A Brief History of the Parish of the Blessed Sacrament
For many years, the residents of Hazel Park travelled each Sunday to St. John’s or Sacred Heart Church to keep their faith. The education of the small community’s children was left in the care of Ames Public School. Not content with the role of commuting Catholics, the women of Hazel Park spearheaded a drive to bring about the establishment of a Catholic parish in the Hazel Park area.
Twenty six families met to establish a church in the area
First project was the recruitment of new members
Archbishop John Ireland and Bishop John J. Lawler, laid the plans for the new parish
The church was in a fifteen dollar a month small frame building
Fr. William Finley was appointed as pastor and celebrated the first Mass in the first constructed church with a seating capacity of 432 persons
School opened with 170 students
It was staffed by four Sisters of St. Joseph
Fr. Finley moved into the new church rectory
Parish contributing membership was up to 166
Depression started- the lean years
Fund raising activities included: an annual homecoming carnival, games of pool and bowling in the church basement
A bigger church was needed. WWII stopped the construction of a new church
The cornerstone for the new church was laid and blessed
Seating capacity was for 650 people.
St. Thomas the Apostle was established as a subdivision of Blessed Sacrament parish
Expansion of the school building to accommodate over 600 students
Property for a convent was purchased and the sisters moved into their new home in 1963
School was completely renovated, church & school connected, science lab & library added
Casavant Pipe organ was dedicated
The back altar was removed and the tabernacle was repositioned from behind the priest
Deacon seminarians were assigned to Blessed Sacrament
1980’s – 1990’s
The convent and its grounds were sold
The hand carved altar was donated and the tabernacle was returned to the front of the church below the crucifix
Flag pole & monument were constructed and dedicated to veterans from the parish
Perpetual Adoration was instituted in 2000 on the 1st weekend of Lent and opened for 24 hrs. a day adoration
School enrolment markedly declined K-8. After 87 years, the school closed in June 2005. The school building was leased to Caesar Chavez Academy in the fall.
The Karen community joined Blessed Sacrament parish from 2011 until the church closing in Jan 2015. ( Karen people are refugees from Burma. 15% of the Karen are Christians)
Throughout the years, the faith community of Blessed Sacrament served the parish through various ministries. e.g., Holy Name Society, Altar and Rosary Society later known as Council of Catholic Women, Pastoral Council, Trustees, Finance, Liturgy/Music, Faith Formation, Education, Outreach, Hospitality, Knights of Columbus and parishioners who provided “free” maintenance work known as the FREEBE Construction Company.
A Brief History of the Parish of St Thomas the Apostle
Like many communities in the early 1950’s, the east side of St. Paul and its neighboring suburbs experienced a building boom. It soon became apparent that a new Catholic church was needed to relieve the crowded conditions of Blessed Sacrament Church and surrounding parishes. Catholic residents of the neighborhood met to consider and pray what their new church would be like.
Archbishop Murray requested Fr. Thomas Robertson, who was just discharged from the army, to undertake the founding of a new parish which was to be a sub-division of the Blessed Sacrament Parish.
The basement of Frank Kielsa’s hardware store on Stillwater Ave served as the temporary church. The first Mass was held on October 17th.
July 10th, groundbreaking for the combined church and school building overlooking Beaver Lake.
The first Mass in the new church was held on Feb 5th.
Church services were held on the lower floor and the school occupied classrooms on the upper floor.
The school opened its doors on Sept 3rd and was staffed by the Sisters of the Order of the Servants of Mary from WI.
Lay teachers were added to the staff a year later.
1960 – 1964
The nuns moved into the new convent in the fall of 1961.
Student body reached 340 students in 1962. Staff included 4 nuns and 3 lay teachers.
The new church building to accommodate the growing parish was completed in 1964.
The rectory was built.
Due to falling enrollment the school closed in June. The building was leased to various community organizations for several years and in 1999 the school building and convent were sold to ACORN Language Academy.
There was a growing need for newer, more efficient facilities.
The rectory was sold in 1999 and the construction of the addition to the church which now houses all the offices, education wing and the gathering area begun.
The newly remodeled church and combined administrative and educational facilities were dedicated on August 27th.
Over the years, the St. Thomas the Apostle community of faith through the various ministries such as Pastoral Council, Trustees, Finance, Men’s Club, Women’s Club, Grounds & Maintenance, Adult & Youth Faith Formation, Liturgy/ Music, Outreach, Hospitality, Parish Nurse, Meditation Garden etc. has supported the parish in its growth, both financially and spiritually.