History of Blessed Sacrament Parish

Sunday, November 22, 1936, is an important date to the people of Blessed Sacrament Parish in West Fargo, ND. On that date the first Mass was celebrated in the north School gymnasium. Father Vincent Ryan, later Bishop Ryan of the Bismarck Diocese, became the first pastor of the Blessed Sacrament mission.

During the years that followed, as a mission church of St. Anthony's Parish in Fargo, many priests of that parish served Blessed Sacrament. Fr. Frank Nester became the second pastor of the growing church. With good foresight, he invested in the property on which the present church stands. The North School gymnasium was used to celebrate Mass for 13 years. The parishioners used a folding table for an altar, with various members taking the altar stone home each week. The ladies of the parish cared for the altar linens and brought them to the gymnasium each Sunday. The men built long, heavy benches which folded for storing. Confessions were heard before Mass in a makeshift confessional beside the altar. Mr. Gust Arzt was the first Mass server. As a boy in his home country of Czechoslovakia, he had learned Latin.

In 1948, with a rapid growth of membership, it was decided to build a church in West Fargo. With building supplies short after World War II, a temporary building, a Quonset hut, was chosen. This building was 50 by 120 feet in size, with half to be used as a church and half for a parish hall. The first altar in this Church was handcrafted by Joe Blasl and was used for many years. The first Mass in this building was celebrated on July 10, 1949. There were about 85 families at that time.

In June, 1950, a resident pastor, Fr. Oliver Lux, was sent to Blessed Sacrament. Father Oliver Lux was born and reared in Chicago. Before coming to West Fargo, he had served as assistant pastor in Jamestown and Langdon, ND. In addition to ministering to the needs of the parish, he taught at the new Shanley High School in Fargo. On September 18, 1951, he took up residence in the new rectory (which was located in the present bank parking lot) built under his direction. Each year he whittled away at the debt, and with the generosity of the parishioners, he was able to build up considerable reserve for the construction of a new church. His untimely death in 1966 prevented the realization of his dream of a new church. 

In July of 1966, Father Francis Smalley was appointed pastor of this fast-growing parish. He came here from Hankinson, ND, where he had been chaplain to the Sisters of St. Francis for 17 years. In addition to his duties as pastor in West Fargo, he taught at Cardinal Muench Seminary in Fargo. Father Edward Arth of the Seminary assisted Father Smalley on Sundays and occasionally during the week.

At this time the people of the parish felt the time had come for a new church. Early in 1967, a finance committee was established, and the following year a building committee was elected by the people. This committee began a study of the parish needs. It was found that more than 300 families were using the facilities of the church and hall, and that the present building was inadequate.

In April, 1970, there was a ground-breaking ceremony for the new church, and by October 23, 1970, it was completed. The first Mass was celebrated on October 31, 1970. On January 10, 1971, Most Reverend (Bishop) Justin Driscoll blessed the church and consecrated its altar. As Father Smally had said in 1966, "If you want a new church, you will build it."

In August, 1973, Fr. John E. Moore came as pastor. He was born in Powers Lake, ND. He studied at St. John's University and at Gonzaga University and was ordained to the priesthood on February 2, 1945, at St. Joseph's Church in Devils Lake. He served at several churches in North Dakota and came here from St. Michael's Parish in Grand Forks. Under Father Moore's direction, an office-rectory complex was added to the new church in 1975. The debt on the church was retired in 1979. In the years that followed, many of the ideas and principles of Vatican II were being implemented by the Church. The shortage of priests to assist the pastor caused Fr. Moore to build a staff to help carry out the ministries of the church-including religious education, liturgy, youth ministry, ministry to the needs of the poor and ministry in peace and justice. 

The parish began to make long-range plans to build a new parish in West Fargo, as there were over 900 families attending Blessed Sacrament Church. Money was put aside toward this goal. In 1979, Father David Wild came to Blessed Sacrament to facilitate the planning and building of the new Holy Cross Church. The plan was to establish the new parish as a satellite of the old, receiving personnel and financial support from the existing parish. Blessed Sacrament contributed toward this facility and covered many preliminary expenses, such as architect's fees, land surveys, etc. Holy Cross Church was completed in 1983.

In the fall of 1990, Father Val G. Gross became pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church. He grew up in Napoleon, ND and was ordained a priest on June 8, 1963. He served as rector at Cardinal Muench Seminary for many years before coming to Blessed Sacrament.

Under the direction of Father Gross, preliminary plans for the new addition of five classrooms, music room, restrooms, and new kitchen were started. Fr. Gross served Blessed Sacrament until 1995. On September 4, 1995, Father John L. Cavanaugh became pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church. Fr. John was born and raised at and near Fort Totten, ND. Fr. John served for many years as a United States Naval Line Officer before entering the seminary. He was ordained a priest on June 2, 1990. He served St. Michael's in Grand Forks and St. Cecilia in Harvey before coming to Blessed Sacrament. Under his direction, the new addition was completed in the fall of 1997 and dedicated on November 8, 1997.

During the next seven years, Fr. John installed the new Parish Kitchen, raised the sanctuary area of the Church, relocated the Tabernacle to the middle behind the altar, directed the purchase of stained-glass windows in the Church and the Gathering Area, and purchased a large Nativity Scene.

Father Bert Miller became pastor in July of 2004. He was born and raised in Harvey, ND. He attended the University of North Dakota and worked as a journalist before being ordained a priest on June 1, 1991. He served at Fargo Nativity, Grand Forks Holy Family, Michigan St. Lawrence (and missions) and Grafton St. John the Evangelist and the State Developmental Center prior to coming to West Fargo.

During the past six years, Fr. Bert has helped retire the debt, replace windows and sewer pipes in the Rectory, pave the parking lot, replace carpet in the Church, tuck-point the facility, and generally maintain the 40-year-old parish facility.