Rockford Parish Marks 165 Years
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
July 26, 2018
ROCKFORD— St. James, the oldest Catholic parish in the Rockford area celebrated its 165th anniversary with a Mass, blessing and parish picnic on July 22.
Bishop David Malloy called it a “great and particular joy” to gather for Mass on any day, and a “particular pleasure” to do so at the 165-year celebration.
“We’re grateful for the foundation on which we rest,” he said, “and recognize that we are the foundation” for those of the parish in years to come.
In his homily, the bishop reflected on the parish history that began before the Civil War. 
“Can we imagine,” he asked, “the many sons and daughters, parents and spouses who came to the church to pray for their loved ones serving in that war and in the wars of later years?”
He noted that Bishop Arthur J. O’Neill was ordained to the priesthood at this former pro-cathedral parish, and that Bishop Thomas G. Doran “was a son of the parish.” 
He added that it is “so important to pray for those priests who have given their lives” to Christ in service at St. James, which has had 21 pastors, two administrators and 49 assisting priests.
The bishop acknowledged the contributions by the many women religious who served St. James Parish. 
The Sinsinawa Dominicans were a constant presence at the parish from 1892 until 2006, and three of them — Sisters Christa Cunningham, Stella Storch and Jean Tranel — came to the 165th anniversary celebration. 
Additionally, Springfield Dominican Sister Janet Pfile who served from 1995-2007 at the parish, traveled from Decatur for the event.
Bishop Malloy also noted the deacons and lay persons who helped at the parish over those many years, and added, “We should pray for each and every donor” to St. James Parish, because “a wonderful place like this does not just happen.”
Unity in a parish also takes work and sometimes sacrifice, the bishop said, encouraging everyone to “come and ... give your personal presence for the events, particularly the events (that) take place here” from fish fries to fundraisers.
“There comes a moment when we as people of faith need to come together simply to rub shoulders with each other,” he said, “and we can never know ... who around us is struggling, who is doubting , who might be having some kind of difficulty. And by our presence they’re strengthened, they’re encouraged.
If some have started down a wrong path, he continued, “they are reminded and corrected. This too comes from this gathering of people and our lives (shared) together in a parish.”
Bishop Malloy highly recommended that St. James parishioners pray to their patron for“special intercession ... because he’s got a connection to us.” 
Holy cards in the pews featured a prayer to St. James the Greater, whose feast day is July 25. The Mass ended with Father Leonard Jacobs, pastor, leading everyone in that prayer.
After the Mass, the bishop blessed a paved brick sidewalk at the entrance to the parish center. He and Father Jacobs along with past St. James pastor, Father David Beauvais, used an oversize scissors to cut the ribbon strung across the sidewalk. 
A parish picnic followed inside that included brats, hot dogs and barbeque sandwiches, games for children, bingo for adults, and a program that included awards for the many anniversary committees, the parish Man of the Year (Darryl Johnson), a lifetime award for parishioner Richard Warner, many cheers for the four Dominican sisters who were present, and an oversized check for $5,000 presented to Father Jacobs that was raised by the parish fundraising committee.
Noting that another big (175) anniversary is just ten years away, Bishop Malloy reiterated “how good it is to celebrate this milestone, 165.” 
How good also it is, he said, “to continue to remind ourselves of the ongoing cycle of prayer, of faith – our Catholic link to the past and to the future. It happens each and every time every one of you enters this parish, comes to genuflect, comes to pray, comes to Mass. Pray for this parish, pray for all those who built it, and pray for all those to come.”