GRAFTON - In the small river town of Grafton, Illinois that is located at the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers you will find the beautiful St. Patrick Church. The arrival of Jacques Marquette, S.J. (sometimes known as Pere) and his fellow explorers to the Grafton area in 1673 is significant to the town of Grafton and the Catholic Church there; to the town, because it marks the first recorded appearance of anyone in Illinois territory; to the church because these men were Catholics, one of them, Marquette, a Jesuit Missionary Priest. Can we doubt that, as Father Marquette went ashore on the Illinois River, his first thought was to offer thanks to God for their safe and successful journey? On December 8, 2021, St Patrick Church will be 150 years old, their sesquicentennial jubilee.

Subscribe Now to Breaking News

"Anytime a parish reaches its 150th anniversary it is quite a cause for celebration, especially so with St. Patrick's parish. This is because, despite the fact that St. Patrick's was built just a few hundred feet from the Illinois River and has been completely flooded a few times in its history, the original Church building still stands. That to me is a metaphor of the invisible grace and presence of God, and of the faith of the people of St. Patrick's Church throughout its history. Even though the parish is small, it is a beautiful place with loving, humble, hardworking, and faith-filled people who continue to celebrate and live by example their devotion to God and their Catholic Faith, despite the storms and floods, spiritual and physical, encountered in life. I am humbled and very blessed to be assigned there with them as their priest", Father Martin Smith.

Father Louis Hennepin, another priest explorer was very likely among the next group of men to arrive in the Grafton vicinity. Many years went by before the recorded appearance of the next Catholic priest in Grafton. Perhaps there was an occasional Mass said there for the wandering Indian Tribes and the settlers migrating during the War of 1812; however, history is silent in this regard. One reliable source tells us that Father Verreydt, S.J. in 1838 had Grafton as his mission, but it was not until the quarries came into prominence about the year 1856 that we find evidence of a Catholic community in Grafton. At this time, many families of Irish descent arrived and at once the problem arose of providing a priest for them. In 1857 we know that Mass was celebrated for these laborers at the home of Sarah Dempsey by Father Manyan. In the years following, Father Carroll said Mass in the school while Bishop Juncker, head of then Alton Diocese, conducted meetings in the Methodist Church, a sign of ecumenism even in those early days.

For a time, Mass was said over the store of John Slaten by Fathers Sullivan and Laurant. Following this, Father Harty from Jerseyville held Mass in private homes and Father Bourke in the Quarry Hall in 1871. It was at this time that the Catholic community set about the monumental task of building a church. Before work could begin, a minor hurdle had to be overcome, and that was the location of the church. The Irish living in lower Grafton wanted the church located there, and the Germans living in upper Grafton wanted the church to be built in their area. A happy compromise was reached when it was decided to build the church in Upper part of town, for the sake of the Germans and name it St. Patrick in honor of the Irish.

Article continues after sponsor message

Top Story: State Tennis Star Elise Noble Is Quality Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram of Jerseyville Female Athlete of the Month For JCHS

On December 8, 1871, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the entire parish attended the first Mass in their church. The church was built at a cost of $5,000 with many hours of donated talented labor and native stone from the Quarry. This same building, with some alterations, still serves the community today. The original rectory was built in 1872 at a cost of $2,000.

Under the direction and dedication of Father Patrick Morrow, a parish hall was erected and dedicated in December 1971, 100 years after the church had been erected.

Karen Kinder, the parish sacristan said, “I have a unique perspective of St. Patrick’s Church, as I am a life-long member and a lifelong neighbor. Every morning I am greeted by the cross atop the steeple. This Church and this cross have stood as a reminder to me and so many that with faith all things are possible.”

To celebrate the Sesquicentennial Jubilee, the parish council has been planning a celebration to take place on Saturday, December 11, 2021. The celebration will begin with a Mass at 5:45 p.m. followed by festivities on the church grounds, including Christmas lights, a live nativity, and Christmas carolers. Refreshments will be served in the parish hall. Also, in the parish hall will be a history of the church, presented by Margret Ann Voke. The parish council has also been working on commemorative items including Christmas ornaments and holy cards. St Patrick’s has also received from the Vatican an Apostolic Blessing from Pope Francis.

“I have been a lifelong member of St. Patrick’s Church. I feel honored and blessed to be a part of such a wonderful parish and to have raised my family in the rich traditions of the catholic faith here. It is truly one of my favorite places on earth,” Martha Carey.

"Kansas - Dust In The Wind" now playing on The Eagle, the Riverbend's only Classic Rock station. Check out Riverbender Radio Today and Listen to Win!