Parish and School History

Early in the fall of 1953, several Catholic families from Morton visited with Bishop Cousins to ask his help in establishing a Catholic Mission in Morton. There were approximately forty Catholic families in Morton and the surrounding countryside at the time.

The visit to the Bishop resulted in Father Martin Fallon being asked to establish a Mission in Morton. The Mission was a success with two Masses celebrated each Sunday in the Morton Civic Building on Jefferson Street. Later, the use of the old township hall was given to the Catholic Mission, and a “permanent” chapel was set up which accommodated sixty people. The Altar and Rosary and Holy Name Societies were started.

In the summer of 1955, our second priest, Father George Howard, followed. Father Howard introduced many religious services in addition to weekly Mass and Confession. A building fund was started, and plans were laid to seek land for a parish physical plant.

During this time of planning, Bishop Cousins decided the Mission had grown to the point where a full-time priest was needed. In June of 1956, Father Eugene Gould was assigned to Morton. A home was rented and renovated for a rectory; additional Sunday Masses were scheduled; and daily Mass became a reality.

Shortly after Father Gould’s arrival, the sought-after property for a church was found, and the current 7-1/2 acres of church property were purchased by the Diocese and given to the Mission. The Morton Mission became Blessed Sacrament Church with Father Gould as the first pastor.

Ground was broken for the present school on March 17, 1957. The building accommodated a chapel as well as school classrooms and a parish hall. It served the new parish of 150 families well. When the building was completed in 1958, the parish chapel was moved. Two of the classrooms served as a chapel, and six classrooms were provided for the school.

With the completion of the school building, a convent was started to accommodate teaching sisters. In 1958 the School Sisters of Notre Dame from Mequin, Wisconsin arrived. The new Blessed Sacrament School opened in September of 1958 with 141 students and four teaching sisters. All eight grades were taught, two to a classroom.

The Church Building Committee was formed in 1961. With a real need for church space, a building fund pledged, and Finance and Building Committees functioning, it was decided to go ahead with plans for the church building. The Bishop gave final approval for the new church in February of 1963.

In June of 1963, Father E. F. Carney, Blessed Sacrament’s first assistant, arrived. The church was completed in 1964 and dedicated by Bishop Franz on June 7. In February of 1967, Father Gould was transferred.

Blessed Sacrament’s second pastor, Father George Wuellner, arrived that winter. Fr. Wuellner guided his young parish through the changes that were decreed by the Second Vatican Council. Fr. Wuellner is remembered for his warmth and pastoral sensitivity. The Morton area continued to grow, and the parish school regularly had an enrollment of over three hundred, but Blessed Sacrament struggled under the debt incurred from all the construction of the early ’60s.

Father Eugene L. Finnell came to our parish on June 15, 1972. During

Fr. Finnell’s twenty-eight years at our parish, he was known as an excellent administrator. The parish debt was finally retired during the late 1970s. During the pastorate of Fr. Finnell, Blessed Sacrament doubled in size. Tom Moran became the first permanent deacon at Blessed Sacrament in 1992. A new rectory was constructed in the fall of 1999. Fr. Finnell retired in June of 2000, was named Pastor Emeritus and continued to help with Masses and sacraments until his death on December 27, 2008.

Fr. Mark A. DeSutter became the fourth pastor at Blessed Sacrament in the spring of 2000. Fr. DeSutter came to Blessed Sacrament after serving for twelve years in campus ministry at the University of Illinois and later at Western Illinois University. He also had six years of previous parish experience.

In the fall of 2000, Blessed Sacrament entered into a strategic planning process. Various recommendations came out of that process, and the parish began to implement the proposals. The plan was called “Vision For Our Future.” Initial implementation led to the hiring of the parish’s first youth minister and adult education director. New parish organizations, like a Building and Grounds Committee, were formed.

Plans to update facilities began in three phases which led to a $3.1 million fund drive that helped pay for renovations to the school, a school addition, and the building of a parish center. Construction was completed on phase one and phase two of the building project in February 2005. The total cost was a little over $4.4 million. That year the first annual Parish Fellowship Festival was held.

In June 2007 the parish welcomed the ordination of three new permanent deacons: Rick Miller, Dave Steeples, and Kevin Zeeb. In the fall, plans were made for a capital campaign to retire debt and to remodel the parish church (phase three of the strategic plan).

In the spring of 2008, another successful fund drive raised almost $2.5 million. Church renovation began in January 2009 with Masses being held in the parish hall during construction. The newly renovated church was rededicated on December 6, 2009. This event was a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Blessed Sacrament and marked an end to the construction phase of our strategic plan. 

After leading the parish through the building process, developing and enhancing adult faith opportunities and outreach ministries, as well as guiding numerous programs for parishioners of all ages, Fr. Mark was transferred to Sacred Heart Church in Moline, Illinois in June of 2014.

On June 11, 2014, Msgr. Gerald Ward became Blessed Sacrament’s fifth pastor, and Fr. Kyle Lucas, a newly ordained priest, joined our parish as a Parochial Vicar. 

In the spring of 2017, we welcomed Michael Harris as a new permanent deacon to our parish. In June Fr. Kyle was transferred to Peoria Notre Dame High School as Chaplain.  On August 8, Fr. Matt Deptula was assigned to our parish as a Parochial Vicar.  Also in 2017, construction started on a new gym, school offices, school cafeteria and music room.

The parish currently has approximately 1,215 families, 235 children enrolled in the school and 229 students in the religious education for public school students.

Saint Tarcisius 

Saint Tarcius

Saint Tarcisius was a young Roman boy who lived in the days of the early church. Because Christians were being killed for their beliefs, they had to meet in secrecy in the catacombs.

One day when Tarcisius attended Mass in the catacombs, a volunteer was needed to take holy communion to the Christians in prison. Tarcisius begged to go saying no one would suspect that a young boy was carrying the Sacred Hosts. The Hosts were wrapped in white cloth and placed under his cloak.

On his way to the prison, a group of schoolmates urged Tarcisius to join their games. He refused and said he was on an errand. The boys tried to insist he stay. Tarcisius prayed to our Lord to make him strong. Hearing this, the boys realized Tarcisius was a Christian. The gang of boys beat him down but Tarcisius would not let go of the Sacred Hosts.

A Roman solider, also a Christian, approached the group and demanded to know why the boy was beaten to death. The boys told the soldier it was because Tarcisius was a Christian and they were after the "Christian Secret" he was hiding. They admitted to finding nothing and ran off. The Roman soldier searched Tarcisius' body but there was no trace of the Hosts in his hands or clothing. Tarcisius died defending the Blessed Sacrament.

We are proud to be known as "The Tars" and hope by our "spirit" and sportsmanship, we show that we too, are followers of Jesus Christ.
--Author Unknown