Blessed Sacrament Parish was established by Bishop George Albert Guertin, third bishop of Manchester, on November 6, 1907. The first church was on the corner of Baker and South Elm Streets, and Father Francis X. Lyons was the founding pastor. On November 11, 1934, the present church was dedicated by Bishop John B. Peterson, Bishop Guertin’s successor. The former church building became the parish social center.
An elementary school, staffed by the Sisters of Mercy and two dedicated lay teachers, opened in 1950. During the ensuing years, the mortgage on the school was burned; a new rectory and a parish center were built; and the church sanctuary was renovated. In 1975, the parish school was closed and the building was eventually sold to the American-Canadian Genealogical Society.
The Capuchin Franciscan Friars of the St. Mary Province of New York and New England staffed the parish from 1979 to 2002. Under their 22-year leadership, the parish celebrated its 75th anniversary, established the Youth Basketball and Latch Key programs, converted the church basement into a hall, instituted Perpetual Adoration, and built the Divine Mercy Adoration Chapel. Because of financial constraints, the parish center was sold to the City of Manchester. Also, during this time many of the current parish outreach programs were established.
When the Capuchins could no longer staff the parish, the Franciscan Friars Minor of the Province of the Immaculate Conception agreed to do so. Father John Bavaro, who served as pastor from 2002-2011, kept the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi alive by expanding the outreach programs and maintaining the Perpetual Adoration Chapel, which was renamed in honor of St. Theresa of Lisieux after St. Theresa’s Parish was united with Blessed Sacrament in July 2004. With some of the funds from the sale of St. Theresa’s church, the interior of Blessed Sacrament was renovated and the parking lot resurfaced. The purchase of the Ashooh property provided expanded parking, additional green space for outdoor activities, a larger and more efficient space for the St. Anthony Food Pantry, and the House of Our Lady of Mercy, a ministry center and home for two Sisters of Mercy.
In 2007, Blessed Sacrament Parish celebrated the 100th anniversary of its founding. The centennial celebration culminated in a special liturgy on November 4, 2007, at which Bishop John McCormack presided.
In December 2010, Father John Bavaro announced his retirement as pastor, effective March 1, 2011. Associate Pastor Father John Bucchino was named to succeed him. The parish honored its retiring pastor at a February 13 farewell ceremony. On March 1, Brother Charles Gingerich, ofm, a deacon, joined the pastoral team.
From its founding in 1907, to the present day, Blessed Sacrament’s tradition has been one of “faith and sacrifice, of worship and service.”
The tradition continues.
Fr. John Bucchino became pastor in 2011. One of his first tasks was to build his parish team. So upon the retirement of Sr. Olivia as Pastoral Associate, Fr. John invited Sr. Marjorie Lupien, RSM, to take over Sr. Olivia’s position. Sr. Marjorie spent many years as an educator and missionary in South Carolina. Fr. John collaborated with Sr. Marjorie in forming an English as a Second Language program (ESL) as over 20 people from Elmwood Gardens came to our parish to study English. A number of our parishioners became their teachers, as we enjoyed a wonderful year doing this. Fr. John also wanted as part of his vision for the parish to become more involved in the greater Manchester community. He and Sister Marjorie joined the Greater Manchester Clergy Association (GMCA) which is an interfaith group of clergy who are interested in working together to help better the lives of our neighbors. At present Fr. John is the coordinator of this group which meets monthly. The parish also became a regular member of the Granite State Organizing Project (GSOP), a New Hampshire based church and community sponsored organization to keep informed of social justice issues and help the poor in our area to access their basic human needs. Brother Charles Gingerich, a Franciscan Deacon, joined the staff in 2012. His ministry at the parish helped inform parishioners of what the role and function of a deacon is. After one year, the Franciscans called him to serve elsewhere given the diminishing numbers of friars around.