St. Mary’s School, Kickapoo, to mark 150 years on Aug. 18

KICKAPOO — St. Mary’s Catholic School will celebrate more than 150 years of Catholic education with several activities open to the public on Saturday, Aug. 18.

All school alumni are especially invited to join parishioners as well as present students and staff in events that begin with a Kids Carnival and Open House from noon to 3 p.m. Food will be available, and all are invited to visit the classrooms and reminisce or discover what is happening now at the school.

A Mass celebrated by Father Joseph Dondanville, pastor of St. Mary’s Parish, is scheduled for 5 p.m. at St. Mary’s Church.

An adults-only social evening is planned from 7 p.m. to midnight in the school gym. Music will be provided by “Prairie Grass,” a local bluegrass band. There is no cost to attend and reservations are not required.

“We are very excited to be celebrating 150 years of Catholic education at St. Mary’s,” said Father Dondanville, who has guided the parish since 2009.

“Kickapoo has a long, rich history of faith and community,” he continued. “In today’s world where truth is constantly under attack and our faith is mocked and disregarded, it is so important to provide a safe and loving place for our children to be formed at the feet of Christ. The walls of our school are lined with an unbroken chain of success stories as we have student pictures dating back to nearly the beginning of the school. They are the foundation of our school and parish and the reason we can celebrate this great milestone.”

St. Mary’s School has one of the longest histories of Catholic education in the Diocese of Peoria, tracing its origins to the early history of Kickapoo. In 1862, the same year that the first St. Mary’s Church was built, the Catholic community built a one-room frame school building on what is now the school playground. A home for the nuns was also constructed, and later, a two-room school was added.

Records indicate that the school was named St. Anthony’s. Grades one through eight were taught in both German and English.

In the early 1900s, the name of the school was changed to St. Mary’s.
Members of the Sisters of St. Francis taught at the school from 1864 to 1933, with the exception of a three-year period starting in 1879. The school included students from the parishes of St. Mary’s and St. Patrick’s.

A new school building was built in 1933, the first year that Father A.L. Mey was pastor. At that time, the Sisters of Notre Dame began operating the school. Another addition was constructed in 1952.

In 1971, because of a shortage of women religious, the Sisters of Notre Dame left the school. Through the efforts of Father Mey and the will of the parish, the school continued to operate with lay teachers.

In 1999, the convent was razed to make room for the latest expansion — completed in Jubilee Year 2000 — which included six classrooms, a modern kitchen/cafeteria, a parish hall, a gymnasium and offices for the school and church.

For reservations or more information on the Aug. 18 events, call Jamie Johnson, (309) 674-8950, or Teresa Sager, (309) 693-3835.

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