All posts by Lynda Marsh

At the Heart of the Matter

What does it mean to be a part of Franciscan Care? Does it mean participating in outreach of all sorts – tending to and nurturing those around us? Does it mean being supportive of those among us who suffer in various ways, whether physical, spiritual, or mental? It truly can be either of those things. And one of our ministries encompasses all of those things – Sacred Heart to Haiti’s Heart.

Sacred Heart to Haiti’s Heart seeks to help our brothers and sisters of St. Gabriel’s Parish in Beau Séjour, Haiti. St. Gabriel’s Parish is a Catholic community with approximately 22,000 people located in the mountains of Haiti, just southwest of Port-Au-Prince. In conjunction with Holy Family Church in St. Petersburg, our ministry is helping to rebuild their church, which was demolished by the earthquake and devastating hurricanes that followed, as well as provide medical, dental, and other resources as needed. In addition to ministering to the local residents, St. Gabriel’s runs the local school and has a modest medical building.


At various times each year, the Sacred Heart to Haiti’s Heart ministry visits St. Gabriel’s, and one of our parishioners – Wayne Davis – gives us an intimate look at why he devotes his time to this wonderful ministry.

I was blessed to have the prayers and support of Fr. George and the Sacred Heart team in my visit to Beau Séjour to show our commitment to St. Gabriel’s. I was equally blessed that my bride, Debi, supports our commitment and the time and resources involved in visiting St. Gabriel’s. Debi looks forward to joining the team in December and volunteering her medical skills. By every measurable standard I saw improvements in just six months. Crops were in, people were happy, the church was significantly improved, schools were improved, the possibility of building a church appeared very realistic and the road was significantly improved. I remain a realist, the parish of St. Gabriel’s will remain a poor peasant parish for the rest of my lifetime. Haiti will not improve significantly, and even if it did, the government would not significantly improve the lives of the people of the mountains. The Church however makes a difference in the daily lives of the peasants, from the poor who come to the rectory door for rice, to the sick who use the medical clinic and the children who come to the school. A safe and secure church will absolutely improve the personal and spiritual lives of the people. It also can serve as a safe location to gather and pray when storms and hurricanes come, and they will continue to come forever. My profession prevents me from fundraising or making commitments of any type with an organization outside the U.S. or I would volunteer to serve on a future building committee. I have no experience in serving with any building committee, but I believe this is an executable project I could accomplish with my skill level, and if I could do it then others can as well. My wife and I, will however, continue to volunteer our love, support, commitment and faith that a new St. Gabriel’s is a very real possibility.

To read Wayne’s full account of his recent trip, as well as detailed plans for St. Gabriel’s future, click here.

To read a thank you letter from Fr. Fernand of St. Gabriel’s to the parishioners of Sacred Heart, click here.

If you would like to become involved in the Sacred Heart to Haiti’s Heart Ministry here at Sacred Heart, please contact Becky Wilt.

A Look At Our Past

As the oldest Catholic church on Florida’s West Coast, Sacred Heart has been a part of many moments both big and small – historical events, celebrations and sacraments that run throughout generations, and the every day, simple moments of quiet prayer.

But did you know that Sacred Heart has a group of parishioners who are dedicated and committed to the preservation of our heritage? Through the collection and protection of parish archives and educational programs and tours, they call themselves Friends of Sacred Heart. And they are just that. Friends. Their ongoing mission is to preserve the history of our parish, supervise the parish archives, publish literature to capture the beauty of the church buildings and stained glass windows, maintain the parish museum, and run Docent-led tours of the church. No small feat.

You might say the Friends of Sacred Heart live in the past — as far back as 1549. They can tell you how Sacred Heart evolved into the magnificent church we worship in today. They can introduce you to the faithful, founding family who mortgaged one-fourth of their citrus acreage to pay for a church window. They can even tell you about the gentleman builder of the old St. Louis Church, who told his associate to, “Give the keys of the church to the pastor,” even though money was still owed for the construction.  Or about the role the church played in the Spanish-American war. The members can enlighten you about all of these things and more, and they do so regularly at our monthly church tours. They even host a special, historical tour each year around Christmas where they dress in full period costume among the splendor of our Christmas decorations.


Have you ever attended one of their tours? Consider joining their next one, which typically take place on the second Sunday of each month at 1:15 pm. The tours last anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and are open to everyone. Or if you’re interested in learning more and taking an active role in the preservation of our Sacred Heart history, join their Ministry! They would love to have you participate in whatever way you’d like.

One of our Docents, Marguerite Brennan, had this to say about being involved with Friends of Sacred Heart:

“Being a docent is a joy — and an opportunity to share our beautiful church and faith with the many guests who join our tours. It would have been impossible for me not to join the team; I have been a docent at other venues, but this one is very special. My parents joined Sacred Heart in the 1950s and my sisters and I were Sacred Heart brides. When giving a tour, my goal is to share this living faith community that began in the 1800s and continues today. I feel privileged to be allowed to do so.”

To learn more about Friends of Sacred Heart, click here.
Or to learn more about our Sacred Heart history, click here.

A Eucharistic Devotion

We see them each week. Those men and women who serve in our Liturgical ministry as Eucharistic Ministers. They distribute the Body and Blood of Christ to the assembly of parishioners at each Mass, during the week and on the weekend, as well as on special feast days and Solemnities.

Their passion for sharing their faith with others at Communion is at the foundation of their ministry, along with their desire to build up our community of faith with this most precious of sacraments.

Sean Fitzsimmons-Brown, our Director of Music, says, “What I most enjoy about this ministry is meeting the people who want to be a Eucharistic Minister (EM). It is a ministry that easily helps build the community of the parish along with all the others. It is never dull, and often challenging. At the present time, there are 73 Eucharist Ministers, and that does not include those who go to Tampa General Hospital or bring the Eucharist to the homebound. We are always in need of help in those two areas. These EMs are trained to bear the hosts or cups, and it is open to any registered parishioner who has been confirmed. I can assure you, we can always use the help!”

Graham Brandt was inspired to become a Eucharistic Minister (EM) when he moved to Tampa for a new job and was wanting to serve his community in a simple, but essential way. He was most surprised by how seamless the training was and how organized the volunteer system is and continues to be. Graham has been an EM for the past 2 years. When asked why he continues in this ministry, he stated, “It is a good routine and helps me reflect on the week passed and the week ahead.” He encourages others to volunteer, “It’s a good experience!” Graham’s overall perspective on being a Eucharistic Minister is that, “Working with all the priests at Sacred Heart in this role is an honor. They are wonderful spiritual guides.”

If you would like to get involved at Sacred Heart as a Eucharistic Minister, please contact Sean Fitzsimmons-Brown via email, or by phone at 813.229.1595.

I beg you to show the greatest possible reverence and honor for the Most Holy Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things, whether on earth or in heaven, have been brought to peace and reconciled with Almighty God.
– St. Francis of Assisi

Father’s Day Spiritual Bouquets

It’s not too late to offer a spiritual bouquet in honor of fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and all of those men who have shaped us, formed us, and loved us, this Father’s Day.

If you would like to remember someone, please consider offering a spiritual bouquet in their name. Envelope packets for this occasion consist of a Father’s Day card and envelope as well as an offering envelope. You can find the packets on the table at the back of the church or simply ask for one the next time you visit the Sacred Heart Gift & Book Store.

The card is for your use, but please return the offering envelope to the Parish Office or drop it into the offertory basket no later than Wednesday, June 14th, so they can be included in the Mass intentions for all Masses on Father’s Day weekend.

Happy Father’s Day!

Summer Reading

With summertime comes slower days and more time to relax and do the things we’ve always wanted to do. So why not consider joining our Parish Book Club? You can bring your book with you while traveling, while at the beach or pool, or even while relaxing on your back porch with a cup of coffee on those endless summer days.

The group meets once a month to discuss a particular book, and they’ve planned out their reading schedule for the next several months. If any of these books interest you, we hope you join them!

June: “When Breath Becomes Air” by Paul Kalinithi and Abraham Verghese
For readers of Atul Gawande, Andrew Solomon, and Anne Lamott, this inspiring, exquisitely observed memoir finds hope and beauty in the face of insurmountable odds as an idealistic young neurosurgeon attempts to answer the question What makes a life worth living?

June Meeting: Thursday, June 15th at 7:00 pm (St. Francis Hall)

July: “The Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown
For readers of Unbroken, out of the depths of the Depression comes an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times—the improbable, intimate account of how nine working-class boys from the American West showed the world at the 1936 Olympics in Berlin what true grit really meant.

July Meeting: Thursday, July 20th at 7:00 pm (St. Francis Hall)

August: “Madonnas of Leningrad” by Debra Dean
Bit by bit, the ravages of age are eroding Marina’s grip on the everyday. An elderly Russian woman now living in America, she cannot hold on to fresh memories—the details of her grown children’s lives, the approaching wedding of her grandchild—yet her distant past is miraculously preserved in her mind’s eye.

August Meeting: Thursday, August 17th at 7:00 pm (St. Francis Hall)

September: “The Wright Brothers” – David McCullough
The #1 New York Times bestseller from David McCullough, two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize—the dramatic story-behind-the-story about the courageous brothers who taught the world how to fly—Wilbur and Orville Wright.

September Meeting: Thursday, September 21st at 7:00 pm ( St. Clare Room)

October: “The Last Days of Night” by Graham Moore
A thrilling novel based on actual events, about the nature of genius, the cost of ambition, and the battle to electrify America—from the Oscar-winning screenwriter of The Imitation Game and author of The Sherlockian.

October Meeting: Thursday, October 19th at 7:00 pm (St. Francis Hall)

November: “Belgravia” by Julian Fellowes
The New York Times bestselling novel about scandalous secrets and star-crossed lovers. On the evening of 15 June 1915, the great and the good of British society have gathered in Brussels at what is to become one of the most tragic parties in history – the Duchess of Richmond’s ball. For this is the eve of the Battle of Waterloo, and many of the handsome young men attending the ball will find themselves, the very next day, on the battlefield.
For Sophia Trenchard, the young and beautiful daughter of Wellington’s chief supplier, this night will change everything. But it is only twenty-five years later, when the upwardly mobile Trenchards move into the fashionable new area of Belgravia, that the true repercussions of that moment will be felt. For in this new world, where the aristocracy rub shoulders with the emerging nouveau riche, there are those who would prefer the secrets of the past to remain buried…

November Meeting: Thursday, November 16th at 7:00 pm (St. Francis Hall)


Hospitality At Its Finest

A friendly smile. A welcoming spirit. A helping hand. These are some of the best qualities of Sacred Heart. And nowhere can you experience them firsthand than at an event managed by one of Sacred Heart’s Hospitality Ministries.

Bake Someone Happy? New Parishioner Welcome Dinners? Coffee & Donuts? These are just a few of the ministries under our Director of Hospitality, Gail Lewis. Under her guiding hand, we’ve expanded our offering under Hospitality with the goal of building up the community of Sacred Heart – to get to know one another, to celebrate our strengths, to comfort those in times of need, and to truly provide a sense of belonging with our fellow parishioners.

As Gail says, “We are the face of the body of Christ to those God sends our way. We help our guests feel the love of God by truly welcoming them into God’s house through friendly, authentic, and gracious service. I am blessed to have a wonderful group of volunteers who are dedicated to making Sacred Heart Parish one of belonging, welcoming, and inclusivity.”



And what does parishioner Aprile Black think? As a member of our New Parishioner Welcome Committee, she volunteers her time meeting new parishioners four to five times a year. “The New Parishioner Welcome Dinners are a great way for Sacred Heart Church to welcome individuals and families who have recently joined our parish. I have been a part of these enjoyable dinner parties for a couple of years. Each of the events is themed (Italian, Bar-B-Q, etc.), and each volunteer brings an assigned appetizer, salad, or dessert. We arrive early to set up St. Francis Hall and to greet our New Parishioner guests with a name badge and a glass of wine, soda, or juice box. A good bit of mingling is always a part of these events as we get to know our new parishioners, and they get to meet other new parishioners over good food. By the time the food has been blessed, we have made new friends, and they have learned a bit about the ministries offered at our beautiful church. I enjoy being busy, and I like to party. This ministry is a good fit for me. I have met so many nice volunteers and new parishioners that I definitely feel that I am getting more than I am giving to this ministry. A covered dish, some dish washing, it’s all good! If you are one of those people who have always wanted to be more involved, this parish has a wealth of ministries where you can help out, just ask!”

Our welcoming and friendly attitude is more evident as more and more families register with us. Pam Ferron, our Director of Parish Life & Communications, says, “Our New Parishioner Welcome Committee hosted its first dinner in December 2012 and now hosts about 5 dinners per year. There is an unbelievable energy at each and every dinner and I truly love attending them. I enjoy hearing what brought the individual or family to Sacred Heart, and more importantly, why they decided to come back and register with us. One of the most common responses is how welcoming we are. It makes me proud to be a part of our Sacred Heart family.”

Is meeting new people, forming stronger relationships, or helping out with delicious meals something that interests you? Take a look at all of our Hospitality ministries. They would love to have you join them!

To view all of our Hospitality ministries and to sign up, click here.

Journey With Us for Holy Week

Holy Week is a journey into the Heart of the Gospel. We hope that you will make room for God during your busy life as it intersects with this Holy Week. It is a matter of the heart. It is at the center of our Christian Faith.

If you’ve never attended the events of Holy Week, here’s a little bit more about them, including what you can expect. To read more about the Triduum, click here.

Holy Thursday
– Mass of the Lord’s Supper – 7:00 pm in the church

The Mass of the Lord’s Supper is celebrated after sundown on Holy Thursday.  We remember that at the Last Supper, on the night he was betrayed, Jesus offered his Body and Blood in the appearance of bread and wine and shared it with his apostles.  The Mass also commemorates the institution of three pillars of the Catholic Faith: the Sacrament of Holy Communion, the sacramental priesthood, and the Mass.

What You Can Expect:
– The priest will wash the feet of select parishioners as a memorial of Jesus’ actions with his own disciples (John 13:4-9) and as a symbolic reminder of our call to service of others as Jesus’ disciples.
– While the Mass begins with our normal ritual opening, there is no ending for this Mass.  In a way, the Holy Thursday celebration, which begins the Triduum, does not come to its conclusion until the end of the Easter Vigil.
– At the end of the liturgy, the Eucharist is reserved outside the main sanctuary of the church, the altar is stripped, and there is a bareness as we wait for what transpires on this long night when we watch and wait with Jesus.

Good Friday
– Stations of the Cross – 12:10 pm in the church
– Celebration of the Lord’s Passion – 7:00 pm in the church

No Mass is celebrated on Good Friday; instead, a special liturgy is celebrated that commemorates the Passion and Death of Jesus on the cross.  Holy Communion is distributed from hosts that were consecrated the day before at the Mass of the Lord’s Supper.

What You Can Expect:
– The central narrative of the liturgy is the reading of the Passion Narrative from the Gospel of John (John 18:1-19:42).
– A central part of the celebration is the veneration of the Cross, in which people come forward to reverence the cross upon which our Savior died.

Holy Saturday & The Easter Vigil
– 8:00 pm in the church

Just like Good Friday, there is no daily Mass offered on Holy Saturday.  The Easter Vigil Mass, which takes place after sundown on Holy Saturday, properly belongs to Easter Sunday, since liturgically, each day begins at sundown on the previous day.  It is considered the “pinnacle of all holy vigils” as it commemorates the holy night when Jesus rose from the dead.  On this night, the Church keeps vigil, waiting for the resurrection of the Lord, and celebrates the sacraments of Christian initiation for all RCIA members.

What You Can Expect:
– The vigil celebration begins in total darkness when the new Paschal Candle is solemnly processed into the church – the Light of the Risen Christ overcoming the darkness of death.
– The Elect enter the church clothed in the purple robes of our Lenten observance and without candles. After they emerge from the waters of Baptism they will receive lighted baptismal candles (“Receive the Light of Christ”) and will change into white robes symbolizing their union with the Risen Christ in the Sacrament of Baptism.
– That same evening others, already baptized in the Christian tradition, will profess their faith in union with the Catholic Church and join us and their newly baptized brothers and sisters at the table of the Eucharist.

Get Involved This Lent!

Are you looking to do more this Lent beyond giving something up? If whatever you give up makes more room in your life for God, then let’s be intentional about dedicating that space for God.

Sacred Heart has several ways you can get involved during this Lenten season, and we encourage you to join us in one or more of the suggestions below. Happy Lenten journey!


Bible Study Series: Forgiven – The Transforming Power of Confession
Join us for a 4-week, video-based study from to create “A Lent to Remember.” “Forgiven” is a beautiful presentation on the transforming power of Confession. No matter what you have done, no matter how long you have been away, Jesus is waiting for you in the Sacrament of Reconciliation!

Beginning March 14th, Bible Study will host the 4-week program. If you are unable to join Bible Study on Tuesday evenings, we still encourage you to participate. You can watch individually, as a family, or create your own small group with neighbors and friends. has all the resources you need.

Tuesdays, March 14th – April 4th
7:00 pm / San Damiano Center

Best Lent Ever
We all know the things that make us happy, but we don’t always do them. Lent is an opportunity to change that. This year we invite you to do something different.

Sign up for Best Lent Ever, a FREE, video-based email program featuring internationally acclaimed speaker and New York Times bestselling author Matthew Kelly. From Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday, Matthew will help you identify what stands between you and happiness…and what to do about it. Are you ready for your best Lent ever? Sign up!

best lent ever
Soup Suppers & Stations of the Cross
Every Friday night during Lent, come join us in the St. Francis Hall for Soup Suppers followed by Stations of the Cross. The Soup Supper begins at 6:30 pm and Stations of the Cross start at 7:30 pm in the church.

What are the Stations of the Cross?


Parking on March 5th


Please be advised that this weekend the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts will be at Curtis Hixon Park. Due to the increased traffic in and around downtown Tampa, parking may be more difficult to find.

Parking options in and around Sacred Heart can be found here.

Please note: The Parking Garage facility next door to the church will not be available for parishioners during the 7:30 am and 9:00 am Masses. It will be available for the remaining morning Masses at 10:30 am and 12:00 pm. Please let the attendant know you are going to Mass, and you will not be charged. If you plan to stay after Mass to attend the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, please pay the posted rate. Thank you.