A HISTORY OF THE CHURCH OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT BASED ON A PARISH HISTORY BY MONSIGNOR JOSEPH C. SHENROCK AND MRS. CATHERINE GILMORE

01/05/2009 19:58

 Blessed Sacrament Church and School are well known for the quality of services they have provided to the people of Trenton and surrounding communities for their seventy five year history. Strong spiritual leaders, energetic parishioners and intelligent educators have maintained the vitality of Blessed Sacrament parish and school since it began in 1912. This overview of the development of the parish shows a foundation of steady growth built by its clergy and people which under grids the parish operation today. The true celebration is in the continuity of the contributions Blessed Sacrament people have made, and will make to spiritual, educational and professional life of its community.

Father Michael H. Callahan was the first pastor assigned to Blessed Sacrament in 1912. The assignment came with a plot of ground, a rented house on Stuyvesant and Hayes Avenues and a mortgage. With the cooperation of the Trenton Public Schools, the first mass of Blessed Sacrament Parish was celebrated at the Gregory Public School on Rutherford Avenue. Masses continued at the school until a small wooden church was built on the parish land near the present rectory.

The second pastor of the parish was Father Martin F. Casey who was appointed in June of 1915. The western section of the city was growing rapidly and the needs of the parish coincided with that growth. Father Casey acquired property on Bellevue Avenue as the site for the rectory. the church-school building and the convent. The small wooden church was destroyed by a fire in 1920. Masses were again held in the Gregory School and the building of the new church-school started immediately. The combination church-school cost $125,000; was built of raven rock granite and contained fourteen classrooms.

Blessed Sacrament School opened on January 3, 1922 with an enrollment of 150 students and a staff from the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, West Chester, Pennsylvania. These

sisters stayed for five years and were succeeded by the Sisters from the Franciscan Community of Glenn Riddle who arrived on August 26, 1927. The Franciscan sisters have remained at Blessed Sacrament School and have provided the high quality of education for which the school has been known for sixty years. By 1931 the sisters moved from the top floor of the school building to their own convent, the building next to the school.

Father Casey passed away in 1933, but the expansion of the parish land and buildings which he accomplished are still serving the parishioners several decades later. Father Casey’s successor was Father Thomas A. Kearney who served until November 1941. Although Father Kearney’s health was not good during his pastorate he made many substantial improvements to the property and he cleared the parish debt.

In 1942 Father J. Arthur Hayes was appointed pastor. Father Hayes had served as associate pastor and was well known to the parishioners. His pastorate lasted for twenty four years and fulfilled the desire of the parishioners by building a new church.

The first years of Father Hayes’ leadership were war years. Blessed Sacrament had 698 men and women serving on faraway battlefields during the conflict. After the war, Father Hayes started the building project which would result in the church building which now stands at the corner of Bellevue and Hermitage Avenues. During the project, the parish was divided and nearly half of the families were assigned to the new Church of the Incarnation in Ewing Township. The parish had been divided before when Our Lady of Good Counsel parish was formed in West Trenton. Even with these divisions, Blessed Sacrament was a growing parish and the inadequacy of the church in the school was more and more evident.

Ground breaking for the new church was held on January 1, 1950. Twenty two months later Bishop George W. Ahr. S.T.D. and Father Hayes celebrated the dedication of the church with a solemn high mass. Father Hayes placed a copper box inside the cornerstone which contains newspaper descriptions of the church; a half dozen coins and a copy of the dedication ceremony. All was firmly sealed into the cornerstone of the building.

Father Hayes pursued many expansion projects for Blessed Sacrament. He repaired the parish hall; added a new pipe organ to the church; built three new classrooms, plus a teachers room; redecorated the church sanctuary and cross; and renovated the rectory. Father Hayes also celebrated the 50th anniversary of the parish in 1962. He served Blessed Sacrament until his death in 1966.

Father Eugene Davis was the next pastor who led the parish during the major changes which occurred in the church as a result of the Second Vatican Council. in addition to implementing the new directives of the Council, Father Davis renovated the sanctuary of the church and modernized the school. He also created the parish council. Father Davis was reassigned to Saint Alphonsus Parish in 1971.

His successor was Monsignor Joseph C. Shenrock who became well known as a leader and administrator who kept up the momentum of spiritual richness and good education which had become traditions at Blessed Sacrament. Before coming to Blessed Sacrament, Monsignor Shenrock had studied at the Theological Seminary in Princeton where he received his master’s degree.

In 1972 he was appointed the Director of the Commission for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs. He received a licentiate degree in theology from St. Thomas Aquinas University. He became a reverend monsignor in 1978 after studying at the North American College in Rome. Monsignor Shenrock also studied at the Ecumenical Institute in Tantur, Israel.

 Under his careful guidance the parish continued to flourish as a strong part of city life. Monsignor served and visited a number of the neighborhood hospitals and senior citizens homes. In 1976 a kindergarten was added to the school and two years later the Hughes Nursery School was instituted. In January 1987 Monsignor Shenrock accepted a position as pastor of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton parish in Whiting New Jersey. Upon his departure Monsignor expressed faith in the future of Blessed Sacrament Church and School due to the sound financial base which had been created by the parishioners.

 In January, 1987, Father Richard J. Gallagher who had been the associate pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Mount Holly, became the new pastor of Blessed Sacrament. The parishioners look forward to working with Father Gallagher and wish him warm welcome.

On this 75th Anniversary it is appropo to reflect on the past by thinking of the men and women who have shared part of their lives with others through Blessed Sacrament Parish. The parish members can take pride in the traditions of quality and spirituality which they carry on through their work in building for the future.

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