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Change in Leadership

Shortly after the completion of the new church, Bishop McGuinness sent Sacred Heart's first Assistant Pastor, Father James Tevlin.  Father Tevlin was ordained by the Most Rev. Francis J. Spellman, Archbishop of New York, at St. Patrick's Cathedral on June 7, 1941 and was added to the priests serving the Diocese of Raleigh.  His first assignment was as assistant to Father William Regnat. Father Regnat was at first hesitant as to receiving an assistant, writing to Bishop McGuinness:


"Father Tevlin will be most welcome, although we Salisberians can't quite see what he will do after he gets here. Salisbury itself hardly keeps one man busy with work. In Kannapolis there are only 2 Catholics, in Mooresville 1, in Lexington 15, 3 families, all of whom have cars and come to Mass here regularly. This would give Father Tevlin precious little work or financial support." 

Bishop McGuinness responded:

"It gives me pleasure to tell you I am appointing Father Tevlin as your assistant and I sincerely hope he will be given an opportunity to look after the mission of Kannapolis. I feel, because of the necessity of your saying two Masses at Salisbury, that territory has not been fully taken care of. Father Tevlin will report on Saturday, July 5." 

Father Tevlin did not remain long. On February 21, 1942 it was announced that Father Tevlin would be appointed assistant at St. Mary's Church in Wilmington, N.C.

However, this was not the only change coming to Sacred Heart. At the same time, Father William Regnat was leaving Sacred Heart. He was to be named Prior of the Benedictine Community in Richmond, V.A. As a result, Father Cletus J. Helfrich, was appointed as the new pastor of Sacred Heart in February of 1942. Father Helfrich was the first, non-Benedictine priest Sacred Heart had ever had as their pastor. Little did Father Helfrich know at the time, but he would go on to remain at Sacred Heart for 28 year, becoming the longest standing pastor Sacred Heart had up to this point, or has had since.  

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Rev. James Tevlin

Father Cletus Helfrich

(This entire section has been quoted from Souvenir of Silver Jubilee: Reverend Cletus Joseph Helfrich. You can find the original source in the photos below.)

Father Helfrich was born in York, PA, to Charles Joseph and Mary Eilen Eyster Helfrich. After attending the parochial school at Immaculate Conception Church, he continued his studies at St. Vincent's Preparatory School at Latrobe, PA from 1911 to 1915. College subjects were perused at Mount St. Mary's College, in Emmitsburg, MD. Cletus gradated, with merits, in 1920 with his Bachelor of Arts Degree. His seminary studies were made under the guiding hands of the Benedictine Fathers at St. Vincent's Seminary, in Latrobe from 1920 to 1924. Father Helfrich was ordained on June 14, 1924 by the Most Reverend Philip R. McDevitt in St. Patrick's Cathedral in Harrisburg, PA. His first Mass was said on June 15th in Immaculate Conception Church, where he had been baptized and attended school.

His first assignment was at St. Mary's Church in McSherrystown, PA. Being young and athletic he was placed in charge of the parish baseball team, which showed great possibilities for future diamond stardom. In the fall, Father was appointed as the second assistant to St. Anthony's parish in Lancaster, PA. Here, he organized the dramatic club, directing and producing shows, where were great success. However, this assignment was not long lived as he was then transferred to Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church, in Mount Carmel, PA. Father Helfrich stayed here for five and a half years serving under the Rt. Rev. Aloysisus Meuwese, the Vicar General for the Diocese of Harrisburg. Father Helfrich learned a lot under the tutorage of Monsignor Meuwese especially that of precision and fidelity, promptness and dependability, that he later displayed throughout his life. Again at Mount Carmel, Father Helfrich took over the Dramatic Club, sponsoring plays among the children of the parochial school. Through his productions, he was able to give Monsignor nearly a thousand dollars. His dramatic work with the children of the parochial school not only developed the children in the art of expression and public speaking but netted a profit through seven productions.


During 1930, Father Helfrich made an extensive tour abroad, visiting Rome, and Western Europe, including England and Ireland. On his return, he was assigned to St. Mary's parish in Lebanon, PA. He was to take on the role of assistant as well as the principal of the newly established Lebanon Catholic High School. The school was a central High School admitting students from three city parishes. In it's first year it had a registration of about 150  students in Freshman, Sophomore, and Junior years. The Senior Class was added the second year. During his time there, Father Helfrich taught religion, latin, dramatics and still fond time for supervision and organizational work. His parochial work was a side hobby consuming his weekend ends and evenings. In dramatics with the high school, Father successfully directed and produced seven plays and netted over two thousand dollars. But this was only one part of school activity to attract his attention. He was also interested in organizing school sports and athletics, arranging competition with county high schools. With this in mind he was the first coach of boys basket ball team for one year. Then turning over the boys to a civilian coach he concentrated on basket ball for the girls, taking over the coaching for them and becoming city referee for all girls games. Physical culture programs were introduced into the school for all grades. In parochial athletics Father was Chairman of the St. Mary's Boys Club Bowling League, and himself a member of the St. Mary's Big Five who upheld the club of foreign alleys.

In February of 1934, Father Helfrich was transferred to Sts. Cyril and Methodius parish as pastor, while maintaining his role as principal for the remainder of the semester. At that time, the school had increased its enrollment to nearly two hundred students. After being relieved of his educational responsibilities he devoted his entire time to he parochial obligations. The new assignment meant study in a foreign language since the congregational was National in its origin. It was composed of three hundred families, largely Slovak, interspersed with Pole, Hungarians, Bohemians and Croatians. In the face of many oppositions he struggled with these new duties. For nearly four years the only English he spoke in his church was the Sunday Sermons, everything else was in Slovak. During those days his great interest was confined with the young people of his parish. With them Father Helfirch saw wonderful opportunities and possibilities for the future. By laboring long and arduously with these young folk in helping them to master English diction, he was able to stage very realistically and very successfully for three successive years a Passion Play which he himself had written. But his activities were suddenly ended when in late 1937 he wavered under the strain.

Early in 1938 Father Helfrich came to the "Land of the Long Leaf Pine" seeking to regain health and stamina. Pinehurst was considered an excellent place where this could be done, and it proved a haven of rest during those first winter months in North Carolina, basking in the pure pine-scented air and the warmth of a Southern sun. He asked the Most Rev. Eugene J. McGuinness, Bishop of Raleigh, to permit him to take light work here to help fully recover lost energy.  Consequently, Bishop McGuinness used him as a relief priest throughout the Diocese. This took him to Hamlet, West Asheville, Waynesville, Burlington, Greensboro, and Mt. Airy. In 1939 Bishop McGuinnes appointed him pastor of St. Paul's Church, Henderson. In Fall of 1940 Bishop McGuinness obtained excardination papers from the Diocese of Harrisburg and affiliated him officially with Raleigh.

On January 23rd, 1942, Father Helfrich received a new appointment. By this appointment a new field of endeavor opened itself to him. This assignment at the time was considered very important and very difficult. The Diocese of Raleigh had recently acquired new possessions and new territory which for many years the Benedictine Fathers of Belmont Abbey maintained and operated. It was to one of these newly adopted parishes, the Sacred Heart parish in Salisbury, that Father Hefrich was appointed. A building program had not been fully completed when the new pastor arrived February 1st. That parish was burdened with debts and mountains of difficulties both of which Father Cletus had to surmount. But these did not disturb him. He was used to such assignments. All his life he had difficult appointments. This new congregations, with is Mission at Kannapolis, number approximately two hundred and fifty souls. Every last one of them, including every citizen of Salisbury, mourned the departure of their beloved pastor, Father William Regnat, O.S.B. who served them with a spirit of fidelity and liberality, with sincerity and friendliness, for twenty years during which time he had weaned his way into the hearts and lives of all. A canonical installation ceremony, officially inducting the new pastor, was help February 10th, by the Rt. Rev. Arthur Freeman, Vicar General.

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Cletus Helfrich, age 14

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Rev. Cletus Helfrich, 

Principal of Lebanon Catholic High School

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Rev. Cletus Helfrich

Rev. Cletus Helfrich Cast of Play SEALED LIP directed and produced by Father Helfrich Apri

Cast of Play: "Sealed Lips"

Directed and Produced by Father Helfrich

April 28, 1949

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Rev. Cletus Helfrich, January 1954

Bishop Vincent Waters, Third Bishop of Raleigh

On March 31, of 1945, it was announced that the Rev. Vincent Stanislaus Walters, Vice-Officialis of the Diocese of Richmond was to be ordained as the Bishop of Raleigh. The see was made vacant by the appointment of the Most Rev. Eugene McGuinness as Coadjutor Bishop of Oklahoma City and Tulsa. At this point, the Diocese embraced the entire state of North Carolina, with the exception of Gaston County, which the Diocesan territory of the Abbatio Nullis of Belmont Abbey. The Diocese of Raleigh has made phenomenal progress in the first twenty years of its existence, many new church had been erected, new schools opened, and there had been a stead and substantial increase in the number of Diocesan priests, as well as an increase in the number of priests of Religious Orders serving in the Diocese. The Diocese covered approximately 52,000 square miles with a Catholic population of 14,000.

Bishop Vincent Waters

Bishop Vincent Waters

Third Bishop of the Diocese of Raleigh

Father Cletus

Immediately Father Cletus (as the flock soon called him) put his shoulder to the task of completing the new church and rectory and paying off its debts, which was twenty-six thousand and five hundred dollars, a mighty big bite for a little parish. A roof was put on the rectory and its second floor completed, baldacchinos were placed over all three altars in the church, stained glass windows were installed to lend beauty and charm and subdued luster to its interior, roof repairs and draining system accomplish, light standards and new entrance way in front of the church, a new Hammond Electric Organ replaced the old reed organ in the choir loft, interior decoration of church and statuary, and when all these items were added up over few years they totaled ten thousand dollars in improvements. But all this was paid while reducing and liquidating the entire debt. All within five and a half years. Where Father Cletus got it all from no one knows. Perhaps from ancestral thrift or secret economy. But it stands as an accomplished fact to the surprise of all.

Some of the early accomplishments of Father Helfrich after being installed as pastor.

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By the end of 1953 the financial report stated that their income between the church and the school was just over $22,000. As Father Helfrich said in his financial report note, "We wish to thank all who helped in making this splendid showing. Some could have done better. We hope they do in 1954. Use your envelopes faithfully." The parish raised about the same amount through 1954 and Father had these words for his parish on January 2, 1955, "Giving to your parish is not CHARITY but an OBLIGATION." Father was not one to waste words and these reminders to his parish helped him to always have sufficient funds for the improvements made toward the parish.

For the rest of the decade Father Helfrich continued to serve the faithful at Sacred Heart. Some of the highlights include: offering the closing prayer at the dedication of the new VA Hospital in 1953, dedicating a Marian Shrine at the school in 1954, and initiating a new court of Catholic Daughters of America in 1957. The new court of the Catholic Daughters was called Court Sacred Heart No. 1759 and was the eleventh in the state of North Carolina at the time. The first installed Grand Regent was Mrs. James Powell. Mrs. Albert Boulus was the first Vice Grand Regent and Rev. Helfrich served as the first chaplain.

On November 19, 1957, Father Helfrich had the honor of celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Dedication of Sacred Heart as a parish. The festivities lasted several days including a Mass being offered for deceased pastors on the 17th, a High Mass offered for parishioners and a Confirmation Mass for 60 children and adults on the 18th, with a jubilee dinner being held that evening, and a Solemn Pontifical Mass of Thanksgiving being offered on the 19th. His Excellency, the Most Rev. Vincent Waters, was the celebrant of both the Confirmation Mass and the Solemn Pontifical Mass. There were about 100 other priests from throughout the state who were in attendance on the 19th including Father Roueche who was ordained at Sacred Heart in 1933. Mrs. Lucien Harris was the honored guest at the jubilee dinner as the only living person who attended the first dedication in 1882.

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To be Continued....

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