THE HISTORY OF BLESSED SACRAMENT PARISH

In 1905, Catholics of the Lamberts Point, Park Place, Colonial Place and Edgewater areas of Norfolk assembled to worship at St. Francis de Sales, a small mission of Sacred Heart Church, located at the corner of Bluestone Avenue and 39th Street. Father Richard A. Drake, Father Thomas E. Waters, and Father Leo J. Ryan of Sacred Heart ministered to the congregation.  By the end of World War I the congregation had outgrown the mission and built a church at 37th Street and Colley Avenue on a plot of land given by Mr. & Mrs. John Clark.  The church was dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament on 20 February 1921 by the Right Rev. Dennis J. O’Connell, the seventh Bishop of Richmond.  Father Leo J. Ryan was the first pastor.

In 1940, Father Ryan was succeeded by Father Joseph F. Govaert who served the parish until summer of 1942.  He did much to build up the young parish and beautify the church. Father Joseph V. Brennan, a native of Portsmouth, became pastor in 1942 and ministered to the people until his death on 19 December 1951.  Father Brennan promoted participation by the youth in parish life.  The Newman Club at the Division of the College of William and Mary in Norfolk (the present Old Dominion University) was organized under his direction.  During Father Brennan’s final illness, the parish was administered by Father Francis L. Bradican.  Father Francis J. Blakely became pastor in July of 1952.  Under his leadership, Blessed Sacrament School and Convent were built and the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur came to teach the children in 1953.  The school closed in 1988.  Father Blakely died on 17 October 1956 and was succeeded by Father Kenneth M. Rizer.

In 1963, the decision was made to build a larger church to accommodate the growing congregation.  The new Blessed Sacrament Church was built at the corner of Newport Avenue and Painter Street, adjacent to Norfolk Catholic High School and DePaul Hospital.  It was dedicated on 10 April 1965.  The old church on Colley Avenue became known as the Chapel and served as a place of worship for the parish school and the parish community until 1989.  The convent building now houses Madonna Home, a communal home for the elderly.  The rectory on 37th Street is now the Dwelling Place, an ecumenical shelter for homeless families.

Due to ill health, Father Rizer retired on 30 September 1971 and was succeeded in December by the Most Reverend J. Louis Flaherty, the auxiliary to the Bishop of Richmond.  Blessed Sacrament had been Bishop Flaherty’s home parish as a youth, and his return as pastor and Dean of the Tidewater Deanery was for him a fitting culmination of years of service to God and country.

Bishop Flaherty’s ministry in the parish was characterized by an effective witness to the value and importance of human life, and support for Catholic education.  His own life was destined to be a personal witness to the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus upon learning of his terminal illness in November of 1974.  His retirement in April of 1975 marked the beginning of renewed courage and dedication to life in Christ until his death on 9 August 1975.

Father John J. Dorgan, principal of Norfolk Catholic High School, administered the parish until Father Thomas B. Nee became pastor on 16 June 1975.  After twelve years of service to Blessed Sacrament Parish, Father Nee was transferred to St. Mary’s in Suffolk, and Father Julian B. Goodman became pastor in 1987.

Father Goodman was pastor for eleven years and was followed by our current pastor (November 1999), Father Joe Metzger who, in 2002, led the parish in a renovation to the 1965 worship space. Father Joe received an assignment to Saint Bridget's in Richmond in May 2004, then returned as pastor after one year later and led the parish in the extended expansion of the Social Hall, classroom space, and renovated church.  Our parish continues to grow and flourish from its 1905 roots.