September 19, 2023 // Bishop

125 Years of Faith and Community: Most Precious Blood Celebrates Storied Legacy

Amid the joyous celebration of its 125th anniversary, Most Precious Blood Parish and School in Fort Wayne took a nostalgic journey through its rich history on Saturday, September 16, and Sunday, September 17, reflecting on its origins and the tireless efforts of its founders. The occasion was marked by games of pickleball, an open house, the annual Fun Fest hosted by the Home and School Association, a silent auction, dinner and a dance for adults, and a Mass celebrated by Bishop Rhoades, which was followed by a brunch hosted by the Knights of Columbus. All of the events of the weekend were filled with gratitude and remembrance.

Attendees at the open house had the chance to reminisce through the displays of photo albums of years past, yearbooks, and a guided tour from current students.

Photos by Katie Murray
Several pieces of memorabilia were on display at the celebration of Most Precious Blood Parish’s 125th anniversary, including historic photos of the church and school. Eighth-grader Brooke Griggs (below) was among the students leading tours of the school during the September 16-17 celebration, which included Mass with Bishop Rhoades (bottom right).

The history of Most Precious Blood Parish, which opened in 1897 and established its school in 1898, traces back to a time when the Catholic community in northern Indiana was rapidly growing because of the immigration of Germans and Irish. The surge in the Catholic population led to a dire need for parishes and schools to serve the faithful. The second bishop of the diocese, Bishop Joseph Dwenger, who was a Precious Blood priest in Ohio before assuming his episcopal duties, played a pivotal role in addressing this need.

Before his death in 1893, Bishop Dwenger had a vision of establishing a Precious Blood Parish in the Bloomingdale neighborhood of Fort Wayne. His dream was realized by his successor, Bishop Joseph Rademacher, who invited the Society of the Precious Blood to create this new spiritual haven.

In 1897, Precious Blood Father Frank Nigsch was appointed as the first pastor of the burgeoning community. He was tasked to secure land for the church, school, and parish buildings, and to conduct a census of Catholics in the area for the new parish. Father Nigsch’s census revealed that 155 Catholic families attended other parishes, most of whom eventually became the founding members of Most Precious Blood.

Given the significant number of school-age children in the community, parish leaders determined a school was needed. In 1898, a combined church and school building was erected, marking the genesis of the parish. The project came with financial struggles, but with the support of neighboring parishes and the dedication of the Precious Blood Sisters who staffed the school, the dream was realized.

Eighth-grader Brooke Griggs was among the students leading tours of the school during the September 16-17 celebration, which included Mass with Bishop Rhoades.

In 1929, the parish made plans to build a new school to serve more families, which had grown from 250 to 450 students. At the time, the cost to build the new school was $230,000, and to offset this cost, parish leaders conjured up an innovative idea to pay off the bill. They decided to build a bowling alley in the basement of the new school, which is still in use for the community. The bowling alley, which has a nostalgic feel of the 1930s, is kept up by Larry Sarrazin, who runs the center and is an alum of the school and longtime parishioner, alongside his sister, Wendy Luley, and her husband, Rich Luley. The bowling alley still uses classic ball returns and hand-written scorecards.

“I love the vintage aesthetic value that it brings,” Sarrazin said. “You get this sense of love and care that you don’t get at other places.”

In his homily during Mass on Sunday, Bishop Rhoades said that Most Precious Blood Parish and School, with its 125-year legacy, stands as a testament to the enduring power of faith, community, and the Precious Blood of Jesus.

“For 125 years, parishioners here have given glory and honor to the Most Precious Blood of Jesus through prayer and worship, through adoration of the holy Eucharist, and through the practice of the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. We [look] toward the future, [and] I encourage your fervent devotion to the Most Precious Blood of Jesus.”

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