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