Huntley Parish Celebrates 150 Years Of History and Community Roots
Patricia SzPekowski, Observer Correspondent
July 27, 2023
HUNTLEY—On July 23, St. Mary Parish in Huntley manifested its history and deep community roots with a Mass of Thanksgiving celebrated by Bishop David Malloy honoring the 150th anniversary of the parish.
 
Close to 400 people attended the anniversary Mass and heard the richness of the parish choir led by Mary Bell. St. Mary pastors and parochial vicars both past and present joined Bishop Malloy and current pastor Father Christopher DiTomo in the celebration of Mass. 
 
During his homily, Bishop Malloy spoke of gratitude for the founders’ collective act of faith and giving of themselves to erect a parish. 
 
“The founding fathers’ spiritual and material commitment is like the example of today’s Gospel about the man who sows the good seed,” said Bishop Malloy. “God placed the seed of faith here and each generation has carried it forward by coming together. This present magnificent structure and parish shows signs of vibrancy, life, and faith.”
 
Founders of St. Mary Parish in 1870 met at John Kelley’s blacksmith shop to discuss the building of a Catholic church in the area. Those present at that meeting are names that are familiar and enduring in Huntley and the parish, such as Kreutzer, Coyle, Donahue, Fitzgerald, Hemmer, Clinnin, Mountain, and Zenk.
 
From the time the seeds were sown for St. Mary Parish, it has steadily grown and prospered. Father DiTomo anticipates the parish will continue to commemorate St. Mary’s 150th anniversary throughout the year. “We also compiled an interesting photo exhibit documenting our parish history,” he said. 
 
The exhibit is filled with precious photos and documents from the past which remain formidable today as a reminder of St. Mary’s roots. A new Christmas tree ornament in honor of the anniversary is available for purchase and a new parish photo directory will be published as well.
 
The first St. Mary Church and rectory were built on Dean Street in Huntley, and Father Clement Duerr was appointed as its first pastor on July 20, 1873. A new church was built in 1930 off the old Huntley town square on Woodstock Street.  The present church on Huntley Road was dedicated by Bishop Thomas G. Doran in 2001.
 
Tom Manning has been a member of the parish his entire life. 
 
“Multiple generations of my family and also the Hayes family have been part of St. Mary’s all of their lives,” he said. “I recall when our first pastor of this new church, Father Robert Garrity, and I started to discuss building a new church on Huntley Road. People thought we weren’t right in bringing a church near the cows here in the country. Now, look at us, we’re the largest parish in the diocese.” 
 
Following Mass, an informal reception was held in the large parish community room, where many gathered to enjoy a special 150th anniversary cake and had the opportunity to meet with Bishop Malloy. 
 
Parishioners at St. Mary Parish are enthusiastic about its inviting atmosphere of family, friendliness, and firm faith. 
 
Helen Loncar has been a parishioner for two years. “I moved here from the south side of Chicago to Hampshire,” she said. “When I came here, I immediately said to myself that this is it, this is my home.”  A native of Croatia, Loncar stated that her family lives only ten minutes from Me'jugorje. “There is much prayer there and I feel the same here.” 
 
Betty Salvacion has been a part of St. Mary for 23 years. She stated that “the parishioners here are very generous in helping it grow.” 

 

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