Parishes in Henry unite under patronage of St. John XXIII

Photo Caption: As an act of unity, descendants of the founding families of St. Joseph Parish gave an altar cloth to Father Tom Mizeur for use at St. Mary Church, the primary worship site for St. John XXIII Parish.

By: By Jennifer Willems

HENRY — New names bring new opportunities for people throughout the Old and New Testaments, as well as the men who are chosen to lead the church as pope. The same is true for the Catholic community in Henry, which will come together as the new St. John XXIII Parish this Sunday, July 6.

A celebratory Mass is planned for 9:30 a.m. at the church, 401 South St. Coffee and doughnuts will follow in the parish hall.

This is the final step in a long process that combined the two Henry parishes — St. Joseph and St. Mary — to form the first parish in the Diocese of Peoria named after “Good Pope John.” He was canonized by Pope Francis on April 27, along with St. John Paul II.

The last regular weekend Mass at St. Joseph Church took place last Sunday, June 29. Parishioners remembered their Irish heritage with a special musical program before the liturgy and gathered in the parish hall for fellowship and a chicken dinner afterward.

Before the Eucharist was transferred to St. Mary Church — which will serve as the primary worship site for the new parish — Father Tom Mizeur, pastor, exposed the Blessed Sacrament for a few moments of silent prayer and then led people in a Litany of St. Joseph.

The Eucharist was taken to St. Mary Church by a procession of people in golf carts and cars that was greeted by members of that church. Together they prayed the Litany of St. Mary and had Benediction.

As a final act of unity, descendants of the original families of St. Joseph Parish presented an altar cloth made by Karol Real to Father Mizeur. Susan Real, who read the proclamation, noted that this brought them full circle “to join again as one church, one parish.”

The welcome continued in the parish hall with cake and coffee.

“When God has something in store for special people, he changed their names,” Father Mizeur said his homily at the closing Mass at St. Joseph.
“Jesus changes the names of Simon and Saul also — Simon to Peter, the rock; Saul to Paul, the evangelist.”

When popes are elected, they change their names to indicate that they are moving into “a very special and new stage in their lives as God’s chosen apostles in our world today,” Father Mizeur explained.

“Thus, as we move into a new time of our Catholic community here in Henry, the diocese and our bishop have asked us to embrace a new name for our parishes — that of John XXIII,” he said. “We may not know entirely what that means yet, but at the same time it’s an invitation to embrace a new stage in our journey as God’s people, as a Catholic community in Henry.”

There has already been a comingling of the parishes through marriage, religious education classes, RCIA and just by being neighbors, he reminded them, adding that merging does not mean a loss of heritage or their identity as Catholics.

“We’re not losing. We’re just gaining — gaining a new name and a new identity,” he said.

One poignant moment for St. Joseph parishioners came when Patrick Martin played “Amazing Grace” on the bag pipes. Father Mizeur encouraged them to remember that God’s amazing grace had brought St. Joseph Parish through 145 years and St. Mary Parish “a little longer” to where they are.

“It’s also God’s amazing grace that is going to carry us forward into St. John XXIII Parish,” he said.

St. Joseph Church may be used at the pastor’s discretion and Father Mizeur said he hoped to celebrate Masses there on First Fridays starting in August, and on the Feast of St. Joseph. Weddings and funerals may also take place there, he told The Catholic Post.

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