Building and Growth: 1921-1952
In the year 1920 when Blessed Sacrament was formally separated from St. Ann’s, the country was in the first years of “Roaring Twenties” the decade of prosperity that came in the aftermath of World War I. Warren G. Harding was just beginning his soon-to-be scandal plagued administration after a campaign headed by the slogan “return to normalcy.” Pope Benedict XV was nearing the end of his relatively short (seven years and five months) pontificate, much of which he devoted to finding peace among warring nations, in society, and within the Church.
March 24, 1921
James Cardinal Gibbons, the archbishop of Baltimore who directed the start of the parish, and arguably one of the most influential prelates in the history of the American Church, dies at his residence in Baltimore.
November 30, 1921
Michael Joseph Curley, the bishop of St. Augustine, FL, arrives in Baltimore as Gibbon’s successor. A native of Ireland, Curley was only 34 when made bishop of St. Augustine where one of his notable achievements was a fight against segregation in Catholic schools.
Pope Benedict XV dies of pneumonia. The conclave elects Achille Ratti, archbishop of Milan, who takes the name Pius XI. Pius worked to make the Church influential in the world, writing encyclicals on marriage and labor, for example, and made great efforts at combating anti-Semitism and all forms of racism.
Continued growth of the parish necessitated planning for a permanent church and school. With the approval of Archbishop Curley, the church was to be the first project and fundraising began. At the end of 1923, with $55,000 raised, definite planning began for the church.
September 13, 1923
Blessed Sacrament school opens in temporary quarters, with 53 students, taught by three Sisters of the Holy Cross. Enrollment increased to 113 by the end of the year.
November 1, 1925
Cornerstone of Blessed Sacrament Church laid by Bishop Thomas Shahan, rector of the Catholic University of America.
November 6, 1927
Blessed Sacrament Church dedicated by Archbishop Curley. The church was designed by Maginiss & Walsh of Boston, architects of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, the St. Joseph Memorial Chapel at The College of the Holy Cross, Worcester, MA, and several buildings at the University of Notre Dame, South Bend, IN.
Permanent school building completed (at a cost of roughly $200,000) with the convent following four years later. The school enrollment was 240 students when the building opened in 1929.
Events such as the annual May procession and Corpus Christi processions became established. The school produced an annual show, involving every student.
March 4, 1933
Franklin Roosevelt inaugurated as thirty-second President of the United States. Roosevelt’s depression-fighting policies attracted a great number of people to the capital with the result that Blessed Sacrament’s population more than doubled in the decade of the 1930s.
The Sanctuary Society and the Sodality merge to form the Sanctuary Sodality, which continues down through today. Operating in small groups, called units, this group serves the dual purpose of enriching members’ spiritual lives as well as being of service, both in the parish and in the broader community.
In a somewhat humorous event, chimes were added to the church tower, setting off litigation (eventually decided in favor of the parish) with neighbors unhappy at being awakened by the sounds of bells at an early hour of the morning.
February 10, 1939
Pope Pius XI dies. On March 2, the conclave elects Cardinal Eugenio Pacelli, a former papal diplomat, as his successor, who takes the name Pius XII.
July 22, 1939
The Archdiocese of Washington is formally separated from Baltimore with Archbishop Curley named as archbishop of both Baltimore and Washington, a situation that continued until 1947 with the arrival of Patrick A. O’Boyle as the first resident archbishop of Washington.
Father Smyth named a domestic prelate with the title right reverend monsignor.
The last of the parish debt on the various buildings is paid off and the current rectory (now the priest’s residence) at 6001 Western Ave. is acquired.
Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States entry into World War II brought Blessed Sacrament fully into the war effort. Along with paper drives, bond sales, and the like came another influx of people.
School enrollment hits 701 (compared with approximately 440 today) in a building less than one-third the size of today’s Blessed Sacrament School.
The end of the war brought the realization that more space was needed. Fundraising and planning for a school addition began.
House behind the church, where the parish center is now located, was purchased for extra classroom space.
December 4, 1947
Msgr. Patrick A. O’Boyle of New York, who had served the New York archdiocese in a variety of posts including director of Catholic Charities and also the American Church as director of War Relief Services, is named the first resident archbishop of Washington. His installation at St. Matthew’s Cathedral on January 21, 1948 marked the final separation of Washington from the Baltimore archdiocese. It was O’Boyle who gave approval for a $300,000 addition to Blessed Sacrament school.
Work begins on the addition to the school. Archbishop O’Boyle lays the cornerstone in 1951.
May 19, 1951
Msgr. Smyth dies in the rectory.
October 12, 1951
Father Edward Hayes Roach appointed second pastor of Blessed Sacrament.
August 24, 1952
School addition dedicated by Archbishop O’Boyle. School enrollment reaches approximately 800.