February 19, 2017

I didn’t expect this to be a story about office machines.

Last week, I took a little field trip to the Archdiocese’s archives in Chicago.  As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the archivist said they had annual reports on file for the 31 years we were an Archdiocese of Chicago parish.

The archives are housed in a non-descript building just off the Kennedy expressway.  Only the Papal flag gave me a clue I was in the right place.  I expected to be sent to the basement (isn’t that where all archives are?), but was directed to a large suite of offices on the second floor.

After being shown where I could leave my coat, purse and   everything except a pencil (no pens allowed!), I was lead into a large room set up like a library.  In the corner, there was a   microfiche reader.

Now the last time I used a microfiche reader was in 1983 in the stacks at the University of Illinois.  Turns out, the technology hasn’t changed much.  I got a lesson in how to use the machine and was left on my own with a dozen rolls of film.

Each parish is required to file an annual report with the Diocese each year.  In 1917, the form was a four-page document in which the pastor answered questions like the number of Sacrament administered, purchases made, debt incurred, students in the school, etc.

From what I could glean, Fr. Scanlan got a pass on 1917 report, so the first I found was 1918.  The reports were in alpha order by city first, followed by parish.  That meant I had to go through all of the Chicago churches until I found Joliet and then found St. Raymond. 

For a first full year, the numbers were impressive.  Thirty-seven baptisms, 30 first communions, seven marriages and only 12 deaths, were recorded for the 560 souls under Fr. Scanlan’s care.  The 192 pupils in the school were taught by six Sisters of St. Francis who each earned $25 per month.

By 1919, things were booming, and Fr. Scanlan had bought a typewriter.  I was very grateful for that purchase last week as I flipped through the extremely hard to read microfiche.  Fr.  Scanlan’s typewritten pages and loopy signature stood out.

In a year, the parish had doubled in size and so did the number of people receiving Sacraments   The school was up to 234 students and the Sisters now made $30 per month.  As a development person, I was awed to see that the receipts from the annual (more likely first) bazaar were $6,317.70.  That is an extraordinary profit for the time, and I venture a guess that it helped fund the construction of the Church and School.  Our first capital campaign!

It took at least 20 minutes to go through one year’s microfiche (not including the two times I jammed the machine.), so I tried to skip forward to years of distinction. In 1941 Fr. Scanlan died, and Fr. Edwin Hoover became the second pastor of St. Raymond parish.  By then, a new typewriter must have been acquired and much of the information can’t be read. 

As I was packing up, the archivist asked if I was interested in letters to Fr. Scanlan from Archdiocesan offices. You betcha.

We ended up with 6 letters.  One from July, 1918, encouraged Fr. Scanlan to support the new De La Salle High School that the    Christian Brothers were opening.  “You will not fail, then, to announce in advance the opening of this school and impress upon the people its importance for the Catholics in Joliet.”

Other letters talked about the “committee” that was assigned to oversee Fr. Scanlan’s work primarily with the construction of the Church and School.  Based upon all of Fr. Scanlan’s writings, my guess is he neither needed nor appreciated the supervision.

A last piece was the extensive notes from a meeting in this very rectory on February 1, 1924.   The subject was the construction of an orphanage to serve Will and Grundy  counties.  More than a dozen priests were present, but Fr.  Scanlan was the one appointed secretary to take the notes. Of course he was.  He had a  typewriter.

Fr. Scanlan used the same  financial and demographic  information in the two expanded annual reports he distributed to his parishioners, but he included so much more.  We have two of his annual reports—from 1920 and 1925—and they are a wealth of information about the early years.  I was hoping that some of those were on file at the Archdiocese, but no luck. 

I can’t imagine Fr. Scanlan only wrote two of these reports in his 24 years as pastor.  Writers have to write, and Fr. Scanlan was clearly a story teller.  Founding families, if there’s an old box of stuff in your attic or basement that pre-dates 1941, please take a look.

See you at the Spaghetti Dinner this Friday!

Eileen Hooks Gutierrez
Director of Development
straysdevelopment@yahoo.com
815-722-6653, extension 242

 

 

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