Blessed Sacrament building to close its doors in January

| December 17, 2014 | 7 Comments

Mike Conners and his wife, Sue, married at Blessed Sacrament in St. Paul. All four of their children were baptized, received their first Communion and were confirmed at the parish. They all graduated from the parish school before it closed in 2005.

“We’ve been very involved in the parish,” Mike said. “It’s part of our life and part of our family.”

Across town, Samantha Barron and her husband, Robert, became active parishioners at St. Thomas the Apostle after visiting the parish priest of their in-laws. Samantha remembered, “We were trying to have our second child baptized and couldn’t reach our own parish priest, so the pastor at St. Thomas welcomed us and agreed to baptize our child. We felt so welcome, we never left.” Another child later, Samantha is active in her parish.

Both churches merged in 2011, keeping the name Blessed Sacrament, with two worship sites: the Blessed Sacrament site, located on Lacrosse Avenue, and the St. Thomas the Apostle site, located on Stillwater Avenue.
Barron and Conners had never met until they began working together on a task force created in 2013 to help the parish determine its future. Blessed Sacrament was facing a $250,000 yearly deficit without extraordinary income, and the charter school leasing its building was debating whether to renew the lease. With changing demographics and fewer Catholic families moving into their neighborhoods, the question before the parish was: “How do we become good stewards of the money given to us while continuing to support local Catholics and their spiritual needs?”

Father Don DeGrood, pastor of Blessed Sacrament since July 2013, worked with the task force as members looked at all of their options.

“We cut expenses and asked parishioners to make a financial stewardship pledge to increase donations,” Father DeGrood said. “We hosted parish listening sessions and distributed questionnaires. Our goal was to have a financially healthy, viable and vibrant parish.”

After pouring over budgets, cutting expenses, trying to raise money and collaborating with outside experts, the task force presented its findings in October 2013 to the parish community. Seventy-eight percent of parishioners who responded to surveys recommended that the parish explore selling one of its two sites. Both parish sites were put on the market to see what interest it might attract. After several months, Academia Cesar Chavez, a charter elementary school that teaches mostly Hispanic students, made an offer on the Lacrosse Avenue site. The lay leadership of the parish reviewed the offer, and other possible options, and unanimously recommended to Father DeGrood that the parish accept the offer. The parish trustees and the pastor supported the recommendation and, after consultation with archdiocesan leadership, signed the purchase agreement.

The last Mass at the Lacrosse Avenue site will be at 9:30 a.m. Jan. 11.

“We encourage anyone who may have been involved with Blessed Sacrament over the years to join us in this special Mass on Jan. 11 and then process with us to our parish site on Stillwater Avenue as we transport sacred items from the Lacrosse Avenue site,” Father DeGrood said.

“It’s never an easy process,” Samantha Barron said. “When you are looking at people’s spiritual home, it’s a very personal thing. I think we should stop looking for Christ in the building and look for Christ in each other.”

“It is very sad for us,” said Mike Conners. “I love the building, and I love the community that is a part of that building. But I don’t know a lot of buildings that last forever, and the building shouldn’t define my faith.

“However, I am gratified that the church building will remain, and within that building will be the education of young children, many of whom are being raised Catholic.”

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Category: Local News

  • Richard Kennedy

    Good to read about Fr. DeGrood leading his new parishioners to a new situation. I continue to pray for him and if I ever win the lottery St. Thomas can expect some money.