Algonquin Parish Begins Centennial Year
Frank and Cindy Tobolski, chairmen of the St. Margaret Mary Church centennial committee, carry the centennial banner to the altar in a procession before the Mass that opened the year-long celebration. (Observer photo by Dan Szpekowski)
Mary Bridget Jost receives the first piece of the centennial cake from Msgr. Michael Tierney, former pastor of St. Margaret Mary Church, at the centennial kick-off reception. (Observer photo by Dan Szpekowski)
(Observer photo by Dan Szpekowski)
By Pat Szpekowski, Observer Correspondent
October 24, 2014

ALGONQUIN—The centennial celebration kick-off for the “Century of Faith and Community” at St. Margaret Mary Parish, here, began with a noon Mass on Oct. 19.

The Mass included a seamless blend of the diverse cultures of its English, Polish and Filipino faithful with prayer and music in three languages and the remarkable gathering of its priests, past and present, who have served over the past extraordinary 40 years of parish growth.

In a procession before Mass, parishioners carried to the altar artifacts symbolizing the church, including a relic of St. Margaret Mary, a brick from the first church, a stations of the cross plaque from the former church, a chalice and sacred chrism, photographs of the old church and groundbreaking of the current church, a quilt depicting the parish ministries, posters created by students from the parish school, Polish and Filipino banners, and the new parish Centennial Banner, carried by Frank and Cindy Tobolski, chairmen of the Centennial Committee.

“Today symbolizes the history, mission, ministry and stewardship of our parish,” said Frank Tobolski.

Father Sarnicki, a Franciscan Friar from Krakow, Poland, welcomed and thanked his former pastors and administrators, the Franciscan Friars, the Knights of Columbus, and “our beloved parish deacons.

“Bless our St. Margaret Mary community as we celebrate the Eucharist, which means thanksgiving,” he said. “I am humbled to be a part of this great celebration.”

In his homily, Msgr. William McDonnell, former pastor who led the construction of the current church, recapped the history of St. Margaret Mary Parish from its humble beginnings as a mission church with Bohemian priests and settlers along the Fox River in 1845.  

It was 100 years ago when the church was formally founded with the support of 26 families and the pastor of SS. Peter and Paul Church in Cary.

“Growth was slow but steady,” he said, “but it mushroomed even more after World War II when the number of Masses increased, the parish grew and a new school was built with the direction of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield.”

“By 1979, we served over 2500 families and saw high growth,” he continued. “Seventy-five percent of our parish was 40 years old and under at that time. We were number two in the entire diocese in performing baptisms, only second to St. Joseph Church in Elgin.”

Today St. Margaret Mary Parish has grown to be one of the largest parishes in McHenry County with more than 3,300 families.

Challenging memories

Msgr. McDonnell also recalled his dramatic trip with parishioners to Italy and the Holy Land in 1985 when their flight back home to the United States was hijacked by Shiite Muslims.

“We were gradually released after two and a half weeks and one person on the plane, Robert Lee Stethem, was killed,” he said.  “Many prayer vigils were said at our parish while we were being held hostage. There was a great celebration here in the yard when we returned.”

“All of the national TV stations came to St. Margaret Mary,” Msgr. McDonnell said. “The reporters were so inspired by the faith of our parishioners. They said we were America’s parish.”

All of the parishioners applauded Msgr. McDonnell and exuded their appreciation and pride.

Following Mass, a reception was held next door in the former church and school building. It was appropriately situated in the McDonnell Hall.  As the large crowd filed in for lunch, memories were being exchanged by the parishioners.  “This was such a beautiful Mass with the music and the procession,” said Debra Beyer, who has been a parishioner since 2007, when Father Tierney was pastor.

“I will never forget today.”

George Lezansky, 82, was baptized at St. Margaret Mary Church. A humble man, he was filled with pride about his parish. “I look forward to celebrating our 100th anniversary,” he said. He and his wife, JoAnn, were the first couple married in the new church. They were also with Msgr. McDonnell and fellow parishioners during the infamous trip and hijacked plane.

The diversity of the parish was reflected throughout the day. Martin Wojtulewicz, who carried the Polish banner with his wife, Margaret, noted that his parish “is so diverse but comes together united in Christ”. Zeny Engracia, who represented the Filipino community, said “I am so excited to see all of us come together”.

Parishioners received centennial packets as they left the church. They were filled with event schedules for the centennial year, a special parish centennial prayer and a prayer to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque.

The centennial year will culminate in a gala Holy Mass to be celebrated by Bishop David Malloy of the Diocese of Rockford on October 18, 2015.

For more information, visit the Centennial web site at www.smmnext100.org.