Celebrating 100 Years: History of St. Thomas the Apostle in Crystal Lake
July 7, 2022
St. Thomas the Apostle Parish received its first resident pastor in May 1922. Parish beginnings can be traced back to a “Little Church in the Bush/Little Church in the Woods” built in 1846 about four miles west of Crystal Lake on the grounds of Mount Thabor Cemetery. That year a number of Catholics moved into the Crystal Lake area, and the church became a mission of St. Mary Parish in Woodstock in 1855. Attendance grew, property was purchased on Pierson Avenue and a frame church was built. A first Mass was said in that church in 1881. In 1905, Crystal Lake was made a separate parish with a church in Barrington, sharing a pastor.
Crystal Lake returned to mission status (of Barrington) in 1911 and became an independent parish in 1913, continuing to share a pastor with Barrington. Father Edwin McCormick was appointed to Crystal Lake in 1922, and a rectory was begun on a donation of four city lots. Ground was broken for a new church June 27, 1924, and Bishop Peter J. Muldoon dedicated it on July 12, 1925.
A school was built and opened in September 1927, supervised by Springfield Dominican sisters. In 1952 a convent was built, and a Catholic cemetery section in Crystal Lake Memorial Park Cemetery was acquired in 1953. By 1957, the parish had grown to 850 families, plus summer residents. A new school was built, dedicated to Bishop Loras T. Lane in 1959.
Soon with over 2,000 households, Father Leo Ambre oversaw a new church built on Illinois Route 176 and Oak Street. Ground was broken March 20, 1967, and the St. Thomas on Oak Street church was completed April 14, 1968.
Extensive renovations were made in 1988; a renovated parish center on King Street was blessed in 1989; ground was broken in 1994 for an addition to the parish school on King Street and a new community room at the main church on Oak Street. Both were dedicated on Dec. 17, 1995, by Bishop Thomas G. Doran. In 1999, the Oak Street Church basement was renovated, and that year also saw the installation of a monument “To Life” installed, sponsored by the Knights of Columbus.
The Pierson Street Church was repaired and painted beginning in early 2000. In 2001, construction began on a new baptismal pool at the Oak Street Church.
In 2002, the sanctuary was returned to its 1968 configuration with a new crucifix. A new Chandelier pipe organ was added to enhance the pipe organ built in 1974. Maintenance was done at the school, and the Pierson Street Church was renovated. Additionally, the Holy Hearts Adoration Chapel and Little Saints Preschool were added, all during the pastorate of Msgr. Daniel Hermes (2001-2018).
Most recently, Father John Evans served as pastor (2018-2021). Currently, the parish pastor is Father Robert Jones, who previously had served at St. Thomas as a parochial vicar from 1992-1995.
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