Blessed Sacrament celebrates 90 years

The interior of Blessed Sacrament church, repaired, repainted, restored   Photo: G. L. Watson
Blessed Sacrament Church sanctuary, as it was from 1960 until June 2022 Photo: T. Nelligan
The sanctuary now (July 2022) Photo: G. L. Watson

By Cathy Bourguignon 
and Paul Giacomin

For the past 90 years, Blessed Sacrament Church has stood majestically in the Glebe at the corner of Percy and Fourth. The edifice of faith, with its rich architectural history, has been the spiritual house of worship for a multitude of Catholic parishioners and a source of the fullness of their faith, rich in Catholic tradition.

From the old clapboard church that was originally built in 1912 for the Sisters of the Precious Blood, who lived nearby, their then convent chapel of the Blessed Sacrament became the parish church of the Blessed Sacrament in April 1913.  The founding pastor was Reverend Father John Joseph O’Gorman.

In 1931-32, the current church was built, a vision that took shape shortly after Father O’Gorman’s installation as pastor. With the boundaries being formed by the southern portion of St Patrick’s Church downtown and the suburbs called the Glebe, the parish was set to begin making its mark in Ottawa.

The parish, having grown out of St. Patrick’s parish, inherited three lots as a dowry for the tidy sum of $3,050.00 from St. Patrick’s on the location where it stands today. However, two more lots were needed on Fourth Avenue, and they were purchased for the considerable sum of $5000.00 in April 1913. The archbishop at that time, Charles Hughes Gauthier, decided that Blessed Sacrament would become a model English-speaking parish.

Plans to build this model parish were put on hold at the outbreak of the First World War while Father O’Gorman served as military chaplain with the Canadian Forces. He was wounded at the Battle of Somme, received the Order of the British Empire from King George V and came home to convalesce.

During that time, he bought the property and built the first rectory called “The Glebe House” at 193 Fourth Avenue. During the war, 117 parishioners from the Glebe neighbourhood volunteered, like their pastor, for overseas duty. Sadly, seven were killed.

On March 25, 1931, the new church’s cornerstone was blessed and laid by the Archbishop of Ottawa, Guillaume Forbes. The cost to complete the beautiful edifice was $219,525.

For its time, Blessed Sacrament was not like any other Catholic church in Ottawa. It was built in the “Neo-Gothic Revival Style,” a style that combines the bulwark strength of the Romanesque with the refined, lofty luminosity of the Gothic. And although these two styles had been successfully brought together with austere yet classic beauty, many people thought it did not look like a Catholic Church when compared to the stunning churches of St Patrick’s Basilica or Notre Dame Cathedral.

From the beginning of the Second World War until the present, Blessed Sacrament Parish has continued to be at the hub of life in the Glebe community. The parish currently assists the Ottawa Food Bank and the Centretown Churches organization, and it provides space for the Ottawa Choral Society, The Irish Society, DEFT Learning and other organizations, including film crews who utilize the church and its hall for many events and activities.

Today the Reverend Father Timothy P. V. Nelligan, the great, great nephew of Father O’Gorman, is the pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish. Upon arrival on December 1, 2017, he inherited a church building which needed much repair and restoration. In January 2018, the process for renovations began.

In addition to the physical changes, other changes were happening as well. St Margaret Mary’s Parish in Old Ottawa South was re-amalgamated with Blessed Sacrament in June 2019. In June and July this year, with all structural damage repaired, the interior of the church was repainted, lighting upgraded to LED, heaters replaced with modern efficient units, windows cleaned, statues repaired and painted, and the original 1912 altar was restored and placed in the sanctuary.

On November 20, the Solemnity of Christ the King, at 10 a.m., we will celebrate a special holy mass with Archbishop Marcel Damphousse, during which the parish will be re-blessed, the 1912 altar re-consecrated and the newly donated pipe organ dedicated to our veterans. All former pastors and priests, former and current parishioners and neighbours from the Glebe and Old Ottawa South are most heartily invited to be with us to celebrate being “Refreshed, Renewed, Rejoicing in Christ, Our King!”

Hope to see you there!

Cathy Bourguignon and Paul Giacomin are Blessed Sacrament parishioners.

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