Parish History

Father Martin J. Steffy, first pastor of St. Mary's, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament

Parish History of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament

Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament’s parish history spans over 100 years. The text below includes the details of its founding and development. To learn more about its unique architectural highlights and styles, visit our Architecture page.

Text taken from “Church of St. Mary’s, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Harrisburg,” OLBS Parish Archives. Titles have been added for organizational purposes.

Although the parish of St. Mary’s Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Church is of comparatively recent origin, the records are replete with valuable and interesting data.

On July 10, 1906, the Rt. Rev. J. W. Shanahan, late Bishop of Harrisburg, appointed the Rev. Martin J. Steffy as the first pastor of a territory then known as West Harrisburg. Having placed the new parish under the special patronage of the Mother of God, it was dedicated to her under the title of St. Mary’s, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament. Two days later, the newly appointed pastor took charge of its spiritual and temporal affairs. For several years previous, the district north of Reily Street has been considered a mission of the Cathedral and services were being held in two large rooms of the Mercy Convent located at Fifth and Maclay Streets. The boundary limits of the new parish, to Third Street, Third to Hamilton, Hamilton to Second, and both sides of Second northward. Arrangements were made, therefore, with the Sisters of Mercy to hold services in the Academy Building until the erection of a Church.

Original Church and School at Fifth, Maclay, and Atlas Streets

Exterior of the first church and school, St. Mary’s, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament

A week after his appointment, Father Steffy took up his abode in a rented residence at 2131 North Fourth Street and lived there until July, 1910. In the name of the parish, the pastor purchased a plot of ground bounded by Fifth, Maclay, and Atlas Streets. On the twentieth of March, 1907, the Rt. Rev. Bishop granted permission to erect a combination school and church building on this site. Ground was broken on Holy Thursday, March 28, 1907. Work progressed rapidly, and on May 26, 1907, not only the congregation but many visiting clergy attended the laying of the cornerstone by Bishop Shanahan. The Rev. Dr. M. M. Hassett of Harrisburg, acted as deacon, the Rev. S. C. Burger of York, sub-deacon and the Rev. J. H. Monohan of Harrisburg, cross bearer. The Rev. J. L. Shields was master of ceremonies while the Rev. William J. O’Callahan preached the sermon. Other visiting priests were the Rev. S. W. Wiest, the Rev. Henry N. Herzog, the Rev. D. J. Carey and the Rev. John Conaghan. The following November 17th the new building was dedicated by Bishop Shanahan. The Officers of the Mass on that occasion were: Celebrant, the Rev. M. J. Steffy, deacon; the Rev. H. S. Crist, sub-deacon; the Rev. P. James, O.S.B.; and master of ceremonies, the Rev. D. J. Carey. The sermons were delivered by the Rev. Gerard, O.S.B., and Bishop Shanahan. The Rt. Rev. Msgr. Benton was present in the Sanctuary. Established in the parish during Father Steffy’s regime, the Peoples Eucharistic League, the Holy Name Society, the Altar Society, and the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Sodality have existed, grown, and flourished since their inception. On July 1, 1910, a rectory, located at 419 Maclay Street, was purchased.

Interior of the first church of St. Mary's, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament

Interior of the first church of St. Mary’s, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament

Father Steffy was transferred to Sacred Heart Church, Lancaster, October 1, 1912, and the late Rt. Rev. Msgr. J. C. Thompson, V.G., became the pastor of St. Mary’s. Father Thompson cared for the souls entrusted to him until June 9, 1913 when he was named pastor of St. James’ Church, Steelton. The Rev. John F. O’Donnell was designated his successor. Father O’Donnell was pastor until March 1, 1915 when he was transferred to St. Joseph’s Church, Locust Gap and the Rev. William V. Dailey, the present Pastor, took charge of the parish.

New Church Building at Third and Woodbine Streets

For many years the substantial combination Church and school building at Fifth and Maclay Streets served the needs of the parish. It became imperative, however, that a new edifice be erected to the honor and glory of God and to serve the growing needs of the parishioners. Consequently on March 29, 1920 a rectory and an adjoining site for a new church, located at Third and Woodbine Streets were purchased. On October 20, 1927 the limits of the parish were changed on the South to Hamilton Street to and including Front Street, the other boundaries remaining the same as when the parish was initially formed.

Ground was broken on December 18, 1928 for the building of the new church of St. Mary’s, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament and twelve days later, the work of excavation and construction was begun on the present edifice. With solemn ceremonies the corner stone was laid on June 2, 1929 by the Rt. Rev. Philip R. McDevitt, Bishop of Harrisburg. The bell was blessed by Father Dailey August 31, 1929.