St. Laurence in Elgin Marks 90th Anniversary
By Margarita Mendoza, El Observador Editor
August 16, 2018
ELGIN—The 11 a.m. Mass on Aug. 12 at St. Laurence Parish here was a singular one since it was the official Mass of the celebration of its 90th anniversary.
It celebrated  “this beautiful church where we have worshiped Him (God), adored Him … and ministered to each other,” said Father Andrew Mulcahey, pastor, to the parishioners and visitors at Mass.
The majority didn’t know that it was on Sept. 28, 1928, when  Bishop Francis Hoban, second bishop of the Diocese of Rockford, established the parish and named as founding pastor Father Laurence C. Prendergast, who remained at the parish until 1944.
The beginnings were not smooth, given attacks to another Catholic church in Elgin at about that time. 
A history of the parish from explains the men “of St. Mary’s parish had to patrol the construction site of a new parochial school to protect it from Klan vandalism. A fiery cross was burned in front of St. Mary’s rectory the night of Feb. 28, 1925, and spotlights flashed into the home.” 
But, as Father Robert Camacho, retired and living at St. Laurence said in the homily, “God is with us.”
After St. Joseph and St. Mary, on the east side of the Fox River served the community from 1880s, St. Laurence was the third parish in the city and the first on the west side. 
Elgin councilwoman Rose Martínez read a proclamation lauding the parish’s contributions to the community, including “the Parish Social Action Committee that provide for the betterment of the parish family as well as that of the community at large. Such activities include supporting Food For Greater Elgin, The Community Crisis Center, the Head Start Program, the Holiday Giving Tree and Veterans and First Responders.”
Diversity is a characteristic of the parish community. Freddy Sonfack Teuma and his family, originally from Cameroon, have been parishioners of St. Laurence for a year.
“I like the people, I like the pastor,” he said. 
Erika Gomez said, “My faith has changed here. It is something beautiful. This year we are going to have a youth ministry. I’m going to do that and vocation (development). I help where I can. I’m also very happy to see so many people today. Last year we were not so many, but we are growing.”
Perhaps such growing was difficult to visualize a month and half after “the sacrifice of Mass was offered for the first time in the new St. Laurence Parish Church,” according to a diocesan history book.
Wall Street collapsed on Oct. 29, 1929, triggering the Great Depression that left millions without jobs and that affected the global economy throughout the decade.
But parishioners worked hard to pay the debt on the Gothic Tudor-style church with room for 450 people and the school for 240 children.
“During the years of the depression it had been necessary to borrow money to pay interest on the original debt. After 1933 the parish income provided for current expenses and interest but did not prove adequate to reduce the debt until 1940.  In 1940 a parish fund drive resulted in $3500.00 being paid on the indebtedness.  The work of debt reduction had begun,”  according to a document prepared by organizers of the 90th anniversary celebration. Among them are Dee Reinhardt, Sharlene Huske, Mary Camacho and Kay Gotters.
“I’m very happy there are many people here, the community is getting to know each other and I am very glad they are enjoying this day,” said Father Mulcahey. “We invited other people from the neighborhood, trying to make ourselves better known. ...  New school families are coming, that’s nice.”