The Early Years
1910, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Parish was established to
service the growing Catholic population of Westfield. An offspring
of St. Mary's Parish, it was placed in the northern section of Westfield,
with the Westfield River providing a natural dividing line for the
parish boundary. On May 29, 1910, the first Mass of the Parish was
celebrated on the second floor of what is now the True Value Hardware
Store on North Elm Street.
first church structure was originally erected at the corner of
North Elm and Princeton Streets. Excavation for the church began
on August 15, 1910. The church was built in the style of Gothic
architecture at a cost of $22,000. Its exterior dimensions are 142
feet in length and 60 feet in width. The interior measures 125 feet
long by 45 feet wide and has a seating capacity of 545 persons.
Among the many beautiful features of the church are the five large
Tiffany stained glass windows on each side of it. Construction of
the church was swift, and seven months later on Passion Sunday,
April 2, 1911, the first Mass was celebrated by Reverend Michael
J. Ahearn, Pastor. The formal dedication of the church occurred
on July 2, 1911, with Bishop Thomas R. Beaven officiating.
the needs of the parish grew, an opportunity to acquire a new site
for the church became a reality, when, in 1920, the home and surrounding
property of Dr. James B. Atwater was purchased. At that time, the
church was physically moved from Princeton Street to its present
location on the corner of Union and North Elm Streets. The move
was a noteworthy event, drawing crowds of spectators, as horses
drew the structure one-quarter mile to its new site. Recently, when
installing gas tanks on Princeton Street, parts of the church's
original foundation were uncovered.
Atwater's former home became the new rectory. This beautiful home
is of historical value to the City of Westfield, as it contains
examples of marble which was quarried in Westfield. The outside
walls of the rectory were constructed of this marble, as well as
the interior decorations, which are of polished serpentine black
and green marble. Three of the fireplaces in the house are also
embellished with it.
The Parish Center
growth of the northern section of Westfield began to quickly expand
the parish community, and with it, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament
Parish began to experience a need for a Parish Center. Four parcels
of land which were acquired from the Tarala, Roselli, Baginski,
and Nadolski families were purchased in March of 1960. These nine
acres of land provided the area to construct a modern facility for
Catholic instruction for the youth of the parish. Under the leadership
of Reverend Timothy O'Connor, who became Pastor in 1953, the plans
for the Center came to fruition when the groundbreaking occurred
in August of 1961, exactly 51 years after the groundbreaking for
Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Church. The Center was dedicated
by Bishop Christopher J. Weldon on June 18, 1962.
the exterior of the church was wood shingled and stained dark green.
Two sets of stained glass windows were located above the front door
of the church. In the early 1980's, the exterior was remodeled,
and white vinyl siding was added to create a more modern appearance.
The belfry above the main entrance of the church is 90 feet high
and is surmounted by a gold cross. The stained glass windows above
the front door were eliminated during the renovation project. As
in the original design of the church, there were five entrances
to the church. The main entrance of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament
Church that originally faced Princeton Street, then faced Union Street.
Francis X. Sullivan coordinated the interior church renovation project
in February of 1992. More than $13,000 in donations from parishioners
resulted in an interior paint job for the church as well as a new
carved wooden pulpit and coordinating altar, sanctuary, aluminum
kneelers with blue cushions, and contemporary candle racks. With
contributions from other sources - such as money left to the church
by its former Pastor, Fr. Edward Kroyak - the church was also able
to install new bells and chimes.
original church organ, which was built by the Westfield Pipe Organ
Company, had fallen into disrepair and the cost of needed repairs
was prohibitive. While the interior renovations were underway in
February of 1992, the Holy Name Society made arrangements to purchase
a Thomas Organ from a parishioner that would be used for all services
until enough money could be saved to purchase a new one. In August
of 1996, Rev. Francis X. Sullivan and Melanie S. Peetz reviewed
several replacement options and ultimately selected the Allen Digital
Organ built by the Allen Organ Company in Macungie, PA. After two
months of additional renovations to the choir loft, the new organ
was installed in November of 1996.
The Church is Sold
In an October 1997 letter, Pastor, Fr. Francis X. Sullivan informed parishioners that the state planned to take the church property by eminent domain. But it was not until three years later in August of 2000, that Fr. Hugh F. Crean informed parishioners that after ninety years at its present location, their historic spiritual home would be demolished to make way for the new Great River Bridge.
Closing the Former Church - June 11 - 18, 2005
Just nine months after becoming pastor, Fr. Daniel S. Pacholec received word from city officials that the parish would have to vacate the church by June 1st. Closing activities took place in June 2005 from the 11th through the 18th. The weeklong festivities were designed to help bring the whole parish together. Families were encouraged to create a ceramic tile as a remembrance of the former church. Bricks from the foundation of the former church, made by Westfield Brick Company, were given to parishioners. Then, on Sunday, the 12th, a Forty Hour devotion began with the recitation of the Divine Mercy Chaplet at 7 P.M. On Tuesday, June 14th, parishioners gathered in the former church for the 6:00 p.m. closing Mass, celebrated with the Most Reverend Timothy McDonnell, eighth Bishop of the Diocese of Springfield.
Departure Procession - "As the Spirit Moves Us...."
On Saturday, June 18, 2005, exactly forty-three years after the Parish Center was dedicated, parisioners left the old church for the last time, and solemnly processed along the one-and-a-half mile route to the Parish Center. The procession was organized by Sr. Jean Frisk, a Schoenstatt sister assigned to the parish at that time.
More than 400 parishioners gathered and carried sacred items, while Fr. Pacholec, Fr. Michael Lillpopp, and Deacon Paul Federici, transferred the Eucharist, from the old church to the repository in the Daily Mass Chapel at the Parish Center, stopping at three altars along the route.
Fr. Pacholec described the procession as being the highlight of his priestly ministry. "It was an extremely spiritual experience as we carried the Lord to our new home," he said. "We probably have never been more 'a church,' the body of Chirist, than on that morning when we left the physical church and walked together in faith."
He added that to see the young and not so young in golf carts, strollers and wagons making their way along North Elm Streeet, brought tears to his eyes. This sentiment was shared by all who made the historic journey, leaving the old church behind. Perhaps this was much like those early parisioners in 1910, which also set out to build a new house of worship and prayer.
Twilight Vigil and Groundbreaking Mass
On Saturday August 11, 2007, two years after the closing Mass at the former church, an 80 foot tent was erected in the parking lot on parish grounds on Holyoke Road on the site where the church would be built. The first event of this historic weekend began on Satruday evening with a Twilight Vigil and Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament with Adoration throughout the historical night. The theme for the groundbreaking was "Standing on Holy Ground."
The following morning, Sunday August 12, 2007, the groundbreaking Mass for the New Church was celebrated. Over 750 people attended the sole Mass celebrated that weekend. The Most Reverend Timothy A. McDonnell, Bishop of Springfield officiated at the service where soil from the old church grounds was mixed with soil at the new location, symbolically connecting the old and the new. Children from the parish performed songs from their Vacation Bible Camp and assisted in the groundbreaking with their own shovels and hardhats.
Church Dedication - October 11, 2009
The Rite of Dedication Mass has been described as the most beautiful ceremony in the treasury of liturgies in the Roman Catholic Church. Over the past five years, since its conception and design and through the thousands of hours of labor, wood, nails, brick and mortar have been transformed into our new church building. The Rite of Dedication transformed the building into a holy place of worship. 19
Today, the spirit of the first parishioners of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Parish grows. It continues to foster sharing, spiritual growth, and a sense of community which has always been a hallmark of this parish. It encourages innovative ideas in Religious Education and experiences in the Catholic Faith.