The property on which Blessed Sacrament Church is situated has a history dating back to the year 1800 when George Bechtel purchased it and established it as part of the Bechtel Tract. Even more interesting, perhaps, is that recently discovered archival information hints that Catholics were destined to have a church on this property!
Beginning in 1842 and for the next 100 years, 142 acres of this original tract was owned and farmed by the Wilhelm family. This farm on which the church is situated was bounded by what is now Laurentian Drive, Bleams Road, Westmount Road, and Blockline Road.
According to a book by Rev. Theobald Spetz, C.R., D.D. (1916), titled The Catholic Church in Waterloo County, in 1862 the Catholics of Strassburg and Williamsburg, south of Berlin (later to be renamed Kitchener), were planning a church.
“At Anthony Wilhelm’s farm they had already gathered considerable building material for it. The people of Lexington and Bridgeport, north of Berlin, also were busy with church planning about that time,” he says. “Father Ebner was at St. Agatha from 1848 to 1856. He strongly advised the people of Strassburg and Williamsburg, and those of Bridgeport and Lexington, to give up their idea of building churches as planned. He felt that if all the Catholics in and around Berlin, within a radius of from four to eight miles would unite their forces they might in time create a parish large enough for a resident priest. Many small churches could never expect to have regular service when priests were still so scarce. Hence he persauded the Strassburgers and their friends and also those of Bridgeport and Lexington to join the Berlin people and erect a church there.” This first church was built in 1856 on the Southeast corner of Weber and Duke Streets, and became St. Mary’s Church.
In the book, Spetz concludes that the people of Strassburg and Williamsburg heeded the advice of Fr. Ebner, “though no doubt with sorrow by some”, and joined the first Berlin church. However, we are certain they must be resting more peacefully now, knowing that their plans for a Catholic Church on Wilhelm’s farm finally reached fruition nearly 120 years later.
In 1999, a Wilhelm descendent, Jerome Reinhart of Breslau, together with his wife Sheila donated a plaque, which has been erected on the lobby wall, to commemorate those early Wilhelm days, reminding us that Holy Mass was celebrated at this site, at least occasionally, as much as 150 years ago.
Blessed Sacrament Parish was formed due to overcrowded conditions at St. Francis Church. In 1971, a Christmas Mass was celebrated in Monsignor Haller School by Fr. Michael Burns. In the spring of 1972, the pastor of St. Francis, Fr. Gehl, decided the need for a weekly Mass existed in the area of Laurentian Hills. This remained a mission of St. Francis Church until October 1, 1977, when the parish of Blessed Sacrament was established.
The first Mass was celebrated by the founding pastor, Father Harry Schmuck, and Monsignor Haller School continued to be the centre for the new parish community.
The first communal baptism in November 1977 welcomed David Eugene Leveck, Lindsay Arran Theresa Ross, Leslie Kara Vogel, Betty Kobetich, Andrea Elizabeth Reck, Tracey Lynn Crossman, Shawn Adam Keffer, and Todd Allan Prince. The first marriage solemnized in the parish was between Donald Joseph Walsh and Sharon Joan Cunningham on May 6, 1978.
On Sunday, June 17th, 1979, Father Schmuck announced that he was being transferred to St. Teresa’s Parish in Kitchener, and the new pastor would be Father Edward Sheridan, secretary to Bishop Reding and assistant pastor at St. Augustine’s in Dundas. Fr. Sheridan began his first assignment as a pastor on June 29, 1979.
Before his departure, Father Schmuck had established a Building Committee, and under Father Sheridan’s leadership, the work of preparing for construction began in earnest. The architectural firm of Snider, Reichard, and March prepared the design, and the construction contract was awarded to Watcon, Incorporated. Ground was broken on October 4, 1980. The cornerstone was laid on May 17, 1981, and the new church was dedicated on the Solemnity of the Body and Blood of Christ, June 21, 1981. All these events were presided over by Bishop Paul F. Reding, who was immensely proud of the leadership shown by his former secretary in uniting a steadily growing community with great enthusiasm. Bishop Reding continued to be a strong supporter of our Parish in every way, until his death of cancer, much too young, in December, 1983.
Father Sheridan had associate pastors from 1981 through 1991. For the first half of that time and until his death in 1985, retired Monsignor Vincent A. Priester considered himself a member of the family, living close by in the original rectory on Briar Knoll Drive, and served the parish in many ways.
Beautifying enhancements to the Church complex were added at regular intervals, ranging from statues to flagpoles to the furnishing of the Parish Centre downstairs. Father Sheridan ensured that the Church complex never ceased to Iook as though it had just been opened.
By the time of his transfer, after 13 eventful years, the parish was at least 5 times the size and population it had been upon founding. Our third school, Blessed Sacrament, in Country Hills, was the only school opened during his time as Pastor, and was already the largest of the schools in the parish. The area below the Church showed every sign of exploding in growth, and this has in fact been the case in the years since.
During these last years, the pastoral care of the community, and its works of service, have continued to expand. A renovation of the choir area was completed in 1995, a new roof was placed on the complex in 1996, the parking lot was thoroughly repaired and re-sealed in 1998, and a “lift”, to link church level and Parish Centre level, as well as extensive washroom renewal, highlighted 1999.
In May, 1995, the first native son of the parish to be ordained a priest, Father Edward Henhoeffer, son of William and Marlene, celebrated his First Mass of Thanksgiving in our Church, surrounded by family and well wishers. The Henhoeffers had farmed in this region for many generations before Blessed Sacrament Parish came to be.
In September, 1997, long-serving Director of Music Joyce Knarr retired, leaving an astonishing legacy of building the music program of the Parish. It has continued to grow, in the capable hands of her successor, Mr. David Hall.
We face the future confidently, and ask God that we may continue to be generous in sharing the gifts with which we have been blessed.