Here is the history of our parish!

Stained Glass


(Designed by Father Methodius Telnack, O.C.S.O)

Over the Altar

The rose window is Jesus, the Divine Mercy, from Sister Faustina’s vision. The three right windows represent the seed, which becomes the wheat, which becomes the bread, which is the Body of Christ. The three left windows represent the water, which becomes the grape, which produces the wine, which is the Blood of Christ.

In the Clerestory
(Windows in the upper portion of the walls to supply natural light.)

The front four windows on either side of the clerestory are based on the hymn “Mary the Dawn” written by Paul Cross in 1949.

Right side (1st – 4th)

Mary the Dawn
Christ the Perfect Day
Mary the Gate
Christ the Heavenly Way

Left side (1st – 4th)


                                                                                                   Christ the Rose blood-red            Mary the Rose – tree


Christ the Have’s Rest                                                 Christ the Beacon




The back five windows on either side are based on invocations in the “Litany of the Sacred Heart, promises of the Sacred Heart.

Right side (5th – 9th)

Heart of Jesus, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom & knowledge
Heart of Jesus, desire of the everlasting hills
Heart of Jesus, formed by the Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mother
Heart of Jesus, king and center of all hearts
Heart of Jesus, in whom dwells the fullness of divinity

Left side (5th – 9th)

Heart of Jesus, pierced with a lance             Heart of Jesus, our life and reconciliation

Heart of Jesus, abode of justice and love  Heart of Jesus, tabernacle of the Most High

Heart of Jesus, fountain of life and holiness

Stained Glass Throughout the Churchfrom the original sanctuary)

The areas set crosswise to the nave in a cruciform (cross-shaped) church.

Right Transept / Day Chapel
(from left to right)









Lamb of God            Sacred Heart Nativity    Jesus w/ Children    Loaves and Fishes – Wedding Feast at Cana- Good Samaritan

Left Transept
(from left to right)



Last Supper,  Jesus Praying in the Garden, Crucifixion, Resurrection; Mary, Mother of Sorrows
Sacred Heart (visible from outside)

Gathering Area
Jesus teaching in the Temple (entry, right)
Jesus with the Children (entry, left)
Easter Lilies (either side of Columbarium door)


The current sanctuary was consecrated in November 2003 by Bishop Gossman.

This page is dedicated to the generous Parishioners of Sacred Heart who made this possible, and particularly to the Building Committee, their chairperson, Bob Kleid, and Father J. Douglas Lawson.


Pastors of Sacred Heart

Rev. Thanh N. Nguyen
June 25, 2019 - to present
Fr. Thanh was born February 12, 1958 in South Vietnam. He entered Minor Seminary before the fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975. When the American Troops withdrew from Vietnam, the North Vietnamese Communists took over the South and confiscated his seminary, causing him to return to his hometown and to work as a farmer for seven years, before he escaped with 22 other refugees in a small wooden fishing boat. Along with his compatriots, Fr. Thanh was rescued by an American cargo ship after being lost on the high sea for nine days (due to a typhoon).
After spending a year in the Philippine refugee camp, he came to the United States in 1984 and immediately went to work as a baker for Kroger grocery store in Fayetteville, NC. Fr. Thanh joined the Diocese of Raleigh and was sent to St. Joseph’s Seminary in New Orleans, Louisiana, where he received his Bachelor’s Degree in 1988. After serving his Internship Year (1989) at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church (Roanoke Rapids, NC) Father entered the Mundelein Seminary (Chicago, Illinois) and obtained his Master of Divinity Degree in 1994. In that same year, he was ordained by Bishop Gossman at St. Anthony’s Catholic Church (Southern Pines, NC).
After Fr. Thanh's priestly ordination and before coming to our parish a few days ago:
1994-1996 Parochial Vicar, St. Mary’s Parish, in Wilmington, NC
1997 Parochial Vicar, Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, Raleigh, NC
1998-2002 Pastor, St. Joseph Catholic Church, Raleigh, NC
2003-2010 Pastor, Good Shepherd Parish, Hope Mills, NC
2011-2019 Pastor, St. Matthew Parish, Durham, NC
2019-present Pastor, Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Southport, NC
~contributed by C. Urick
Rev. J. Victor Gournas
Previous Pastor
SH Pastor 2017 - 2019
Father John Victor is a native to Raleigh, NC, and is the son of Johnny and Helen Gournas (now deceased). He has two older sisters, Liz Taylor of Blue Springs, MO and Toni Davis of Raleigh, NC.
Father Vic grew up in Raleigh. He attended schools in the North Hills area, starting at EC Brooks Elementary, Carroll Junior High School and then graduated in 1977 from Sanderson High School. In 1984 he graduated from NC State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Textiles, with a minor in Quality Control. In 1987 Father Vic received his Masters of Science Degree, with a minor in Statistics, from the School of Textiles, NC State University.
After college, Fr. Vic worked in various roles within the textile apparel industry with companies such as Russell Athletic, Basset Walker Knitting (account sales to Nike Inc.) and Jasper Textiles (a golf shirt manufacturer in Whitesville NC). Father Vic resided in numerous states (compliments of these employers) such as Alabama, Virginia, New York City and lastly returning home to North Carolina. to work for the Instrumentation, Systems, and Automation Engineering Society (ISA) managing a Safety & Standards group.
Father Vic entered formation for the Diocese of Raleigh and in the Fall of 2005 he attended St. Mary's Seminary & University in Baltimore, MD until 2007. He continued his studies the following academic year at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Philadelphia, PA where in 2009 he received his Masters of Divinity Degree - Magna Cum Laude. Father John Victor Gournas was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Raleigh on May 22, 2010.
Diocese of Raleigh Priestly Assignments and Duties: 2010 - 2013 Served as Parochial Vicar, St. Paul Catholic Church, New Bern, NC 2014 - 2017 Served as Pastor, Holy Family Catholic Church, Elizabeth City, NC 2017 - present Pastor of Sacred Heart Catholic Church Southport, NC
~ contributed by C. Urick
Rev. Trent L. Watts
Previous Pastor
SH Pastor 2005 - 2017
20 Aug. 1953 - Death 17 Jan. 2021
Father Trent's family are all originally from Tabor City, Whitesville, NC area. Fr. Trent was born in Roswell, NM, where his Dad was completing his four years in the USAF. When he was 3 yrs old the family moved backed to NC (Wilmington Area).
Father graduated from UNCW with a major in Philosophy and Religion. He was employed at the Wilmington Dupont plant for 11 1/2 years. Fr. Trent's family is Baptist, as was he until 1980, when he converted to Catholicism. In 1982 he felt his calling to become a priest and entered formation at St. Mary's Seminary in Baltimore, MD.
Father Trent L Watts was ordained in 1993 as a priest for the Diocese of Raleigh. He served for six years as the Pastor of the Sacred Heart Church in Dunn, NC. The following three years as a Pastor of St. Therese in Wilson, NC.
Here at Sacred Heart, Southport, NC we were very fortunate to have Fr. Trent as our Pastor for 12 yrs as he will be missed. Father is currently Pastor at St. Therese in Wrightsville Beach, NC - update from original contribution W. Anderson 2005
Rev. J. Douglas Lawson
Previous Pastor
SH Pastor 1997 - Retired 2005
33 August 1933 - Death 14 Jan. 2022
Fr. Doug was the fourth arrival of his parents' seven children. Fr. Bob, is the eldest of the family and is known by many of our parishioners from either Mass or when he came here as the State Chaplin of the Knights of Columbus to assist Fr. Doug in establishing our chapter. Second in line is Marie, a resident of Goldsboro. His 3rd inline sister, Delores, lives in California. John is the 5th child who was a professor at Clemson. Brother Tom was a professor at UNC-Greensville until his death 1985. The youngest child, Mark, was a Nurse-Anesthetist. The very proud father was known to have said, "I have three sons who can put people to sleep- two priests and a nurse-anesthetist!"
Father Doug was born in Durham, NC, on August 31, 1933, to the late Gladys (Wilson) Lawson and the late Thomas J. Lawson. Father Doug was predeceased by his siblings, his brothers, Father Robert Lawson (a priest of the Diocese of Raleigh) and Dr. Thomas Lawson, and his sister, Mrs. Marie Jernigan. Father Doug is survived by his sister, Mrs. Dolores Harris; his brothers, Mr. John Lawson and Mr. Mark Lawson; and his nephew, Mr. Sam Jernigan, III. Father Doug graduated from Immaculate Conception Catholic School in Durham and, after discerning a vocation to the priesthood, entered the Franciscan Friars Conventual Novitiate and attended Saint Francis Seminary (High School) in Staten Island, NY, and Saint Anthony on the Hudson Seminary (College and Theology) in Rensselaer, NY. Father Doug was ordained to the priesthood for the Franciscans on May 26, 1962, at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany, NY, by the Most Reverend William A. Scully, Bishop of Albany. Additionally, Father Doug completed a Masters in Education at Iona College in New Rochelle, NY. For the Franciscans, Father Doug served as a missionary in Brazil; as assistant dean at Saint Francis Seminary in Staten Island, NY; as Mission Procurator; as a hospital chaplain; as vicar provincial and as a priest chaplain in the United States Army. During an assignment at Hancock Air Force Base near Syracuse as the civilian chaplain, he enlisted in the Army. His first tour of active duty of six years was spent at Fort Benning, GA, Korea and Germany. After this tour of duty, he was moved to Fort Hamilton in Brooklvn, NY, and while there was elected vicar provincial of the Franciscan Province and also secretary, positions he held for six years. During this time, he resigned from active duty with the Army but remained in the reserves. He later returned to active duty, serving at Fort Jackson, SC, as well as tours in Turkey and Germany. He returned to the US and reported to Fort Campbell, KY, where after one year, he retired from the Army after 21 years of service. He was assigned as pastor of Infant of Prague Church in Jacksonville, NC, where he remained for two years. At this time, he requested permission from the Vatican to leave the Franciscan Order so that he could join the Diocese of Raleigh and return to his NC roots. Incardinated as a priest of the Diocese of Raleigh in December 1996, Father Doug then continued to serve in priestly ministry as parochial vicar at Saint Michael the Archangel Parish in Cary; as administrator of Saint Catherine of Siena Parish in Wake Forest; and as pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Southport. He was warmly welcomed at Sacred Heart, where parishioners felt “blessed to have a preacher/teacher with his training, education and wide experiences who is also compassionate, caring and fun to be around,” as a bulletin article from his arrival to the parish explained. The parish also noted that Father Doug was a pinochle player of some renown. He had learned the game from a German priest and later taught seminarians how to play so that he had someone to play cards with during his seminary years. Father Doug retired from active priestly ministry in July 2004 and, until recently, continued to serve, assisting in priestly ministry throughout the Cape Fear Deanery and across the Diocese of Raleigh. * from the Diocese of Raleigh notice
Rev. Joseph G. Vetter
Previous Pastor
SH Pastor 1992-1997
1 Feb. 1947 - Death 7 May 2018
Fr. Joseph G. Vetter was born in Greensboro, NC to the late Regina Delores (Murray) Vetter and Raymond Edward Vetter of Graham, NC. Fr. Vetter was proceeded in death by his sister, Anne Marie Vetter of Durham. He is survived by his brother, David R. Vetter of Graham and his sister Rita V. Scearce (Jerry) of Greensboro.
Fr. Vetter entered into studies and preistly formation for the Diocese of Raleigh at the Ponifical College Josephinum in Columbus, Ohio. Father Joseph G. Vetter was ordained to the Priesthood on March 26, 1973 at the Annunciation Catholic Church in Havelock, NC by the Most Reverend S. Waters, the third Bishop of Raleigh.
Rev. G. John Carcich
Previous Pastor
SH Pastor 1987-1992
6 Aug 1919 Italy Death 23 Apr 2002 (aged 82)
Fr. G. John Carcich, ordained in 1945 in Rome, completed his philosophy and Theology during the six years o WWII at the world renowned Jesuit staffed Gregorian University in Rome.
Fr. John volunteered to be Pastor in 1987, after building the first Catholic Church in Hope MIlls, NC. He will continue to reside in the Southport area after his retirement and be available for weekend help in the parishes of the diocese.
Rev Frank Moeslein
Previous Pastor
Bishop George E. Lynch
Previous Pastor


History of Our Parish

A Brief History of Sacred Heart Catholic Church

Catholicism first came to the Cape Fear Region nearly 500 years ago, when a Spanish expedition’s flagship sank in the Cape Fear River.  No lives were lost and masses were offered in thanksgiving.

The first formal Catholic presence in the region was 1820 when an Irish immigrant, Bishop England, became Vicar of Charleston, SC.  He instituted missionary services to Ft. Johnston and Caswell.  Father Murphy was appointed (several years later) to Fayettsville & had jurisdiction over all of Eastern NC. He moved to Wilmington in 1846 and begun a regular schedule of services until his death in 1862. Other Priests followed & ministered to our own forts and Smith Island (known as Bald Head Island today).

For many years years thereafter Mass was celebrated in the homes of Catholic families in the area. In the 1930s, Sacred Heart Mission was established.  Mass was celebrated in the Civilian Conservation Corps Camp in Southport and then later in the “blue room” upstairs at Southport City Hall (now Franklin Square Art Gallery).

Sacred Heart Church was dedicated in 1941 after the construction on the site (donated by Mr. James “Gus” McNeil) located on the corner of Caswell & West Streets.

Sometime in 1962 the Parish Hall was built and we acquired our very first full-time pastor, Father Kendall.

At this time the parish consisted of approximately 20 families.

March 17, 1991 the original church on Dosher CutOff  Rd was dedicated, at which time there were approximately 300 families in membership.  ~ exerts taken from Sandy (Potter) Spencer’s account in  2003.

Our current church was dedicated in the fourth quarter of 2003, approximately  18 months after the groundbreaking ceremony in April 2002.   Those parishioners that were here during this period of expansion would gladly show you which part of the church is that of the original 1991 structure  from the outside or from the inside.  The original 1991 structure is what is now the all purpose room area and more.  Our 2003 church is very distinguishable particularly from the inside, with its beautiful beamed wooden ceiling to the incredible statues and stain glass.  We remind ourselves that the church is the people of whom have gathered together in worship. Come worship with us!


  Columbarium & Memorial Garden

The Columbarium and Garden are outside the Church, through a door on the left side of the Gathering area. A statue of an Angel watches over its four vaults, with a total of 250 niches, each niche is able to hold two urns.

Statue of the Madonna Della Strada (Our Lady of the Way)

(in the courtyard at the rear of the Church, from Italy by Ferruzzi)

Whoever Welcomes One Such Child in My Name Welcomes Me Mary Mother of God, Protect the Unborn 
Dedicated in Loving Memory of the Unborn
Sacred Heart of Southport Knights of Columbus Council #12537

Statues in the Day Chapel

 Blessed Mary Mother of Jesus


The Sacred Heart of Jesus

These Statues were initially placed in the original Catholic Church located in downtown Southport.

Stations of the Cross in the Day Chapel


Statues in the Sanctuary

(Hand-carved in Italy from lindenwood)

St. Joseph (front left)
St. Joseph was the husband of Mary and the foster father of Jesus. He was a carpenter who, despite his humble means, was a descendant of David, the greatest king of Israel.

St. Isaac Jogues (left side front)
St. Jogues was one of the heroic Jesuit missionaries canonized as the Martyrs of North America in 1930. From 1636 he worked successfully with the Hurons in Quebec. In 1642 he was imprisoned and tortured for a year by the Iroquois, then captured by the Mohawks & beheaded in 1646.
(Source: The Wisdom of the Saints—Biographical Notes)

St. Kateri Tekakwitha (left side back)
Kateri was born in 1656 of an Algonquin mother and a Mohawk chief in the Mohawk village of Canaouaga (now Auriesville) in upstate New York.
At age 19, she converted to Catholicism, taking a vow of chastity and pledging to marry only Jesus Christ. Her decision was very unpopular and some of her neighbors started rumors of sorcery. To avoid persecution, she traveled to the Mission of St. Francis Xavier, a settlement of Christian Indians in Canada. While there, Kateri taught prayers to children and worked with the elderly and sick. She was known for her great devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Cross of Christ. She died of smallpox on April 17, 1680, at age 24. She became the first Native American Saint in the United Stated on October 21, 2012.
(Source: http://www.katerishrine.com/kateri.html)

The Virgin Mary Mother of Jesus (front right)

St. Francis of Assisi (right side front)
The most universally known and beloved of all saints, Francis was born to a wealthy silk merchant. He spent his youth in pursuit of pleasure and glory in war and had an idealized, chivalric image. He was captured in battle, imprisoned and suffered a serous illness which changed his temperament. He had compelling visions of Christ and began to devote his life to serving the sick and poor. After a break from his father, Francis turned to a life of absolute poverty and simplicity, wandering through the world calling all to the practice of charity and penance. In 1224 he received the stigmata, the five wounds of the crucified Christ.
(Source: The Wisdom of the Saints—Biographical Notes)

Sacred Heart of Jesus (right side back)