Parish celebrates anniversary of first Mass in its church
Events Nov. 19-20
WATERLOO — Blessed Sacrament is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first Mass in its church on Nov. 19 and 20, with Father Thomas McDermott presiding.
The community of Blessed Sacrament Parish was formed in 1947 after Father Louis Putz canvased the developing area between Waterloo and Cedar Falls. Charter member Gloria Eichorst remembers him as a wonderful man, very motivating and dedicated to the people of the parish. Groundbreaking for the church was July 1965 and celebration of the first Mass was on Thanksgiving Day 1966.
It was exciting to realize there would be a permanent church, according to founding member Verna Mae Dengler. For Dengler, after many years of celebrating in temporary locations, it was amazing to finally have permanent pews and kneelers instead of folding chairs and concrete floors. The Women’s Rosary Society, challenged to raise money for something special, eventually settled on the altar. Dengler remembers a lot of bake sales and chance tickets sold for prizes as the members strove to raise funds.
Longtime member Barb Duggan reflected that the construction occurred during the time of the Second Vatican Council which brought sweeping changes to the Roman Catholic Church. Many of the liturgical changes were implemented into the church design. The concepts of belonging to a faith community, being individuals, yet belonging to and becoming the Body of Christ in the world, became a focus. This is evidenced in the mosaic of Christ behind the altar. Small individual tiles, which put together, become Christ. Hidden in the mosaic is a 1966 penny which is always a treat for children to search for and find.
According to Eichorst, the church cornerstone was laid in March 1966 with the ceremony officiated by local clergy Msgr. Duane Brady of St. Joseph’s, Father Gerring of St. John’s and Father Putz. At the first Mass, members assembled outside and then processed into the new building while singing a litany. After celebrating High Mass, a dinner was held at Electric Park. Archbishop James Byrne consecrated the church in April 1967.
Much of the church remains the same with additional facilities added over the years, most notably the Anne Sulentic Parish Center and the passageways connecting both the church and school to the center. Changes in the sanctuary area include removal of the Communion rail, a larger gathering space at the main entrance and making the altar area handicapped accessible.
The laity’s liturgical roles have expanded greatly over these 50 years to include service as lectors, commentators, eucharistic ministers, musicians and the addition of females as altar servers. Deacons now minister in many ways both at Mass and in a variety of outreach ministries. The Chris and Carrie Evans family is in final preparation for Chris to be ordained a deacon next July. He will join Deacons John (Sharon) Herman and Bob (Nancy) Stirm. The parish recalls gratefully Jim Freet and Norm Schauls for many years of service prior to their deaths. Their wives, Lori and Delores, continue as valued members. Parish leadership relies much more heavily on the laity and religious than in 1966. Sr. Madonna Friedman, OSF, and prior to her, Sr. Barb Rastatter, PBVM, and Sr. Eileen Scheonherr, OSF, have developed the role of pastoral associate to help shepherd life together in the parish. Sr. Eileen developed the pastoral associate role in the early 1970s, soon after its creation as a vocational role in parish life. Dave Cushing and Deacon Stirm have also served in this role. Currently, parishioner Marissa Butler is discerning a vocation to religious life with the Mercy Sisters. Chris and Marissa are two shining examples of how the call to vocations continues to work at Blessed Sacrament.
Mass will be celebrated at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 19 and 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. on Nov. 20. Just like 50 years ago, a celebratory dinner will follow the 10:30 a.m. Mass, but this time in the parish’s own Anne Sulentic Parish Center.
The mosaic of Jesus at Blessed Sacrament Parish in Waterloo is a symbol for small pieces (individuals) making up the larger body of the church. Hidden in the artwork is a 1966 penny which children and others have fun finding. Many of the liturgical changes that occurred after the Second Vatican Council were incorporated into the church design. (Contributed photo)