Henry, Kewanee merging parishes named for new saints

By: By Tom Dermody

It didn’t take long for the impact of the April 27 canonizations of Sts. John XXIII and St. John Paul II to be felt in the Diocese of Peoria.

Hours after Pope Francis presided at the ceremonies at the Vatican, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, issued decrees naming merged or merging parishes in Kewanee and Henry after the two former popes.

The Kewanee parish, formed from the merger of two parishes a year ago, is now titled and under the patronage of St. John Paul II.

When the Henry parishes of St. Joseph and St. Mary are merged on July 1, the resulting new faith community will be titled and under the patronage of St. John XXIII.

In both cases, the church buildings themselves will retain previous names. In Kewanee, the primary worship site on Central Boulevard will be known by its original title, Visitation Church. Likewise, Visitation School in Kewanee retains that name.

The parish of St. Francis of Assisi in Kewanee was merged into St. Mary Parish last July. Bishop Jenky’s April 27 decree changing the name of the faith community to St. John Paul II took effect immediately.

“It is uniting the people,” said Father Johndamaseni Zilimu, administrator, of the new name. He added that parishioners are taking pride in being the first parish in the diocese named for St. John Paul II. “Now they feel like one,” he said.

That unity will be celebrated when Bishop Jenky visits to offer the 10 a.m. Mass at St. John Paul II Parish, Kewanee, on Sunday, June 15. The Mass will take place at Visitation A new sign has been designed for the lawn of Visitation Church.

Meanwhile, when St. Joseph and St. Mary parishes merge to form a new parish in Henry on July 1, the faith community will be titled and under the patronage of St. John XXIII.

Father Tom Mizeur, present pastor of the Henry parishes as well as Immaculate Conception Parish in Lacon, will become pastor of St. John XXIII Parish in Henry when St. Mary and St. Joseph parishes merge on July 1.

“Most of the feedback has been very positive,” said Father Mizeur. To educate on their new patron, Father Mizeur will publish a brief biography of St. John XXIII — who guided the Catholic Church from 1958 to 1963 and convened the Second Vatican Council — in a future parish bulletin. He noted that St. John XXIII came from a farming family, which should resonate with parishioners.

A farewell liturgy for St. Joseph Church — which will continue to be used at the pastor’s discretion after the July 1 merger — is planned for 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 29. It will be followed by a potluck lunch, and then a Eucharistic procession to St. Mary Church, where after adoration St. Mary parishioners will welcome them with desserts.

On Sunday, July 6, the 9:30 a.m. Mass at St. Mary Church will celebrate the new name of St. John XXIII Parish.

The full decrees regarding Henry and Kewanee have been or will be published in the bulletins of their respective parishes.

A third decree issued on April 27 by Bishop Jenky changes the name of the John Paul II Catholic Newman Center at Illinois State University in Normal to the St. John Paul II Catholic Newman Center, effective immediately.

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