Loves Park Parish Celebrates 75 Years
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
August 19, 2021
LOVES PARK—A blue-sky day welcomed parishioners old and new to St. Bridget Parish to celebrate the Feast of the Assumption of Mary and the 75th anniversary of the parish.
Several priests attended who either grew up at St. Bridget’s (Father Robert Blood, Father Jonathan Bakkelund) or served the parish as its pastor (Father Burt Absalon, Msgr. Daniel Deutsch) or as parochial vicar (Msgr. Robert Sweeney, Father Ryan Browning, Father John McNamara). 
Msgr. Sweeney has the distinction of serving under founding pastor, Father Raymond Gordon, and he enjoyed a bit of reminiscing with a few parishioners who knew him then, including one who was delighted to be recognized by him as the librarian.
In his homily, Bishop David Malloy noted the day’s “double joy, a double feast you might say,” speaking first of the Assumption, formally established in 1950, and then talking about the parish’s founding, quoting from Father Gordon’s writings.
One oft-repeated fact is that the parish, now home to more than 2,300 households, held its first Mass in a rented circus tent. “It reminds us of how often (in the Church) the means of celebrating the Mass had to be adapted to the best of conditions that could be found,” Bishop Malloy said. 
From that rented rectangular tent, the parish moved to a refurbished chapel from Camp Grant. Later, the parish school served as the church building before the current church was built.
“I think of Father Gordon, that first pastor (for 37 years),” Bishop Malloy said. In “reading (his) account ... you see a man who was both spiritual and heroic ... God’s grace certainly worked through him ... in everything that it means to be a priest and a pastor in service to his people.” 
He described how when the parish got to that Camp Grant chapel at the first Mass, “as Father Gordon put it: ‘it was met with cut electrical wires, vandalism in the church with paint, attempts to burn the church and other acts to say Not here, go away.’
“From time to time it has been a part of our faith to encounter opposition, and even prejudice,” Bishop Malloy reflected, “and it is a part of our task through that to deepen our faith, to love others, even those who do not show us the kindness that we might hope.”
Father Gordon doesn’t write of lawsuits or hiring armed guards, the bishop said. “He said simply, ‘I pledged in the name of the faithful, in your name, a daily recitation of the rosary in church, asking Mary to protect the church and to give the faithful the grace to be good witnesses.’ What a deep and pure spiritual thought that is.”
Bishop Malloy teased about reading about an annual “ice cream social” on that day, noting how parishioners “do not simply come to pray ...” but also come to build community. 
He stressed how important it is “so that we in our faith ... simply encourage each other, step by step, in our joys and our sorrows, by living together in a manner that is healthy and mutually reinforcing, with each other ... protect and live this treasure (of St. Bridget Parish) well.”
Other activities followed the Mass, including a video of parish history (also on the parish website), historical displays at the school, food trucks, music, free raffles and more. 
The parish’s 75th anniversary prayer thanks God for the blessings and people in its history, then builds on that history as it looks to the future, saying in part, “As we gather to give thanks for God’s blessings, we ask that you keep each of us and this parish united in the bond of your love. From there give to us the grace to bring the joy-filled Gospel of Christ to all people that they may come to believe in the Truth of Jesus Christ, His teachings and His Church, and thereby become His disciples. Through the intercession of Mary our Mother and our patroness St. Bridget, we ask your blessing on our parish and its members.”


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