History of Blessed Sacrament School
With the growth of Springfield to the south and west, Bishop James Griffin decided to create his first parish in the southwest part of the city. Much of this parish had been part of St. Agnes. In August of 1924, Bishop Griffin purchased six acres of land on Laurel Street between Walnut and Glenwood. The formation of the new parish was announced and Father Michael Tarrent was appointed pastor.
A committee of twenty men urged Father Tarrent to build a permanent school building first and offered their assistance in fundraising. A pre-fabricated building was purchased and erected at Laurel and Holmes to serve as a temporary church building. The architectural firm of Aschauer and Waggoner of Decatur designed the new school building; a two story building of buff colored brick with cut limestone trim to contain ten large classrooms, a domestic science room, an office, a library, nurse's office, two playrooms, and a large lounge for the nuns.
In February of 1925, a contract was awarded to J. Clyde Evans Construction firm of Springfield with the estimated cost of $100,000. The construction began in March, the month dedicated to St. Joseph under whose protection the building was to be erected. Father Tarrent laid the cornerstone on May 25, 1925.
The new school was ready for occupancy on August 31, 1925. Six Ursuline Nuns and some lay teachers served as the first faculty. 284 children were enrolled. There was no charge for the education of the young. The enormous cost was gladly borne by the parish.
The last payment of the debt of the parish school was made in October of 1928. The same month, Monsignor Tarrent announced plans for the new church. The advisory board chose a Tudor Gothic style building. The details of the church were explained at a parish meeting and every family received a booklet describing the new church and a request for pledges. Within three days the success of the campaign was assured with $211,825.00 pledged. Ground was broken the afternoon of March 13, 1929.
The rapid growth of the parish in just ten years demonstrated the need for enlarging the school and then building a convent for the nuns. In 1933, Monsignor Tarrent once again asked the firm of Aschauer and Waggoner to draw plans which would match the school of 1925. In the fall of 1934, Bishop Griffin entered the school blessing the new classrooms, convent, and auditorium as we went along. The expansion of the school consisted in topping the two end wings of the older building with another story. This added four more classrooms; then an addition of two floors was erected at each end of the front of the school for a total of eight more classrooms. The new convent provided a chapel, seventeen individual rooms on the second floor, parlors, music rooms, a community room and a kitchen. The auditorium was designed for a playroom with the boys using one half and the girls using the other half. There was also a stage and a cafeteria in the building. The new construction formed a central court that could be used for recreational purposes.
In the next several decades, the school enrollment continued to increase and by 1958 in approached 1,000 students. After considerable deliberation, a new location was sought that would be closer to the west side of the city. Parishioners responded generously by pledging $550,370 to be paid over a three-year period. Father Hugh Cassidy, at the time an assistant at Blessed Sacrament, filled in for an ailing Monsignor Tarrent, and broke ground for the new school, known as Christ the King School. It was opened in 1958 under the direction of the Springfield Dominican Sisters.
In recent years the educational facilities of the parish have been continually updated and expanded. The early 80's brought about the remodeling of the convent now utilized by both the school and wider parish groups for educational and religious activities. Most recently we dedicated a $5.4 million addition to the school in August 2011 consisting of an office wing, preschool wing, a library/media center, and a full-sized gymnasium. The educational mission of Blessed Sacrament School could not have been met or fulfilled without the dedicated efforts of countless religious women, lay teachers, school staff and custodians who have played such a vital role over the past 85 years. The entire parish owes them a debt of gratitude for their sacrifices, inspiration, and expertise.