BRIDGEPORT — Between 1860 and 1930, scores of Roman Catholic churches and cathedrals went up in the city, and many, like Saints Cyril and Methodius, St. Patrick’s, St. Augustine’s and St. Michael the Archangel, are strikingly beautiful.
The Church of the Blessed Sacrament, with its simple lines, isn’t one of them. It began as a basement church and the hope was that this basement would someday become the foundation of a striking Gothic or Romanesque church, perhaps something like the long-shuttered St. John Nepomucene that still graces Brooks Street on the East Side.
“Yes, the thinking at first was to build a traditional Gothic church here, with a tile roof,” said its pastor, The Rev. Skip Karcinski. “It was probably a good thing that never happened — with the cost of maintaining a church like that, we would have closed years ago.”
On Sunday, Blessed Sacrament will celebrate its 100th birthday, and Karcinski said that the parish is looking forward to the next 100 years. It’s on the corner of Union Avenue and Orange Street, in the shadow of Interstate 95.
“In Blessed Sacrament’s early years, the first order of business was to construct a school to educate the influx of immigrants pouring into the city,” Karcinski said. “They wanted to see their children educated.”
A large school was built across the street, with three classrooms for each grade and a gymnasium, Karcinski said. The school building still stands, but it has since been converted into apartments for the elderly. It’s been that way for more than three decades.
So for 43 years, from 1917 to 1960, Mass took place in the the humble basement, protected from the elements by a temporary roof. Finally, in 1960, the parish scraped together the money to build the church that stands there today.
He said that the ethnic makeup of the flock has evolved over the years. The Irish, Slovaks and Italians of the 1920s and 1930s gradually changed to what is seen today — African American, Puerto Rican and West Indian. It has more than 200 active families.
To celebrate the century mark, the church is staging a talent show Saturday night, at Vazzano’s Four Seasons, 337 Kenyon St., Stratford, at 7 p.m.; the cost is $30.
On Sunday, there will be a combined Spanish and English Mass at 10:30 a.m., followed by a breakfast at about 11:30. Originally, an elaborate breakfast was planned but the parish decided to send more money to Puerto Rico and the West Indies instead.
“We though it would be inappropriate to have a feast with all of the suffering that’s going on,” Karcinski. But we’ll be inaugurating our new kitchen, so everyone is excited about that — everyone is looking forward to spaghetti suppers and brunches. The people are delighted and excited about it.”
Sarah Vena Masso, 87, was baptized at Blessed Sacrament, had her Holy Communion and her Confirmation there and in 1952 was married there, too, to the late Frank Masso. She’s still an active member. (Frank died in 2011.)
“That wedding was in what is now the basement,” she said of her wedding. “I met Frank in December and by April we were married. Good thing there was Lent in between, or it would have been a two-month engagement.”