Masses being suspended in four parishes, one mission in Illinois Valley, Quad Cities

Pending further study of the needs of Catholics in the Illinois Valley and Quad Cities areas and the use of church facilities in those regions, Masses are being suspended at four parishes and one mission as of June 17.

The parishes are St. Mary’s, East Moline; St. Benedict’s, Ladd; St. Thomas More, Dalzell; and Sts. Peter and Paul, Spring Valley. The decision, which was announced at Masses last weekend, also affects St. Gertrude’s in Seatonville, a mission of Sts. Peter and Paul.

While regular Masses have been suspended, the parishes and mission are not being closed, and their churches may still host weddings and funerals and important church celebrations.

Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, communicated the decision to suspend Masses in letters dated May 21 and addressed to the respective pastors. Left to each pastor’s discretion are such decisions as revising confession schedules, but the bishop suggested the dissolving of parish councils and organizations.

The letter said this move was being made due to the challenges of “financial deficits, decrease in regular giving, decrease in parish families and an overall demographic drift from a previous generation.”

The future of the Catholic communities in the Illinois Valley and Quad Cities regions depends upon “uniting the parishioners, welcoming the Hispanic population and encouraging the faithful to share their gifts and resources to establish a stronger Catholic presence,” Bishop Jenky wrote.

Apart from St. Mary’s in East Moline, the parishes and the mission affected by the bishop’s decrees are located in the Illinois Valley region, an area that historically had a very high Catholic population but in recent decades has seen shrinking numbers of both Catholics and non-Catholics.

Two years ago, similar changes came to the parishes of the LaSalle-Peru area, when services were suspended at Resurrection Parish, LaSalle, and Sacred Heart Mission, Dimmick. At the same time, Sunday Masses were suspended at Queen of the Holy Rosary Parish, LaSalle, which has been designated a diocesan shrine for veterans and offers weekday Masses.

Father Robert Rayson, pastor of St. Hyacinth’s and St. Patrick’s parishes, LaSalle, and rector of Queen of the Holy Rosary Shrine, has been asked to also serve as pastor of St. Thomas More, Dalzell, and St. Benedict’s, Ladd.

Father Robert Spilman, now pastor of St. Anthony’s and Immaculate Conception parishes in Spring Valley, will have the added duties of pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul Parish, Spring Valley, and St. Gertrude’s Mission, Seatonville.

One of two parishes in East Moline, St. Mary’s Parish is pastored by Father Keith Walder, who also serves at St. Anne’s in East Moline. St. Mary’s serves about 500 families, having experienced the loss of about 250 families in the past few years.

The two parishes support Our Lady of Grace Catholic Academy based at St. Anne’s. The academy formed in 2004 from the merger of St. Anne’s School with the former St. Mary’s School.

Founded in 1907 with strong Belgian roots, St. Mary’s now has a significant Hispanic population, and a Spanish Mass had been offered weekly at the parish for about two decades.

The parish began as a mission of St. Paul’s Parish, Rock Island, with a small wood frame church built in 1907. A new church was built in 1950, and the cornerstone of a new school building was laid the following year. New stained glass windows, handcrafted by parishioner Lorney Dussliere, were installed in 1994.

The only parish in the diocese entrusted to the patronage of St. Benedict, for much of its history St. Benedict’s Parish in Ladd has been served by the Benedictine priests and monks of St. Bede Abbey in Peru.

The same is true of St. Thomas More Parish in Dalzell. However, Father Henry Fritz, OSB, 84, pastor of St. Benedict’s since 2005, and Father Bernard Horzen, OSB, 82, pastor of St. Thomas More since 2003, are retiring to the abbey, and no priests from St. Bede are available to succeed them.

With about 195 families, the population of St. Benedict’s Parish has declined in recent years. The parish was established in 1893, with the church being built in 1930 and the parish hall and rectory built in 1970.

One hundred families belong to the Dalzell parish, which was founded in 1934. The first St. Thomas More Church was built in 1937, but serious structural problems made it necessary to build a new church in 1990. A new rectory and parish hall had been built in 1980-81.

Serving about 140 households, Sts. Peter and Paul Parish is one of three Catholic parishes in Spring Valley. Its mission, St. Gertrude’s in Seatonville, was previously attached to St. Benedict’s Parish, Ladd, as well as St. Thomas More Parish, Dalzell.

Organized in 1891 for Polish and Lithuanian Catholics, Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in recent years experienced a growth in its Hispanic population while its overall population continued a gradual decline. The church was built in 1909.

Like the Ladd and Dalzell parishes, for most of its history St. Gertrude’s Mission has been served by the Benedictines of St. Bede. The longest service — 32 years — was offered by Father William Kirk, OSB. About 40 families belong to the mission today.

St. Gertrude’s was founded in 1899, with a small brick church built the following year. The church closed in 1913 after the Seatonville mine shut down, but was reopened in 1930. A new church was built in 1962 and included the stained glass window of St. Gertrude from the original church.

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