By Michael O’Connell
WORCESTER – Looking back over Blessed Sacrament Church’s 100-year history Father Chester J. Misiewicz, pastor, drew inspiration from the Olympic Games. Not from the most recent Olympiad, in London. He recalled the games the year the church was founded, in 1912, games that featured American hero Jim Thorpe and a speedy group of runners from Finland known as the “Flying Finns.”
What grace and skill to run as fast as you can – and be careful not to drop the baton,” Father Misiewicz told 260 parishioners Oct. 13 at the church’s official 100th anniversary Mass. “In a sense, a centennial celebration is about heading forward and not dropping what has been entrusted to us by our ancestors.”
Father Misiewicz was joined by a long list of church dignitaries headed by Bishop McManus in a two-part celebration of the parish’s 100th birthday. Retired Bishop Reilly, Fathers Charles Borowski, Henry A. Donoghue, Charles Dumphy, James Mazzone and Charles Monroe, Msgr. F. Stephen Pedone, and Deacons Roy Briggs and Anthony Xatse all gathered on the Blessed Sacrament’s spacious altar for the Saturday afternoon Mass. Immediately following, many parishioners and dignitaries shared cocktails and a dinner at the Hogan Campus Center at the College of the Holy Cross.
During his remarks, Bishop McManus remembered the immigrants, many of them poor, who pooled together their resources to start parishes like the Blessed Sacrament here along Pleasant Street, just west of the downtown area.
“What they had was the precious gift of faith,” the Bishop said. “They built these magnificent churches, our rectories, our convents, our schools, so the faith could be passed on.”
Father Misiewicz recalled many of the pastors and parishioners who carried their own personal batons and handed them on to the a next generation which sustained Blessed Sacrament through the years. He remembered Father William E. Ryan, the founding pastor who is buried just outside the church building’s front door. He talked about how parishioner Bill Luby – who was in the audience that Saturday – had served as an altar boy for Father Ryan’s funeral. He related how St. Charles Borromeo Parish merged into Blessed Sacrament just two years ago, and how parishioner Steve Harvey, also in the audience, was an altar boy for Father Charles M. Bergin’s first Mass at St. Charles Borromeo in the 1950s. He saluted more recent pastors, Msgrs. John P. Phelan and Edmund G. Haddad, and the many loyal parishioners who contribute year after year.
“May it always be even closer to him, in the footsteps of so many of the faithful who have journeyed before us as part of a remarkable community of faith, hope and charity,” he told the crowd.
One of those longtime parishioners, Claudyne Pearson, started attending Blessed Sacrament when she got married and relocated across town from Grafton Hill in 1953. Her two sons were baptized and confirmed at the parish, and they attended school across the street. Pearson has been a lector, a Eucharistic minister and a catechism teacher in the same building. She said she has never considered going anywhere else.
“I love all the people and the priests – every one of them,” she said, chuckling. “We’re more like a family here than just parishioners.”