December 4, 2016

Throughout our Centennial I plan to devote some of my columns to the telling of our parish history.  Today, I want to start with Fr. Francis Scanlan and his first day as our founding pastor.

On June 29, 1917, Fr. Francis Scanlan was a 42-year-old Irish immigrant serving as an associate pastor at Holy Cross Parish in Chicago.  The day’s morning post brought orders dated June 28, 1917 from then-Archbishop Mundelein.  He was instructed to go to Joliet and form a new parish.  Imagine: He was assigned to his first pastorate, in a new city, and he was starting from scratch.  No church, no rectory, no school, no parishioners.

Within hours,  Fr. Scanlan took his first-ever car ride to Joliet and immediately paid a visit to the Sisters of St. Francis of Mary  Immaculate at the Motherhouse on the campus of St. Francis    Academy (now University of St. Francis.)  He met with Mother    Vincent Hunk and Mother Alexander to ask for the use of their   convent chapel for Sunday liturgies until a church could be built. They agreed and our wonderful partnership with the Joliet  Franciscans was established.

His next stop (still on his first day!) was at the door of the rectory of St. Patrick Parish.  There he found the pastor, Fr. Philip Kennedy, and told him that he was there to take half of his parishioners as instructed by Archbishop Mundelein.

Being the senior pastor (by less than a week), Fr. Kennedy did the only logical thing.  He invited Fr. Scanlan in, and they set about making plans. By the time the sun set, the two Irishmen had agreed that Fr. Scanlan would move in to the St. Patrick rectory, and they would announce the split at all Masses the following Sunday. 

You might wonder how we know these details.  That is thanks to   Fr. Scanlan himself. 

We have two early writings from Fr. Scanlan. Both are small booklets that if they were written today would be called annual reports.  In each (one is dated 1920, the other 1925) he provides a state of the parish report as well as pointed, practical and pithy   advice.  (I’ll share more Fr. Scanlan-isms as the year goes on, but for example: He told bridal couples to bring the Ring, License and their nerve to wedding ceremonies.  “We need them all.”)

The reports include an accounting of each of the cash donations received by the parish, including children’s envelopes.  These offerings were conveniently listed in street order to make it easy to rank your giving with your neighbors’.

A few years ago, we compiled all of the names and declared that anyone who was on the parish books from 1925 or prior was a founding family.  The list of all those names is pretty remarkable…and….remarkably familiar.  You can find the list in the Heritage of Faith hallway near the picture of Fr. Scanlan breaking ground on the original church.  Or, you can review the document on our website at   Please take a look and let us know if any of your ancestors are listed.  We’d love to know more about our founding families…and pictures would be most appreciated.

I hope to see you all at the opening liturgy for our Centennial this Thursday.  This is going to be a tremendous evening for our parish.  We’ll begin at 6:30 p.m. with a candlelight procession to the Cathedral to honor Fr. Scanlan and our founding families and then come together for Mass in the Cathedral at 7:00 p.m..  I’ve reached out to some of our current parishioners who are descendants of our founding families to participate in the procession and Mass.  All are delighted.

I know it’s a Thursday.  I know it’s a school night.  I know part of the evening calls for folks to walk around the block in December.  But I also know that this is going to a special night and your presence will make it more so.  Please come!

Eileen Hooks Gutierrez
Director of Development
815-722-6653, ext. 233

P.S.  I almost forgot!  We’ll be selling our commemorative Centennial pins. 
Every lapel needs one!  $5 each or 3 for $10.  Cash or check only please.

P.P.S.  And there will be cookies and hot cocoa after Mass!


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