In 1890, a group of men of German descent petitioned Bishop Mullen to establish a new congregation in southwest Erie. At this time, the population of Erie was 37,000 but it balanced to 60,000 due largely to the flow of German immigrants mostly from southern Germany and, therefore, Catholic. Shortly after his ordination, the Reverend Francis J. Bender was appointed the founding pastor in 1894. He would spend his entire priesthood as pastor at Sacred Heart Parish.
On May 14, 1899, a new church was dedicated by Bishop John E. Fitzmaurice. The first school was a former public school that was purchased by Father Bender for $200.00 and moved to 25th and Plum Streets. In the summer of 1913, the former public school was remodeled into a convent for the Sisters of St. Joseph. In its place was constructed a modern eight room school for $28,000! Father Bender moved into a new rectory in April, 1905. With the phenomenal growth of the parish, the church (1920) was enlarged and four classrooms added to the school in 1924.
However, it remained for Monsignor Bender’s successor, Monsignor Vitus J. Reiser to construct the present church and rectory in the early 1950’s. He broke ground for his last building project which included eight new classrooms and a youth center on January 1, 1960. Monsignor Reiser credited his success at the parish to his deep devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
With the passing of Monsignor Reiser on April 20, 1967, he was followed by the Reverend Joseph J. Grode who upgraded the sanctuary of the church according to what was perceived to be the directives of Vatican II.