The History of St. Mary’s Parish

St. Mary’s Catholic Church, established on January 22, 1842, was the first Catholic parish of Edwardsville, Illinois. In 2017, it celebrated its 175th anniversary, commemorating its contribution to the city and surrounding area. The first Catholic cemetery in Edwardsville, St. Mary’s Cemetery, was established in 1843, and was the only Catholic cemetery in the area until 1915. St. Mary’s also provided the first Catholic school in Edwardsville. From St. Mary’s Church, two additional parishes were established, St. Boniface in Edwardsville in 1869, and St. Cecilia in Glen Carbon in 1926.

Throughout its history, St. Mary’s has provided spiritual leadership for its parishioners. Three churches, at three separate locations, have been the home for St. Mary’s. The first, off North Main Street in what is now downtown Edwardsville, was a small church constructed in 1843 for only 75 to 80 parishioners. It has been torn down, but would have been located behind where the Wildey Theatre stands today. The second, larger, church, opened in June 1889, sat at 300 West Park Street, at the corner of Park and Johnson Streets. It was a beautiful red brick church with a spire that gave it an old-world Gothic appearance. In 1965, with the need for a larger church and a school, the current St. Mary’s Church was built at 1802 Madison Avenue, in the Montclaire subdivision.

In 1966, the current St. Mary’s School opened its doors.  Since then, it has grown in size and reputation. Two additions later, the school remains a faith-filled place of learning that serves preschool through grade eight. In the past 175 years, the parish and school have grown dramatically, but the commitment to the spiritual needs of the people has remained consistent throughout.


1805 – 1841     Beginnings

In 1805, Thomas Kirkpatrick built a one-room log cabin on the ridge above Cahokia Creek, thus becoming the first resident of what is now Edwardsville, Illinois. That cabin was approximately 300 yards from (what is now) North Main Street at the north end of Kirkpatrick Lane.[1] In 1813, as the area became more developed, Kirkpatrick named the young town Edwardsville, after his friend, Ninian Edwards.[2]

Prior to 1842, the town of Edwardsville had no official Catholic parish and no pastor, relying on circuit-riding priests to celebrate Mass. These priests mainly came from St. Louis, Cahokia, and Kaskaskia. [3]

Between 1835 and 1841, the Catholics in Edwardsville met in homes to worship. Among the hosts of the services were Mrs. McCabe, Mrs. Bartlett, Mr. Murray, and Mr. Taylor. Some of the other families recorded in this congregation were: Desmond, Drda, Dunn, Flynn, Grainey, Halley, Krouse, Manion, McNeilly, Purcell, and Werner. As the group grew to 25 pioneer families, they decided to appeal to the Bishop of St. Louis for their own congregation and church.[4]


1842 – 1843     Establishment of Parish

St. Mary's I best

At the time, the Diocese of St. Louis included the western half of Illinois.[5]  Bishop Joseph Rosati of St. Louis agreed to establish a parish in Edwardsville.[6] On January 22, 1842, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Buchmaster deeded to Bishop Rosati a plot of land for the “Roman Catholic Congregation of Edwardsville.”[7]

According to an earlier Church history, until the church was completed, the Sacraments were celebrated once or twice a month in the home of Mr. Taylor, located on Hillsboro Road.[8] One of the Mission Priests who served Edwardsville in that first year was Father Michael Carroll, from Ireland.[9]

The first Catholic Church in Edwardsville, completed in mid-1843,[10] was located slightly south of College and east of north Main Street, behind where the Wildey Theatre stands today.[11] The church building was reported to be a frame structure, of modest size, that might hold 75 to 80 people.[12] The original congregation adopted the name of “The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Mary.” Later, the name was changed to St. Mary’s Catholic Church.[13]

According to early Diocesan records, most of the families of the first St. Mary’s parish were of German, Bohemian, English, or Irish descent, with Germans predominating.[14]


1843     St. Mary’s Cemetery

In 1843, St. Mary’s Cemetery was established at what is now 600 N. Kansas Street at the intersection of Kansas and Cass Avenues, thus becoming the first known Catholic cemetery in Edwardsville.[15] On October 16, 1843, the Bishop of the St. Louis Diocese purchased one acre of land for $10.00 from Cassius and Martha Neskett of Madison County, Illinois. The land was to be used for a “burying ground” by St. Mary’s Catholic Church. On October 31, 1843, one additional acre at the same location was purchased for $10.00 from Erastus and Julia A. Wheeler.[16]

After St. Boniface was established in 1869, the Bishop determined that both parishes would use the cemetery.[17] Until the establishment of the separate St. Boniface Cemetery in 1915, St. Mary’s Cemetery was frequently referred to as “the Catholic cemetery” in newspaper articles.[18] It is presumed that most Catholics from Edwardsville were buried at St. Mary’s Cemetery until 1915.[19]


1843 – 1857     Dioceses of Chicago and Alton

On November 28, 1843,[20] St. Mary’s in Edwardsville and all the Catholic Churches in Illinois became part of the Diocese of Chicago,[21] with the Right Reverend William Quarter, D.D., as Bishop. [22]

The American bishops and archbishops met in Baltimore in 1852, and decided to create more dioceses in the United States. They suggested that Illinois be divided, and on July 29, 1853, Pope Pius IX established the Diocese of Quincy. This included what is now the Dioceses of Springfield and Belleville in Illinois.[23] In 1857, the diocese was renamed, becoming the Diocese of Alton.[24]


1857 – 1862     First Sacramental Celebrations

From 1842 to 1856, there was no resident priest for the Church of the Immaculate Conception (St. Mary’s). Instead, Mission Priests would celebrate the Sacraments.[25]

In 1857, the Bishop Henry Damian Juncker, Bishop of the Diocese of Alton,[26] appointed Father J. Reiss to the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Edwardsville. From 1857 to 1859, the Reverend J. Reiss was a resident pastor at St. Mary’s.[27] In 1857, the first recorded Baptism at St. Mary’s was John Loeb, son of John George Loeb and Mary Mayer, born on September 1, 1857.[28]

In 1859, Bishop Juncker appointed the Reverend Louis Hinssen to St. Mary’s.[29]   Father Hinssen, from Sonsbeck, Germany, served the parish from 1859 to 1861.[30] Father Hinssen celebrated the marriage ceremony of Henry Ballhorn and Frances Riek on December 6, 1859, with F. Harles and L. Hellrung as witnesses.[31]

The first recorded burial service was on December 12, 1859.  Father Hinssen presided over the burial services for James Vogel, age 70, husband of Barbara Friedmann Vogel.[32]

On May 17, 1860, sixteen children received their First Holy Communion from Father Hinssen. The children in this initial class included Mary Blumm, Bridget Dempsey, Joseph Eberle, John Kellen, Louisa Liedler, Carol Mahler, William Manion, John McNeelly, Thomas McNeelly, William Moorey, Edward Purcell, Joseph Rooth, Henry Schaefer, Peter Schmidt, John Schneider, and Edmund Yatroth.  [33]

On February 28, 1861, Bishop Juncker from the Diocese of Alton administered the Sacrament of Confirmation to 36 members of the first Confirmation Class of St. Mary’s.[34]

From 1861 to 1862, the Reverend Peter Peters, from Keppelen, in Rhenish Province, near Holland, was assigned as pastor at St. Mary’s. Father Peters built a residence and reportedly started the first Catholic School in Edwardsville.[35]  Although there is little documentation of the school, parish records (written in German and English) clearly indicate collection for support of a school, signed by Father Peters on the 25th of May, 1863.[36]

In 1862, Bishop Juncker appointed the Reverend J. Vollmeger to St. Mary’s. Father Vollmeger served the parish from 1862 to 1864, and Father J. Tuerk, from 1864 to 1865.[37] In 1865, the Reverend Edward Hermann, who was from Steinau, in the Diocese of Breslau in Germany, was appointed as pastor of St. Mary’s. In 1866, he was reassigned to Mendota, Illinois.[38] Bishop Juncker then appointed the Reverend William Kuchenbuch, a native of Hundshagen, Westphalia, to be pastor at the Church of the Immaculate Conception (St. Mary’s).[39]


St. Mary’s – Mother Church to St. Boniface

By 1866, the Church of the Immaculate Conception (St. Mary’s), the original Edwardsville Catholic parish, had been growing into two distinct groups. The German-speaking parishioners wanted to have their own congregation and parish, with homilies in their own language.[40] Under Father Kuchenbuch’s direction, they purchased property on March 1, 1866,[41] with pledged amounts from the German-speaking congregation.[42]

Early records indicate that two separate societies were formed within the parish that is now called St. Mary’s: St. Patrick’s Benevolent Society and St. Joseph’s Building Society. St. Patrick’s Benevolent Society was to be “exclusively English [speaking],” and would care for the Church of the Immaculate Conception. St. Joseph’s Building Society was “exclusively for the Germans,” and they focused on building their own church.[43] On January 1, 1869, the Very Reverend Peter J. Baltes, then the Administrator of the Diocese of Alton, officially established a second parish for Edwardsville, which would be called St. Boniface.[44] The congregation would be the German members of St. Mary’s parish.

Father Kuchenbuch was transferred from St. Mary’s to Quincy, Illinois, in mid-1868. Father J. F. Mohr came to St. Mary’s briefly in 1868; Father L. Hipper was assigned to the parish from 1868 to 1869.[45] In 1869, the Reverend Anthony Rustige from Paderborn, Westphalia, became the pastor of St. Mary’s. When the new church opened in 1869, Father Rustige left St. Mary’s parish in order to serve the German-speaking congregation at the new parish.[46]

The new church was ready for occupancy, though reportedly not entirely completed,[47] in October 1869. There was a “Ceremony of Division” at 10:00 am on November 7, 1869,[48] the first Sunday that Mass was to be offered in the new church. The Edwardsville Band led a half-mile procession from St. Mary’s Church to the new church, to be called St. Boniface.[49]


1869 – 1878     Reestablishing a Community

According to the Diocese of Springfield, the division of the parish left a small congregation at St. Mary’s that was mostly Irish, with some English and Bohemian families. Among the family names left at St. Mary’s were: Dunn, Manion, Murray, Grainey, Flynn, Krouse, Smola, Taylor, Purcell, McNeilly, Desmond, Halley, Drda, and Werner.[50]

In 1870, Bishop Peter J. Baltes became the Bishop of Alton following the death of Bishop Juncker. Between 1870 and 1872, Reverend D. Byrne served as pastor at St. Mary’s. When Father Byrne left in 1872, Father F. Revourik was assigned to the parish for a brief time.[51]

By 1872, the parish of St. Mary’s was dwindling in numbers, likely due to the frequent turnover of pastors. In 1872, Bishop Baltes appointed the Reverend J. O’Halloran to be pastor. Father O’Halloran provided stability and growth, reviving the parish. When he left in 1876, the parish continued to thrive under the Reverend P.J. Macken, who served until 1879.[52]


1879 -1884     Reverend James P. Smith – Plans for a New Church

In 1879, the Reverend James P. Smith, from Grosser-laugh, Ireland, was assigned to St. Mary’s.[53] At that time, the parish had been growing so much that there was a need for a new church.  The old church had become unsafe as well as inadequate for church purposes.[54] Father Smith was instrumental in the purchase of property. The recorded deeds at the time indicate that the official church title in 1883 was “St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church of Edwardsville.”[55]

Unfortunately, on August 2, 1884, Father Smith fell into the well at his residence and drowned.[56] An article in the Edwardsville Intelligencer dated August 6, 1884 quotes the obituary in the St. Louis Globe Democrat, stating that Father Smith’s death “is a particularly hard blow to St. Mary’s Parish just at this time, as Father Smith by his untiring efforts has succeeded in raising money to insure the building of a large new church for his congregation. The site had been selected and much of his time was given to thinking of the new church.”[57]


1884 – 1893     St. Mary’s Church II

St Marys IIBishop Baltes[58] then appointed the newly ordained Reverend John C. Daw, from Massachusetts, to St. Mary’s.[59] The Diocese had purchased property for a new church from Mr. Crocker.[60] Father Daw obtained the deed to the property at 300 West Park Street from Father John Janssen, the Administrator of the Diocese of Alton, on August 25, 1887.[61] At the time, the description of the property was, “Lots numbered five hundred and fifty-five (555), five hundred and fifty-six (556) and five hundred and fifty-seven in Todd & others addition, commonly called Upper Edwardsville.”[62] This location is now the site of the Edwardsville Township Offices, on West Park Street between Crane and Johnson Streets.[63] The Edwardsville architect, C. H. Spilman, was chosen for the project.[64]

Reports of the laying of the cornerstone of the new church differ. According to the Diocese of Springfield, the cornerstone of St. Mary’s Church II at 300 West Park Street was laid on August 15, 1888.[65]

The Edwardsville Intelligencer reported on a more elaborate, and most likely, symbolic “laying of a cornerstone” on Sunday, May 26, 1889. Bishop James Ryan of Alton and Reverend Hugo Fessler were among the dignitaries that participated in a parade from the first St. Mary’s Church to the site of the new construction.[66]

According to the Intelligencer of May 29, 1889, the following items were included in the cornerstone of the new St. Mary’s: “one Latin document to perpetuate the memory of the event, history and list of officers and members of St. John’s Nepomuck, C.K. of I. (Catholic Knights of Illinois) and St. Mary’s Sewing Circle, copies of the Intelligencer, Republican and Democrat, Boston Pilot, Church Progress (St. Louis) and coins of various denominations.”[67] Following the ceremony, the ladies of St. Mary’s provided a free dinner.[68]

As described in Parish archives, St. Mary’s Church II “was made of red brick with interesting detail around the arched windows. The church spire gave it an old world Gothic appearance.”[69] In the Edwardsville Intelligencer of May 29, 1889, the new church building was described as “40 by 120 feet in the extreme, the auditorium 40 by 80 feet. It is surmounted by a steeple 110 feet high and will cost $15,000 to $18,000. It will be for use of the English and Bohemian speaking Catholics, and all others who wish to attend.”[70]

In June, 1889, St. Mary’s Church II was dedicated by Bishop James Ryan of the Diocese of Alton, Illinois, with Father Daw as pastor.[71] By all accounts, the new church was beautiful, with an elaborate altar as the centerpiece and two matching side altars. The Communion rail had carved details.[72]

According to Diocesan history, the original St. Mary’s Church was “disposed of to John S. Trares for a nominal consideration.”[73]

After the completion of the new church, plans were made to build a parsonage at 306 W. Park Street. According to an article in the Intelligencer dated March 16, 1892, the members of the “St. Mary’s Church Ladies’ Building Society” were charged with overseeing “the erection of the parsonage.” Father Daw was able to move into the home. Unfortunately, in 1893, within only a few months of moving in, Father Daw was transferred to New Douglas.[74]

Reverend Thomas Connolly was appointed temporary pastor at St. Mary’s. Unfortunately, because of ill health, he was transferred to New Mexico shortly thereafter.[75]


1893 – 1936     Father Charles A. O’Reilly

On August 1, 1893, Reverend Charles A. O’Reilly from Iowa was appointed as pastor of St. Mary’s by Bishop James Ryan. Father O’Reilly had been ordained just the year before. Father O’Reilly was pastor at St. Mary’s for 43 years, which makes him the longest-serving pastor to this day. During Father O’Reilly’s tenure, St. Mary’s flourished. According to records, the congregation grew steadily, and many social gatherings were held in the parish. Father O’Reilly himself was very popular among all members of the Edwardsville community.[76]

Shortly after Father O’Reilly arrived in the parish, the “Bohemians who were members of the congregation erected a building diagonally across the street as a meeting place.”[77]

On Sunday, December 20, 1896, a large new bell, donated by the St. John’s Nepomuck Society to St. Mary’s Church, was consecrated in a formal ceremony. According to the Intelligencer, both Catholic congregations of Edwardsville attended the ceremony. Organizations of both parishes “attended in full regalia.” After the Mass, the bell was blessed. The bell was fittingly named “St. John Nepomuck.” Members of the St. John Nepomuck Society involved in the project were: Nicholas Werner, Frank Drda, Martin Kraus, Joseph Scheiber, Frank and John Kraus, Frank Schrameck, William and John Meek, John Leffler, and Joseph Rezabeck.[78]

On October 21, 1906, two statues, of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and St. Anthony, were unveiled at the church. They were installed on special brackets at either side of the arch defining the nave. These statues, imported from Europe, were described as “very near life size,….exquisite in form and coloring, a lifelike cast being imparted on them. The designs are chaste and delicate and the expressions delicate.”[79]

The parish thrived so much under Father O’Reilly that the debt on the church and parsonage were liquidated. According to records, during Father O’Reilly’s tenure, the members of the congregation discussed plans to purchase land and build a large school. However, such plans did not materialize.[80] The parish did purchase a residence to the south of the property, at 216 Crane Street. Known as “the Cottage” or “the Club House,”[81] it became a meeting place of different church organizations.[82] The building, now called the Hays Mallory Building, still sits directly behind the Edwardsville Township Offices.[83]


1923 – 1924     Diocese of Springfield

On October 26, 1923, Pope Pius XI decided to transfer the Episcopal See of the Diocese of Alton to Springfield, Illinois. On November 10, he named the Reverend James A. Griffin as the first bishop of the Diocese of Springfield Illinois. Griffin was consecrated at Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago, on February 25, 1924.[84] Bishop Griffin’s first task was to move the chancery from Alton to Springfield and to establish a new cathedral, which became the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.[85]


1925 – 1941     St. Mary’s – Mother Church to St. Cecilia

The village of Glen Carbon was also growing. Many members of St. Mary’s parish lived in Glen Carbon. Father O’Reilly had been coming to the village school in Glen Carbon to celebrate Mass on Sundays for their convenience. However, as St. Mary’s grew, Father O’Reilly was unable to continue that practice.[86]

On July 1, 1925, Bishop Griffin assigned the Reverend Charles A. Meagher to be an assistant pastor at St. Mary’s in Edwardsville, to assist Father O’Reilly. Father Meagher, born in Iowa, was a nephew of Father O’Reilly, and had been ordained just six years before this assignment.[87] Father Meagher said Masses in Glen Carbon, and supported the community’s efforts to create their own parish.[88]

In January 1926, the parish of St. Cecilia was established by Bishop James A. Griffin. The sixty-eight families in the parish quickly purchased land and hired M. B. Kane of Edwardsville as the architect for the church.[89] The mission-style church of St. Cecilia, at the corner of Meridian and Main in Glen Carbon,[90] was completed in November 1926.[91]

The mission parish continued to be a part of St. Mary’s Church, and Father O’Reilly was administrator at St. Cecilia, through his assistant, Father Charles Meagher. Father Meagher, in fact, was given much credit for the early success of the parish.[92] St. Cecilia’s Church was dedicated on June 26, 1927, thus becoming the second parish to be formed from St. Mary’s in Edwardsville.[93]

When Father O’Reilly died on September 5, 1936, the entire city mourned. An article dated September 8th stated that “Non Catholics as well as Catholics have alike experienced the feeling of profound regret at the passing of a man whose life was such a tremendous influence for good in the community.”[94]

After Father O’Reilly’s death, Bishop Griffin appointed Father Meagher to be the pastor of St. Mary’s. He served the parish until his own death on December 30, 1941. Then Father Edgar Ryan, C.P., who was a professor at the Preparatory Seminary on Natural Bridge in St. Louis, became the temporary pastor at St. Mary’s. He was somewhat familiar with the parish, having occasionally helped as a priest on the weekends.[95]


1942 – 1961     Father Peter Paul McGuinness

On January 22, 1942, Bishop Griffin appointed the Reverend Peter Paul McGuinness as pastor of St. Mary’s. Though born in Ireland, Father McGuinness had already served many years as a pastor in the Springfield Diocese. During Father McGuinness’s tenure at St. Mary’s, “all outstanding debts of the parish were retired.”[96] In addition, several improvements were made to St. Mary’s Church, “without the necessity of special collections.”[97] The enhancements included installation of “a new organ and stained glass windows, an automatic bell-ringer, new carpeting, exterior tuck-pointing, and improvements in the parish house and adjoining cottage (parish social center).”[98] In addition, a grotto in honor of Our Lady of Lourdes had been added to the parish grounds,[99] on the side of the church leading to the parsonage.[100] The statue from the grotto is now in the grotto at St. Mary’s Church III.[101]

Bishop James Griffin died on August 5, 1948, and Bishop William A. O’Connor was assigned to the Diocese of Springfield by Pope Pius XII.[102]

On May 20, 1958, Father McGuinness celebrated his Golden Jubilee of his ordination with a special Mass at St. Mary’s, celebrated by the Most Reverend William A. O’Connor, then Bishop of the Springfield Diocese.[103] Three years later, on September 12, 1961, Father McGuinness retired from the active priesthood. On September 26, 1961, Bishop O’Connor appointed the Reverend Louis Elbow as pastor of St. Mary’s.


1961 – 1971     Recommitment to Catholic Education

From the late 1940s to 1960, there was a tremendous growth of population in Madison County,[104] due to the “baby boom” after World War II.[105] These children were reaching school age. In the late 1950s, Bishop O’Connor ordered a study of population trends, which determined that St. Mary’s parish should have a larger church and a school.[106] Seven acres on the South side of Edwardsville, in the Montclaire subdivision, were purchased.[107]

St. Mary's Original School, c. 1966, from yearbookConstruction of the present St. Mary’s Church (III) began. According to an Intelligencer article of January 21, 1992, the original plans were that the church would be a temporary place of worship, seating 650 people. Plans were to build a school, and later build a church on the seven-acre site and convert the temporary church and the cafeteria/auditorium beneath it into a gymnasium.[108] To meet the high demand for Catholic schools in the 1960s, a common approach was to focus on the school and build the permanent church later.

On August 15, 1965, Father Louis Elbow said the first Masses in the present St. Mary’s Church at 1802 Madison Avenue. Although the church was designed to be temporary, the Intelligencer stated that it looked like a permanent church.[109] Parishioners remember that the interior of the church was traditional. A wooden Communion rail with a wheat motif and gold-tone gates separated the sanctuary from the congregation. The altar was traditionally placed, against the back wall of the sanctuary, which had wood panels. There was a statue of St. Mary on the left and St. Joseph on the right.[110] The faceted glass window of Mary would not be installed until 1991.[111]

In September 1966, the new St. Mary’s School opened to its first classes.[112]  The original school consisted of nine classrooms, an office, and a cafeteria.[113] For the 1966-67 school year, the school offered grades Kindergarten through grade 4. The school was staffed by two Sisters of the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ, Sister M. Lorine (grades 3-4) and Sister M. Andrea (grade 1), and two lay persons, Mrs. Robert J. Frey, Jr. (Kindergarten) and Mrs. Edward Garde (grade 2).[114] The first principal was Sister M. Lorine.[115] Students wore uniforms; boys wore dark pants, white shirts and ties, and girls wore white blouses with rounded Peter Pan collars, criss-cross ties, and plaid jumpers. The sisters wore habits.[116]

When the school was first opened, Father Elbow announced plans to add one grade to the school each year until all eight grades were established.[117] In fact, grade 5 was added to the school for the 1967-68 school year, and grade 6 was added for 1968-69. Grades 7 and 8 were added later (1980-81 and 1981-82, respectively).[118]

After the completion of the church and school, the parish built a residence for Father Elbow, directly across from the church.[119]


1971 – 1993     Father Roger Simpson

On June 28, 1971, Father Elbow retired from the active priesthood, and the Reverend Roger Simpson was assigned as pastor of St. Mary’s by Bishop O’Connor.[120] Bishop O’Connor had attended the Second Vatican Council in Rome, which had been called by Pope John XXIII. Bishop O’Connor encouraged implementation of the mandates of the council.[121]

Under Father Simpson, the recommended changes to the liturgy from the Second Vatican Council were gradually implemented at St. Mary’s Church. The Communion rail was removed from the sanctuary, and an altar facing the congregation was made. Some of the Communion rail was used for the legs of the new altar, keeping the wheat motif.[122]

Church1In 1974, Father Simpson initiated a 10-year Debt Reduction program to pay off the nearly one-quarter-million-dollar Church/School construction debt. On June 24, 1984,[123] Father Simpson participated in a Mortgage Burning ceremony in front of the altar.[124]

After the parish of St. Mary’s was moved to the new location in the Montclaire subdivision, the parish sold the old St. Mary’s Church II back to the Diocese of Springfield. The church was then designated as the Catholic Newman Chapel and Center for the Catholic students attending Southern Illinois University.[125] Father James Shortal said daily Masses at that location[126] until 1971, when the Religious Center at the University opened. After that, only occasional services were held in the old church.[127] The last Mass was celebrated in the church in 1979, and the church’s altar was sold.[128]

After that, the old church lay vacant, and vandalism became a problem. The diocese sold the church to Stutz Excavating and Demolition Company of Alton for an undisclosed amount. The bells were sent to a church in Mount Zion. The Wick Organ Company dismantled the organ and brought it back to Highland. Stained glass and items to be resold were removed from the church, and it was torn down in 1982.[129] Many of the parish mourned the loss of such a beautiful church.[130]

In 1975, Bishop O’Connor retired due, in part, to ill health. Bishop Joseph A. McNicholas was assigned to the Diocese of Springfield. He served until his death on April 17, 1983. Bishop Daniel Ryan then became the head of the Diocese.[131]

Sister Therese Galerneau, PHJC, was principal of St. Mary’s School during the early 1980s. In the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, Mrs. Jean Johnson was principal. During Mrs. Johnson’s tenure, the school thrived.[132]


1842 – 1992     St. Mary’s Sesquicentennial

During Father Simpson’s tenure, the parish celebrated its Sesquicentennial, the 150th Anniversary of the founding of the parish. In preparation for the event, the parish unveiled “The Window of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament” in May 1991. The window is made of faceted glass, similar to stained glass, and depicts Mary. It towers behind the altar, measuring thirteen feet tall and eight feet wide.[133] On Tuesday, August 15, 1991, the Feast of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven, the window was officially dedicated and blessed.[134]

On January 26, 1992, St. Mary’s began its Sesquicentennial celebration, opening with a special concert and candlelight dinner. There were activities every month, led by Suzanne Dietrich and Marilyn Chandler with a team of eleven parishioners. Other events included a scripted history of the church by St. Mary’s students and a Mass to honor former pastors and to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Father Simpson’s ordination. In addition, there was a Mass of renewal of marriage vows, a Flag Day Mass, a parish picnic, and a founder’s celebration. On Sunday, October 11, 1992, the parish held a celebratory anniversary Mass, Bishop Daniel Ryan of the Springfield Diocese presiding. A parish cookbook, containing favorite recipes of parishioners, was compiled and sold. Finally, a commemorative Sesquicentennial History Book was distributed in early 1993. This included a history by Father Simpson, and copies of numerous letters, historic documents, and articles.[135]

On January 12, 1993, Father Simpson retired, after 22 years as pastor of St. Mary’s. The same day, Reverend Gerald Bunse became pastor, assigned by Bishop Daniel Ryan.[136]


1993 -1998     Primary School Expansion

Primary School AdditionBy 1993, under Mrs. Jean Johnson’s leadership,[137] St. Mary’s School had more students than it could accommodate. In August of that year, a Long Range Pastoral Planning Committee was formed to look at the future needs of St. Mary’s Church and School. The first addition to St. Mary’s School included a multi-purpose building and five classrooms to be used for primary students.[138] The approximate cost of the project was nearly one million dollars.[139] On December 18, 1995, the new school addition and multi-purpose building were dedicated by Bishop Daniel L. Ryan.[140]

By the 1998-99 school year, St. Mary’s School had 274 students, the largest enrollment in the school history to that date, with grades Kindergarten through 8, and two classrooms each of grades K through 5. A portable building for two classrooms was purchased, and plans were made for a second addition to the school.[141]

In 1998,[142] St. Mary’s Band, under the leadership of Mrs. Marsha Etzkorn, joined with St. Boniface’s Band to become the Edwardsville Catholic Schools Band. The combined bands became the only grade school marching band in the county, with students in grades 4-8 eligible to join.[143] The Edwardsville Catholic Schools Band continues to this day.

In October 1999, Bishop Daniel Ryan retired and Bishop George J. Lucas became the head of the Diocese of Springfield.[144]


1999 – 2002     Middle School Expansion

In August 1999, Principal Jean Johnson was appointed to be the Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois.[145] Janet Rose became principal of St. Mary’s School. By the 2000-2001 school year, St. Mary’s had grown even more, with grades K-8, and two classrooms each of Kindergarten through grade 6.[146]

Middle School AdditionConstruction of an eight-classroom addition, connected to the church and designed for middle school students, began in the summer of 2001. This second addition to St. Mary’s School allowed for separate rooms for a science lab, computer lab, and a library. An elevator, providing access to the Church, was a welcome addition. The wing was dedicated on January 27, 2002, with Father Bunse and Janet Rose, the principal of St. Mary’s School.[147]

Mrs. Rose retired from St. Mary’s School in 2003. Mrs. Peg Bodinet became principal at the start of the 2003-2004 school year. This was also the first year that St. Mary’s offered a preschool program.

Father Bunse was transferred from St. Mary’s parish on January 5, 2004.  In the interim, Bishop George Lucas[148] assigned Reverend John Corredato, C.S.V., the pastor of St. Boniface, as the Parish Administrator, and Reverend Chris House as the Sacramental Minister.[149]

One of the most active parishioners involved with the parish and the construction of the multi-purpose building was Ray Hessel. For years, he was a vital part of the parish, devoting much of his time and talent to the progress of the church and school.[150] He even designed and made a Thunderbird, which hangs in the gym. After Ray’s death in 2003,[151]  the Parish Council spearheaded a movement to name the gym after him.[152] On June 19, 2004, the gym was rededicated as “The Ray Hessel Gymnasium.”[153] The flag that hangs in the gym is the one that had covered Ray’s casket.[154]


2004 – 2010     Father Tom Meyer


On July 1, 2004, Bishop George Lucas[155] assigned Father Tom Meyer as pastor of St. Mary’s Church.[156] Immediately, Father Tom’s enthusiasm and commitment to the parish were evident. During Father Tom’s tenure, the Applefest (now the Fall Festival) became an annual parish event. Father Tom became very involved with the students of the school, even joining their games at recess.[157] He involved the students in new traditions, such as the Blessing of the Pets on the feast of St. Francis of Assisi[158] and the burning of palms in preparation for Ash Wednesday.[159]

Under Father Tom’s leadership, the parish found a new sense of community and spirituality. Father Tom initiated parish missions, Nursing Home Masses, Weekly Spanish Masses, Masses of Anointing, Monthly Eucharistic Adoration, Vacation Bible School, and more.[160] Assisted by interested parishioners, he developed a Life Teen program on Sunday evenings, with a dedicated Mass that had contemporary music, and a meal and programs following the Mass.[161]

The preschool program continued to grow at St. Mary’s School. By the 2005-2006 school year, classes were offered for both 3- and 4- year olds, in addition to the regular Kindergarten to grade 8 classes.[162]

On June 3, 2009, Bishop Lucas was appointed to be the new Archbishop of Omaha by Pope Benedict XVI. Bishop Thomas John Paprocki was then appointed to be Bishop of the Diocese of Springfield.[163]


Father McGivney Catholic High School

McGcircleFor many years, there was no Catholic High School in the Edwardsville-Glen Carbon area. Doug and Diane Villhard, members of St. Mary’s parish,[164] approached Father Tom about the possibility of creating a Catholic High School for area students.[165] A committee of interested Catholics, Catholic School 4 Me, was formed in 2005.[166] A feasibility study in 2006 showed sufficient interest in the community to move forward. In 2008, Catholic School 4 Me formed committees. “[The] Faith Formation Committee began developing curriculum, a plan, located a site for the school and commissioned an architect to develop plans for the design of the school…. In early 2009, they began initial site work at the intersection of Bouse and Old Troy Roads, began promoting the school, gained city government approval, and launched the school’s first capital campaign.”[167] Then a downturn in the economy delayed the construction of the school. However, in the Fall of 2012, Father McGivney Catholic High School began in a dedicated wing of St. John Neumann Catholic School with 19 students. Construction on the new building began in September 2014. In August 2015, Father McGivney Catholic High School opened its doors to 125 students.[168] Since then, the school has grown significantly. In 2017, the freshman class alone is expected to be 70 students with over 200 students in total enrollment.[169]


St. Mary’s Grotto and Prayer Garden

MaryWhen cleaning a parish storeroom, Father Tom found the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes from St. Mary’s Church II. He worked with the Ladies’ Guild at St. Mary’s to have the statue restored by the Autenrieb family and to create a permanent setting for it.[170] The Ladies’ Guild began making plans for an outside grotto and prayer garden. They sought donations from parishioners for commemorative paving bricks.[171] Unfortunately, Father Tom was transferred from St. Mary’s before the project was complete.[172]

On June 30, 2010, Father Tom was transferred from St. Mary’s parish to Jacksonville, Illinois. Father Bill Kessler became pastor of St. Mary’s on July 1, 2010.[173]  Father Bill continued the Life Teen program,[174] and assisted the Ladies’ Guild in finalizing plans for the grotto. On October 7, 2011, Father Bill dedicated the grotto and prayer garden.[175] Three polished granite benches face the statue of Mary, which stands in a brick grotto.[176] A granite slab at her feet has the Hail Mary engraved on it.[177] The grotto, at the corner of Madison and Notre Dame Avenues, soon became a favorite spot for many parishioners.

Father Bill served the parish until early 2012.[178]


2012 – 2019     Father Dan Bergbower


On April 9, 2012, Father Dan Bergbower was assigned to St. Mary’s parish[179] by Bishop Thomas Paprocki.[180] For many years, Father served in the United States Air National Guard. Having recently been deployed as a chaplain in Southwest Asia,[181] Father Dan brought a new perspective to the parish. He taught the parishioners to rejoice in the daily blessings of life in the States. On July 1, 2012, Father Dan was officially appointed as Pastor of the parish.[182]

In October 2013, the parish celebrated Father Dan’s 25-year Jubilee as a priest and his retirement from the Air National Guard as a Lieutenant Colonel.[183]

Father Dan made it a point to be involved with the school. In fact, his regular visits to the “Hall of Truth” (the primary classrooms) were frequently incorporated into sermons.  As Father Dan continued his own education, he made it a point to put the theology he learned into practical terms for the parish.

Under Father Dan’s tenure, religious adult education programs were established at St. Mary’s. An annual retreat, called Christ Renews His Parish, was provided for men and women of the parish who wished to deepen their spirituality.[184]


In 2016, Mrs. Peg Bodinet retired as principal of St. Mary’s. Mrs. Diane Wepking became principal for the 2016-2017 school year, as St. Mary’s School celebrated its 50th year of educating the children of Edwardsville. The school now includes two Preschool classes, grades K-8, a library, music room, science lab, and computer lab. A large number of extracurricular activities are available for students, including band, robotics, chess club, Spanish, and many more. Basketball, volleyball, and soccer are popular sports.[185]

St. Mary’s School has had the benefit of an active Parent Teachers Club (PTC), an organization of parents and teachers working together. Since 1996, the annual auction has been a major fundraiser for the school. With the support of the PTC, every classroom now has Smart Board technology, and students in grades 7 and 8 use Chromebooks in the classroom. [186]


1842 – 2017     175 Years of Spiritual Guidance

With Father Dan’s leadership, the parish began a Capital Campaign, titled “Together Toward Tomorrow,” with the expressed purpose of retiring the parish debt in three years, upgrading the 50-year-old heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system for the school and the church, replacing the gym floor, and updating the church.[187] This campaign proved to be highly successful and well-timed, as the parish began its 175th year.

St. Mary’s celebrated its 175th anniversary in 2017 with a yearlong celebration, including activities designed to celebrate spirituality and community. These included donut Sunday, a soup dinner for Lent, a May Crowning, Spring Fest, ice cream social, picnic and Mass, and more, culminating with a formal dinner in December.[188]

St. Mary’s Catholic Church, the oldest Catholic Church in the area and Mother Church to St. Boniface and St. Cecilia parishes, has remained strong in its commitment to the spiritual and educational needs of its parishioners. St. Mary’s looks forward to its Bicentennial in 2042.


2019 – Present     Father Bob Jallas

Continuing the work of Fr. Dan, Fr. Bob Jallas was assigned to St. Mary’s Parish in July 2019. Fr. Bob came from one of the largest parishes in the Springfield Diocese, St. Agnes in Springfield.


[1] Historic Edwardsville; O Street changed to Kirkpatrick Lane in 2005

[2] Historic Edwardsville

[3] Simpson, Roger. “Who Are We? How Did We Get Here?” Sesquicentennial History, 1842-1992, St. Mary’s Church, Edwardsville, Illinois. 1993: 23

[4] Simpson 14

[5]“1818-1843: The Beginnings of a Catholic City.” Archdiocese of St. Louis  Accessed 1 Feb. 2017

[6] Simpson 14

[7] Deed for St. Mary’s Church I. Sesquicentennial History, 1842-1992 St. Mary’s Church, Edwardsville, Illinois, 1993: 17

[8] “Brief History of St. Mary’s,” St. Mary’s Parish Book, approximately 1982 (St. Mary’s Parish Office)

[9] Simpson 23

[10] Simpson 16

[11]  Sesquicentennial History, map: 1

[12] Sesquicentennial History, Article 1984: 36

[13] Crocker, Herbert S., Herbert S. Crocker, Researcher, Madison County Historical Society. Description of photo of St. Mary’s Church I,  (copy in St. Mary’s Parish Office)

[14] Thompson, Joseph J., comp. and ed., Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, Diamond Jubilee History. Springfield, Illinois: Hartman, 1928: 200

[15] Wasser, Elsie. “St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery History,” Madison County Genealogy Society Cemetery Book 9

[16] Shelley, Jane and Wasser, Elsie M. “St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery,” (St. Mary’s Parish Office, Cemetery files)

[17] Shelley and Wasser

[18] Westerhold, Mary T., Archival Research Manager, Madison County Archival Library

[19] Shelley and Wasser

[20] Simpson 16

[21] “Historical Summary,” Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, Accessed 1 Feb. 2017

[22] “Former Ordinaries,” Archdiocese of Chicago, Accessed 1 Feb. 2017

[23] “History of the Diocese of Springfield,” Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, Accessed 1 Feb. 2017

[24]“Diocese of Springfield in Illinois,” Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, Accessed 1 Feb. 2017

[25] Simpson 26


[27] Simpson 26

[28] Simpson 28


[30] Simpson 26

[31] Simpson 28

[32] Simpson 28

[33] Simpson 28

[34] Simpson 28

[35] Simpson 26

[36] St. Mary’s Parish records, dated 25 May 1863, Madison County Archival Library, Sent by Mary T. Westerhold, Archival Research Manager

[37] Thompson 201

[38] Simpson 26

[39] St. Boniface Parish Bulletin, Edwardsville, Illinois: 25 Sept. 2016

[40] Westerhold, Mary T., Archival Research Manager, Madison County Archival Library

[41] Simpson 16

[42] St. Boniface Parish Directory 2009: 2

[43] St. Boniface Parish Bulletin, 25 Sept. 2016

[44] St. Boniface Parish Directory 2009: 2

[45] Thompson 201

[46] Simpson 26

[47] 150 Years of Hometown History – Edwardsville Intelligencer 1862-2012,  Edwardsville Publishing Company LLC, 2012: 7  (11 Nov. 1869)

[48] 150 Years of Hometown History… : 7  (11 Nov. 1869)

[49] St. Boniface Parish Directory 2009: 2

[50] Thompson 201

[51] Simpson 26

[52] Simpson 26

[53] Simpson 26

[54] History (page in St. Mary’s Parish Office)

[55] Sesquicentennial History 18

[56] Simpson 26

[57] “Death of Reverend James Patrick Smith,” Edwardsville Intelligencer, 6 Aug. 1884:  5 (St. Mary’s Parish Office)


[59] Simpson 27

[60] Thompson 201

[61] Deed to St. Mary’s Church II, Sesquicentennial History 19

[62] Deed to St. Mary’s Church II

[63] “St. Mary’s in Edwardsville celebrating its 150th year,” Alton Telegraph 25 Jan. 1992

[64] Thompson 201

[65] Thompson 201

[66] “Corner Stone Laying for St. Mary’s New Edifice,” Edwardsville Intelligencer 29 May 1889, Sesquicentennial History 34

[67] “Corner Stone Laying…”

[68] “Corner Stone Laying…”

[69] Page in records, St. Mary’s Parish Office

[70] “Corner Stone Laying…”

[71] Thompson 201

[72] “Bohemian Society Dedicated Fine New Hall,” (19 Oct. 1906), 150 Years of Hometown History…, 28

[73] Thompson 201

[74] “Reverend C. A. O’Reilly of Edwardsville Dies at Hospital,” unidentified Newspaper article 5 Sept. 1936 (St. Mary’s Parish Office)

[75] Simpson 27

[76] “Rev. C. A. O’Reilly…”

[77] “Rev. C. A. O’Reilly…”

[78] “Pulpit and Pew,” Edwardsville Intelligencer, 22 Dec. 1896. (St. Mary’s Parish Office)

[79] 150 Years of Hometown History… 28 (19 Oct. 1906)

[80] “Rev. C. A. O’Reilly…”

[81] City Directory, Edwardsville, Illinois 1959

[82] “Rev. C. A. O’Reilly…”

[83] Picture, L. Meehan, 1 May 2017

[84] “History of the Cathedral,” Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, Accessed 1 Feb. 2017


[86] Thompson 513-515

[87] Simpson 27

[88] Thompson 513-515

[89] Thompson 513-515

[90] Secretary, St. Cecilia Parish Office, 8 May 2017

[91] Thompson 513-515

[92] Thompson 513-515

[93] Simpson 16

[94] Article dated Tuesday, 8 Sept. 1936, (St. Mary’s Parish Office)

[95] Simpson 27

[96]“Celebration May 20 to Mark 50 Years in the Priesthood,” Newspaper Article, Sesquicentennial History      33

[97] “Celebration May 20…”

[98] “Celebration May 20…”

[99] “Celebration May 20…”

[100] Joan Gusewelle, memory 2017

[101] Gladys Potthast, St. Mary’s Ladies’ Guild, 2017


[103] “Celebration May 20…”

[104] “Population of Madison County,”


[106] Simpson 16

[107] “Witness to history – St. Mary’s is marking its 150th birthday, Edwardsville Intelligencer, 21 January 1992, Sesquicentennial History 38

[108] “Witness to history…”

[109] “Witness to history…”

[110] Picture, St. Mary’s first graduation class, 1982 (St. Mary’s School)

[111] “Witness to history…”

[112] Simpson 16

[113] Photo and caption, dated 2 May 1966 (St. Mary’s School)

[114] “Children Talking, Laughing Heard 1st Time Sept. 1,” article dated 1966 (St. Mary’s School)

[115] St. Mary’s School records, (St. Mary’s School) 1966-67

[116] St. Mary’s School Yearbook 1967-68

[117] Photo and caption, dated 2 May 1966 (St. Mary’s School)

[118] St. Mary’s School Yearbooks, St. Mary’s School Office

[119] Simpson 27

[120] Simpson 27


[122] Teresa Margherio, Vi Hessel, Jack Foehrkolb memories, 2017

[123] Article re Burning of the Mortgage, Sesquicentennial History 36

[124] “Witness to history…”

[125] “A Brief History of St. Mary’s Parish,” dated 21 August 1980, (St. Mary’s Parish Office)

[126] Debbie Caulk, memory 2017

[127] “Old St. Mary’s Church to be razed Monday” (28 Aug. 1982), 150 Years of Hometown News: 132

[128] “Old St. Mary’s Church…”

[129] “Old St. Mary’s Sold, Demolished,” Edwardsville Journal 8 Sept. 1982 (St. Mary’s Parish Office)

[130] Memories, Joan Gusewelle, Debbie Caulk, Helen Hulsker 2017


[132] St. Mary’s School records

[133] “Witness to history…”

[134] Letter from Father Simpson, 9 August 1991, Sesquicentennial History 37

[135] Sesquicentennial History

[136] Simpson 27

[137] St. Mary’s School records

[138] St. Mary’s Bulletin, 28 November 1993

[139] “Looking Forward to the Future,” letter from Father Jerry Bunse, 1994 St. Mary’s Parish Directory

[140] St. Mary’s Bulletin, 3 December 1995

[141] St. Mary’s School, 2017

[142] Mrs. Marsha Etzkorn, Music and Technology Teacher at St. Mary’s School, 2017

[143] “Extracurriculars,”  Accessed 27 April 2017


[145]  Accessed 27 April 2017

[146]St. Mary’s School Yearbook 2000-2001

[147] St. Mary’s Spirit Newsletter, Vol. VII, No. 1, Spring 2002

[148], p.5

[149] St. Mary’s Parish Bulletin 25 January 2004

[150] St. Mary’s Parish Bulletin 1 February 2004

[151] Dennis Hessel, 7 May 2017

[152] St. Mary’s Parish Bulletin 1 February 2004

[153] Plaque, St. Mary’s School, dated 19 June 2004

[154] Viola Hessel, widow of Ray Hessel, Dennis Hessel and Teresa Margherio, children of Ray Hessel, memories 2017

[155] :5

[156] Letter from Father Tom Meyer, St. Mary’s Parish Directory 2013

[157] Cathy Reznack, memories 2017

[158] Photo, Intelligencer, Parish Office

[159] Photo, Intelligencer, Parish Office

[160] Letter from Father Tom Meyer, St. Mary’s Parish Bulletin, 27 June 2010

[161] Sarah and Marlon Ray, memories 2017

[162] St. Mary’s School Yearbook 2005-2006

[163] :6

[164] Karen Menendez, memories 2017

[165] Doug Villhard, memories 2017

[166] “Our History,” Father McGivney Catholic High School Accessed 27 April 2017



[169] Emma Deist, speech at St. Mary’s Church, 7 May 2017

[170] Locher, Cathy. “Prayer grotto provides place for prayer, meditation.” circa November 2011

[171] Hand, Erik. “St. Mary’s grotto is for all,” Edwardsville Intelligencer circa October 2011

[172] St. Mary’s Parish Bulletin 2 Oct. 2011

[173] St. Mary’s Parish Bulletin 27 July 2010

[174] Sarah and Marlon Ray, memories 9 May 2017

[175] St. Mary’s Parish Bulletin 2 October 2011

[176] Hand, Erik

[177] Locher, Cathy

[178] Oubre, Katie, Associate Archivist, Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.  Email dated 3 May 2017

[179] Oubre, Katie

[180], p.6

[181] Father Dan Bergbower May 2017

[182] Oubre, Katie

[183] Father Dan Bergbower May 2017

[184] St. Mary’s Parish Bulletins, 2012-2017

[185] St. Mary’s School,  May 2017

[186] Roberta Goeckner, 2017

[187] St. Mary’s Parish Bulletins 2017

[188] St. Mary’s Pastoral Council 2017


1802 Madison Avenue · Edwardsville, IL 62025 · 618-656-4857 · © St. Mary’s Parish