Service Industry

Shrine of the Sacred Heart Columbia Heights


the Rev. Stephen Carter, OFM Cap.

Mass Length

80 minutes


about 350

Sample Worshipper Dress

red blazer, white blouse, brooch, black pumps

Famous Congregants

George Meany, John Sweeney, Arthur Goldberg

Kids Making Farting Noises


Congregational Fervor

Of Sacred Heart’s six Sunday Masses, only one is in English. (Three are in Spanish, plus one each in Vietnamese and Haitian creole.) This is not to say that the parish’s Anglo constituency is dwindling: Hundreds packed Sacred Heart’s cavernous marble-and-sandstone interior for the April 30 Mass, graced by music from a quintet of flute, clarinet, piano, and two violins. Afterward, a group gathered to head down to the Darfur protest on the National Mall.

Food for the Soul

“I personally find theology deeply fascinating,” said the Rev. Matthew Palkowski, the parish assistant celebrating Mass, “but I’ve come to suspect there are people out here who…might find it a bit dumb.” So began his homily, which considered “the worker from a theological point of view.” Palkowski went on to recall his stint as a Smithsonian employee, where an electrician once showed him a particularly well-done wiring hookup. “He saw order; he saw beauty,” Palkowski said. “It taught me there’s plenty of beauty out there I can’t see.”

Food for the Body

No refreshments were available after a recent 10 a.m. Mass, but on the street outside the church, vendors sold fruits, cheeses, pupusas, tamales, plátanos fritos, and other Central American treats.

Overall Worship Power

The April 30 Mass, commemorating the May 1 feast day of St. Joseph the Worker, was celebrated in honor of laborers and the labor movement. Prayer intercessions were presented by members of three unions and D.C. Jobs for Justice. “For shop stewards, union officers, and those in management working in human resources and equal opportunity, that they may be strengthened and sustained in their struggle,” went one. “Lord, hear our prayer.”

—Mike DeBonis

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