Elgin Parish Celebrates a Milestone
By Margarita Mendoza, Editor El Observador
August 3, 2023
ELGIN—On July 31, 1898, the cornerstone of St Mary Church was laid, and 125 years later a diverse community of St. Mary parishioners came together to celebrate. 
About 400 people participated in the Mass celebrated by Bishop David Malloy and concelebrated by the parish’s newest pastor, Father Bruce Ludeke, and Father Lisandro Cristancho, parochial vicar. 
During his homily, Bishop Malloy invited parishioners to reflect about “how many Masses have been said here, some in the glory of a day like this. Midnight Masses … candles and lights, and some, perhaps late in January the first Mass in the morning when it is cold … and yet the sacrifice of Mass is here, the presence of God with grace for the world has been celebrated here. How many confessions have been heard in 125 years in this church!”
When Bishop Malloy asked, “How many have been baptized in this parish?” some raised their hands. When he asked, “How many people were married in this church?” couples of various ages raised their hands. “And that is only the tip of the iceberg,” Bishop Malloy said of the 125 years of sacraments.
He also invited everyone to pray “for every priest who ever served you, for the donors… for all the faithful, all the parishioners — current and past, as well as those who have left the Church — just like family, we do not forget our family members and we pray for them, we pray (for them) to return.”
Following the Mass on that sunny July 30 afternoon, festivities continued outside and inside of St. Mary School on Gifford St. between Fulton and Prairie, where the street was closed to safely enjoy the party and its “games, food and people hanging out,” said parishioner Michael Oach. 
Oach noted the high schoolers who have come back and who have seen other classmates they knew from Kindergarten through 8th grade at St. Mary School. It’s “just great to see all the families together and the kids playing; (it) is good,” he added.
In the school gym were billboards exhibiting historic parish photos and documents. Parishioners were selling a “Glass Window Booklet” in English and Spanish as well as scented candles with religious and parish images to raise funds for the parish. Free tacos, hamburgers, and desserts were enjoyed by those who attended the event. 
“It has been a wonderful celebration I’m so glad to be here, said Father Bruce Ludeke who began his service at St. Mary’s on June 15 this year.
“I’m delighted, this is a beautiful day. What a joy seeing people together,” said former pastor, Father Christopher Kuhn, who came from his new parish in Savanna to attend the event.
Late in the fall of 1896, Father John Mackin began the construction of the present church, but he did not live to say Mass in it … he died August 24, 1899. The first services held in the new church were those of Father Mackin’s funeral. (From page 175 in the history book of the Diocese of Rockford “That All May Be One.”)
In 2023 and looking to the future, Bishop Malloy said, it “is now our turn to be the ones who come and offer ourselves here, but who also (will) care to keep and maintain this church for the next 125 years.”


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