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Learning and Worshipping in the Catholic Tradition at Blessed Sacrament Church and School

By Marina I. Jokic

A parish staffed by Dominicans since 1922 and a school since 1924, Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Madison, Wisconsin has been engaged in community service, teaching, and discipleship, and has positively transformed the lives of local residents in many ways. The parish and school operate based on the four Dominican Pillars of prayer, study, community and ministry, and offer faith-sharing groups, events, and a wide selection of educational programs.

After World War II, there were three parishes serving the developing west side of Madison, so the Dominican priests and brothers were welcomed to the city together with the Sinsinawa Dominican sisters. The original church building was finished in time for Easter Sunday in 1924 when it held its first Mass. The first class at Blessed Sacrament dates back to September 1924 when 138 students enrolled in four classrooms. The current school building was constructed in 1961 as the growing enrollment expanded through eighth grade.

Blessed Sacrament's primary ministerial focus is educating children and their families in core Catholic values. To that end, they offer innovative classroom instruction that enables students to learn at their own pace. Younger students can also opt for individualized mentorship from their older peers. They learn value-based life skills, leadership qualities, and teamwork along with the academics needed to be successful in high school and beyond.

Parallel to the parish's educational efforts runs the outward-facing ministry which especially targets the indigent segments of the local community. "We value the opportunities to make someone's day better, whether it be through sharing a meal at the Luke House Community Meal Program or cooking up twenty pounds of chili to feed the homeless that seek shelter at the Porchlight Emergency Shelter at Grace Episcopal Church downtown," says Jan McNally, communication manager at Blessed Sacrament Church and School. Blessed Sacrament parishioners have been serving approximately two hundred people every first Tuesday of each month for over thirty-five years.

Collaboration with other faith-based organizations in the area includes working on the Dane County Road Home Project which gives assistance to homeless families and helps them get back on their feet. The parish also ministers to the elderly through preparing meals singing songs or performing various theatrical skits. Future collaboration is also fostered through connecting with students once they've moved to college as a way to keep them grounded in their parish.

"Our school children also keep in touch with their parish buddies through cards and notes all year long, and we even keep our college kids connected to their home parish with little care packages and handmade cards from the school children and religious education families around exam times," says McNally.

The parish offers support to its parishioners through prayer groups and fellowship especially in times of distress. McNally highlights that the most important ministry that Blessed Sacrament is known for is their "open doors and open hearts" policy, welcoming everyone who comes to celebrate and worship with them. "We welcome everyone to come and experience our Catholic faith community for themselves, they will be glad they did," adds McNally.

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