“Blessed Sacrament has been life-changing for Frank, our children and me.
It is an extended family bonded by our love of God. It is home.” -- Jennifer Gardner

The Gardner family, Blessed Sacrament

What happens when Delta Delta Delta meets Sigma Nu? For Jennifer and Frank, it was love, marriage and eventually, five children. The Gardners met at Illinois State University in 1991, the year Jennifer was graduating. She majored in Finance and Marketing. Frank majored in Social Work, graduating in 1993. After living in Chicago and the Chicagoland area for a few years, the couple relocated to Springfield, where Jennifer grew up.

Raised in the Episcopal faith, Jennifer attended Springfield public schools. Frank grew up in Flossmoor, Illinois and went to public schools there. He was baptized in the Catholic faith.

Jennifer had an epiphany of sorts when her older son, Daniel, was in preschool in Washington Park. She befriended a group of “wonderful women” who all belonged to Blessed Sacrament Parish.

“Mary Ellen Hollahan, Ann Healy, Colleen McDonald, Amy Jennings, Shari Troike and Lisa Belz were just some of the women I met who were so kind and welcoming. These women had known each other their whole lives, but were quick to welcome a new friend and family into the Springfield Catholic community” says Jennifer.

Before long, she and Frank began attending mass at Blessed Sacrament, where they became close to Bishop Kevin Vann and Father David Hoefler. Both priests took the time to educate the Gardners about Catholicism and encouraged them to join the church. Frank and Jennifer were confirmed in the faith over 10 years ago with Mary Ellen and Denis Hollahan as their sponsors.

“Bishop Vann and Father Hoefler are [now] at other parishes, but they will always be part of our family” says Jennifer. “We have also been blessed to know Father Jeff Grant, who is a very kind priest.”

Frank works as the Quality Assurance Supervisor at the DHS Department of Disability Determination for the Social Security Administration. Jennifer, who was a stay-at-home mom for 15 years, recently went back to work part-time as a trust administrator at Illinois National Bank.

Their children are busy, too. Daniel, 15, is a sophomore at SHG, where he plays baseball in the spring and is planning to play football in the fall. He also travels with a competitive baseball team outside of school, and has been an altar server at Blessed Sacrament Church for the past five years.

Isabel, 13, is a Blessed Sacrament seventh grader, who has just completed her science fair project and her first term paper. She is very excited to be portraying Mary in the Stations of the Cross next month -- she told her mother that she’s been “waiting for her whole life” to do so. She enjoys ballet and trains five days a week at Dance Arts Studio and is also a trainee with the Springfield Ballet Company.

Mary Claire, 10, is in fourth grade at Blessed Sacrament. Her teacher, Julie Ketchum has become a close family friend and is brother Tommy’s Godmother. She loves running, volleyball, basketball and soccer. She sings in the Jubilate choir and recently performed a solo of Amazing Grace in the school’s Fine Arts Night program. Her mom says they are grateful to have Jody Kienzler as Mary Clare’s choir director.

Blessed Sacrament second grader Catherine is looking forward to her First Communion next month with the guidance of her teacher Mrs. Kroner. She enjoys ballet, soccer and Brownies with her friends.

The youngest Gardner child, Tommy, is enjoying preschool at Blessed Sacrament and especially loves Mrs. Stauffer’s “kind, energetic and sparkly spirit” according to Jennifer.

Over the years, Jennifer and Frank have managed to find time to participate in many parish functions such as garden parties and auctions. They also volunteered as marriage preparation facilitators for many years. In the summer, Jennifer volunteers at Vacation Bible School.

“All of these activities have given us so many opportunities for lasting friendships” says Jennifer. “For example, in 2005, during the Blessed Sacrament Church restoration, Frank was asked to set up 600 chairs in the gym each Friday night for mass on Sunday. He did the set up for six months with Pat Ketchum, who is now a very good friend, and Tommy’s Godfather.”

Additionally, Frank has also been a board member for Southwest Baseball for six years.

The Gardners love Blessed Sacrament Parish and School. They love that their children participate in morning prayer, mass and religious education as part of the school curriculum.

Jennifer thinks that the Character Counts assemblies on Monday morning are another great thing about Blessed Sacrament.

“Different classes and students are recognized for good behavior and choosing to live the Beatitudes” she says.

She thinks that teaching children that it is “good to be good” is an invaluable lifelong lesson. Perhaps, too, the assemblies’ overall theme of “Choose Greatness” resonates for the Gardners, who believe that in choosing Blessed Sacrament, they are doing just that.

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St. Aloysius
Blessed Sacrament
  Christ the King
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Sacred Heart-Griffin

St. Agnes  
Little Flower 
St. Patrick