In 1920 the expansion of the city of Savannah dictated the foundation of what is now Blessed Sacrament Parish. The Most Rev. Benjamin J. Keiley, 7th Bishop of Savannah, named a young native Savannah priest, Father Daniel J. McCarthy, pastor. Boundaries were set, property purchased, and building began at 44th Street and Waters Avenue.
In 1920 there were only one hundred Catholics within the territorial limits of the parish, and very little funds were available for the work to be done. The Women’s Auxiliary of Blessed Sacrament Parish was formed on March 18, 1920, and they played a big part in obtaining funds for the construction of the church. The original church building was a white wooden frame structure, seating 200 people, and was formally dedicated on July 10, 1921, although the first Mass had been celebrated in the church on May 21, 1921.
A Sunday school was established in the autumn of 1922, with classes held in the church following one of the Sunday Masses. Teachers were volunteers from the Women’s Auxiliary.
In 1928 Father Dan was transferred to Holy Family Church in Columbus. Rev. Timothy A. Foley succeeded him. In his first year at Blessed Sacrament, Father Foley purchased the property west of the church for the erection of a Sunday School building. Father Foley served as pastor until 1932, when Rev. Joseph R. Smith succeeded him. Father Smith served until 1936, followed by Rev. Joseph G. Cassidy. Father Cassidy was assigned to the Georgia Missions in 1938 as Georgia’s first “Trailer Priest,” and Rev. James Conlin succeeded him.
In 1939, a school was established under the direction of Father Conlin, and the parish hall was converted into three classrooms. Sister Stella Maris served as principal. Sixty-eight students were enrolled.
The parish had long outgrown its small church, and when it reached 1600 members, plans for a new church and a school building could no longer be delayed. A design for one building to accommodate both a school and interim church was approved. Eight classrooms would occupy the upper floor and the church the lower floor, which would be converted into additional classrooms when the permanent church was constructed later. In July 1941 the little wooden church was placed on rollers and moved to the adjoining lot on 44th Street, where religious services continued to be held until the completion of a new church-school. It was then converted into a parish auditorium, and subsequently demolished to make room for the school addition.
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Construction of the combination church and school building began October 13, 1941. Many difficulties arose, the worst, and most expensive, being spongy earth, necessitating the use of piles. Although construction had begun before the outbreak of the war, the many delays extended the construction time to a point where materials became difficult to find because of government priorities. Construction plans had to be changed to make use of materials obtainable. St. Patrick’s Church on Liberty and West Broad Streets was badly damaged in the storm of 1940. It was dismantled, and bricks from St. Patrick’s were used in part in the construction of Blessed Sacrament church-school. Labor, too, was difficult to obtain, and so one obstacle after another had to be overcome.
The cornerstone was finally laid on July 19, 1942, with the Most Reverend Gerald P. O’Hara officiating. In the cornerstone were placed copies of the Savannah Morning News and Savannah Evening Press, a history of the parish, a quantity of American coins, several medals, pictures of Bishop O’Hara, Father Daniel J. Bourke, and Father Conlin, as well as the names of the officials of the various parish organizations. In November of 1942, Father Bourke was appointed to succeed Father Conlin, who had become ill and resigned as pastor of Blessed Sacrament. Finally the new church and school was completed and the dedication took place on Sunday, September 26, 1943.
In April 1945, Father Bourke, under whose direction the new Church was built, was transferred to St. Teresa’s Church in Albany and was succeeded by a native Savannahian, Rev. Thomas A. Brennan, who immediately established a Building Fund Society to take care of the parish debt.
In 1952 the Stovall residence on Victory Drive was purchased for use as a convent for the Sisters of Mercy teaching in the school. In 1956 The Church was redecorated and air conditioning installed in the Church and the School, making Blessed Sacrament the first school in the city to be air conditioned.
When the church-school was erected, the plan was to use the lower part as a temporary church and the upper part for eight classrooms. Then, when more classroom space became needed, a large church would be built at Victory Drive and Waters Avenue, and the lower portion of the church-school building would be converted into eight additional classrooms. However, time and use proved the advantage of keeping the parking area in that area as a buffer between the Church and Victory Drive, so the decision was made to continue using the lower portion of the building for a church and erect a building containing eight additional classrooms and an auditorium-gymnasium on 44th Street west of the church-school building. Through the tremendous efforts of Father Brennan and a large, hard-working committee – and the generosity of parishioners – the cornerstone was laid on June 22, 1958. Bishop Thomas J. McDonough dedicated the school on February 1, 1959.
The parish hall was torn down to make room for the erection of a new rectory, which had been sorely needed for many years, but was last in priority on the construction schedule. Construction was completed and the rectory blessed on September 24, 1961. The old rectory was demolished to permit a landscaped area and allow increased parking space.
Msgr. Brennan died on October 27, 1963, after a long illness and was buried from Blessed Sacrament Church. Msgr. Andrew J. McDonald, who was temporarily administrator of the parish during Msgr. Brennan’s illness, succeeded him.
On November 24, 1969, a Thanksgiving program celebrated the liquidation of parish debt. The mortgage was burned, and the parish was debt-free for the first time in its history. Almost fifty years of construction had paced the physical needs of continuous parish growth… met by the dedicated and determined parishioners of Blessed Sacrament.
In 1972 Msgr. McDonald was appointed Bishop of Little Rock, Arkansas. Rev. J. Kevin Boland succeeded him. Father Boland served as pastor until 1983, when he was transferred to St. Anne’s Church in Columbus, Georgia. He was succeeded by Rev. William F. Simmons, who served as pastor until 1988, when he was transferred to the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Savannah. Father William O. O’Neill, was his successor serving from 1988 until 1996. Father Jeremiah J. McCarthy, J.C.L was his successor until 2013.
On April 18, 1995, Father J. Kevin Boland, the 9th pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church, was installed as the 13th Bishop of the Diocese of Savannah. On July 26, 2011 his resignation was accepted by Pope Benedict XVI, and Gregory John Hartmayer, O.F.M. Conv. was installed the 14th Bishop of the Diocese of Savannah, on October 18, 2011.
Father Brett Brannen, was assigned to Blessed Sacrament June of 2013. In 2014 we began a new campaign, “Seeds of Change, Believe in Our Legacy” to enhance and update our physical plant. We began with faith the size of a mustard seed, and our dreams came true. On April 27, 2018, we dedicated our new campus buildings, and updated the exterior of our Church. In 2019, we initiated the renovations of the interior of our church building in order to refresh and repair the altar. This project is still a work in progress, but we are pleased with how far our physical plant has come in the past several years. We are incredibly grateful to all of our donors and to everyone who worked so hard to get us to this point.
On July 1, 2020, Fr. David Koetter began overseeing the management of our Parish and currently serves as our Pastor.
If you are interested in learning more about our parish campus, or if you wish to make a donation supporting the Legacy of Blessed Sacrament, please visit: Seeds of Change Campaign.