Cathedral Parish Begins to Celebrate 100 Years
By Amanda Hudson, News Editor
October 28, 2022
ROCKFORD—Dozens of people gathered on a chilly Tuesday evening, Oct. 18, to mark the beginning of St. Peter (Cathedral) Parish’s 100th year.
Bishop David Malloy and Father Kenneth Anderson, rector, were assisted by Deacon Robert Mitchison at the Mass.
In his homily, Bishop Malloy spoke of the meaning of a parish, noting that as the parish begins its 100th anniversary, that “we are all here as part of a divine chain, a part of a coalescing of time and eternity” of passing on the Catholic faith.
On this feast day of St. Luke, he said, “we give thanks to God; that’s at the heart of this parish centennial … thanks to God that His providence, His will and His goodness made this possible.”
The bishop pointed to the biblical lamp to be placed on a lampstand and a city on a hill that cannot be hidden as he noted how from one of the highest points in Rockford, the parish “has been that city on the hill. The graces that have been given, the witnesses been made, the contributions to the life of this city (are) beyond what we can measure in human terms.”
Bishop Malloy reflected on the fact that the parish was established at the conclusion of World War I, followed by the Great Depression, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf wars. He talked about the parents coming to pray at St. Peter’s for their sons and daughters, for their safety, “and perhaps even to pray their sorrow of the news, and the knock on the door they received.”
Through all those times, he said, “the Mass went on and the grace for the life of the world that we know the Mass is.” He mentioned also the sacrament of reconciliation and how many through the parish “found their way back to the path on the way to heaven.” The parish school and its children who learned the faith there, the Sisters of Loretto who taught many of them, as well as baptisms and marriages and other sacraments … all prompting thanks to God “for the constant flow of graces” before and since the parish became the diocesan cathedral, he said.
“That’s only a hint of the representation of the living out and transmission (of faith), ultimately going back to Christ … to Good Friday,” he said. “These are kinds of thoughts we should have on the centennial (and) we owe it then to be praying for all of those who have gone before as a part of that (divine) chain.”
The parish patron, St. Peter, is much more than “a mascot at a football game,” he said. “It is as if we have a right to grab at the hem of his garment and ask for, insist upon, his prayers because we are parishioners here.”
After extending his congratulations to the parishioners before him, the bishop summarized his thoughts by saying that, “first and foremost, it is our task here to thank God for all of the gifts, to thank God not only for the past, not only for this present, but we thank God for the future that’s yet to come.”
History of the Cathedral of St. Peter in Rockford
ROCKFORD—Property at the summit of Council Hill (also known as Piety Hill) on Rockford’s northwest side was purchased during Bishop Peter J. Muldoon’s time in the fall of 1920 with the construction of a combination church and school building in mind.
The new St. Peter Church and School building was dedicated on Feb. 19, 1922 by Bishop Muldoon, and Father Frederick F. Connor was appointed its first resident pastor that October. Previously, Father John Flanagan took care of its congregation along with parishioners of a mission chapel dedicated to St. William in the northwest area.
St. Peter Parish grade school opened that fall with 63 pupils registered who were taught in two classrooms by the Sisters of Loretto.
Father Leo Binz became pastor in 1932, and his rectory was rented out to a private family while he lived at the bishop’s residence to conserve parish resources during the depression. His successor, Father William McMillan, continued in that arrangement from 1933-1939 when he and his assistant moved into the parish rectory. Father McMillan was pastor until 1967.
By 1948, school enrollment required more classroom space. The church was moved into the building’s auditorium and its second floor was converted into classrooms. The parish continued to grow and in October 1954, now-Msgr. McMillan was authorized by Bishop Raymond P. Hillinger to begin construction of a new school on a separate property in the northwest part of the parish boundaries that had been purchased earlier by Bishop John J. Boylan. 
After a delay and Bishop Hillinger’s death, Bishop Loras T. Lane gave permission to resume the school’s construction in April 1957 along with a convent to house the Sisters of Notre Dame. Late in 1957, the area was separated from the St. Peter Parish and became St. Bernadette Parish.
St. Peter Parish still needed to build, so property was acquired and construction begun in 1958 on a new church and rectory. Classrooms were added in the former church. 
St. Peter Church was dedicated on May 15, 1960. Upon Msgr. McMillan’s retirement in 1967, then-Msgr. Arthur J. O’Neill became pastor, about a year and a half before he was ordained as Bishop of Rockford. Msgr. Thomas Green succeeded him as pastor at St. Peter Parish.
On Oct. 11, 1970, Bishop O’Neill designated St. Peter as the cathedral of the diocese, and Msgr. Green was named its first rector.
The parking lot was enlarged and redesigned in the summer of 1974. The formal dedication of the Cathedral of St. Peter was held on Oct. 11, 1978. Groundbreaking for a new addition to the cathedral was held June 19, 1983. 
That parish center addition was dedicated on June 3, 1984, and included a fellowship hall, office, bride’s room, meeting rooms and restrooms upstairs, and a gymnasium, offices, meeting rooms, kitchen and restrooms downstairs.
During Msgr. William Schwartz’s time as rector, a new altar and sanctuary in the Cathedral were dedicated on Sept. 29, 1998, by Cardinal Francis George of Chicago. 
The renovations included moving the altar forward, replacing the front pews with moveable chairs, replacing the back wall with clear glass and adding a large baptismal font in the entrance vestibule.
St. Peter Cathedral School was closed in spring of 2019 when four parish schools were combined into one academy at downtown Rockford’s St. James Parish campus. A garden shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe now graces the site of the old Chancery building at the northwest corner of the cathedral parking lot.
Parish households at the Cathedral of St. Peter now number 575 according to 2021 statistical information.


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