Sacred Heart Battersea was first built in 1875 as a temporary corrugated Iron Chapel. Fr Patrick McKenna was the first priest at Sacred Heart but left in 1883.
There were no resident priests until the Salesians arrived in 1887. They were Fr Edward McKiernan, Fr Charles Macey and Br Rossaro.
These men had been chosen by Don Bosco to begin his work for the people of Battersea.
For the first 2 years, the Salesians had no permanent home, and lodged with a Mrs Pash at 26 Trott Street, until they were able to rent out 24 Trott Street and subsequently another house on the high street, until 8 December 1889, when they acquired 62-64 Orbel Street.
Fr McKiernan was put in charge of the church however he died 12 months later. Later, Bro Rossaro left Battersea, finding the climate and conditions uncomfortable for him.
2 Italian Salesians, Fr Bonavia and Fr Rabagliati came to replace them.
However Fr Macey, as parish priest for the next the next 14 years, bore most of the responsibility for developing the life of the parish.
In this time, there was a tremendous expansion in all parts of the parish life. There were high numbers of people attending mass, pupils in primary school and the number of young men wanting to become priests.
However the biggest development was the building of the new Sacred Heart Church to replace the old iron chapel.
The foundation stone was laid on 3 August 1892 in the presence of the Bishop.
The solemn consecration took place a year later on 14 October 1893 by Cardinal Cagliero SDB.
Since then the Salesians have had quite a strong presence in Battersea with a variety of Salesian Priests serving the Parish.
Currently the Parish is served by Father Christopher Heaps SDB, Father Peter Pagac SDB and Deacon Reverend Michael Kennedy.
The Salesians were founded by St. John Bosco in the late 19th century.
In 1845, Don Bosco opened a night school for boys in Valdocco, Turin, Italy.
A second oratory opened, 2 years later in Turin-Porta Nuova and a third at Vanchiglia another 2 years later.
Initially, as Don Bosco was the director of all 3 oratories, he had to rely on some of the older and more advanced pupils to teach and monitor the others.
This lead to many of them beginning to develop vocations for the priesthood, becoming clerics whilst still continuing to assist.
In 1852, the Church of Saint Francis de Sales was completed and consecrated. It was surrounded by large schools for the students and workshops for the boy-artisans.
This also saw a group of devoted and efficient teachers emerge from the evolution.
This pushed Don Bosco to consolidate and perpetuate his work to form a religious congregation, creating its first set of rules in 1857.
In 1858, Don Bosco went to Rome to seek advice and support from Pope Pius IX and in 1859 he summoned the first chapter of the congregation, and so began the Society of Saint Francis de Sales.
This then led onto the definitive approval by Pope Pius IX in 1874 and the Salesian Society became an Order of the Church.
The first Salesian House outside of Italy opened in Nice in 1875. In the same year, Salesian missionaries were sent to South America, and houses were founded in Argentina and Buenos Aires.
The “Salesian Bulletin” first appeared as the official newsletter of the congregation in 1877.
The Bulletin was created to inform the Catholic world of the good works undertaken by the institute. These days the Bulletin is printed in 8 different languages.
Between 1877 and 1887 houses were opened across Southern Europe and South America.
However on 31 January 1888, Don Bosco died at the age of 72.
Don Bosco was succeeded by Don Rua, who continued and developed the work of the Congregation with many more houses opening in France, Spain, Italy, Belgium, and Portugal as well as across South America.
In 1889 houses were established in the Holy land and in Africa.
The first mission in the USA was at San Francisco in 1898 and by 1911 houses had been founded in Mexico, Tunisia, Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Paraguay, South Africa, Chile, Peru, India and China.
Over the next few decades, the Salesians expanded to Australia, Japan as well as building more houses across Europe, USA, Asia and Africa.
These days, there are 15,500 Salesians situated in 131 countries. They work to help Young people all over the world in different situations through 2000 different centres.
The Salesians are led through their work by Don Ángel Fernandez Artime who is currently the Rector Major.