in 1913. Sacred Heart housed the first black Catholic school in the city, Mullally said, which remained open until the 1970s.
In 1920, the seminary school opened to students all across the U.S. The school operated for three years in Greenville before moving to its current headquarters in Bay St. Louis, Mullally said. The school provided training for men who wanted to become priests or brothers of the Society of the Divine Word, he said.
Mullally said education was one of the primary focuses of the Sacred Heart. Many of the students who were educated at the school have since moved from the area, he said, but he hopes the 100th-year event brings them back to join in the centennial celebration.
Mullally said more older members attend the church and a growing number of Hispanics that have moved into the Delta attend as well.
“Our ministry now is to reach out to the new immigrants,” who come from areas outside of Greenville like Rolling Fork, Benoit and Leland, Mullally said.
Beginning Aug. 30, 2013, Sacred Heart will host a meet-and-greet event along with a banquet, picnic and church mass to celebrate 100 years of existence in the community.
Although the congregation has shifted some, Mullally said he hopes the 100th-year celebration attracts the attention of those associated with the church who have moved away from the Delta.
“It’s a family reunion of Sacred Heart — those who attended the school and those who attended the parish,” he said.
Information from: Delta Democrat Times, http://www.ddtonline.com