St. Catherine Parish, Aledo, marks centennial on Sunday

Photo Caption: Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, will celebrate an 11:30 a.m. Mass on Sunday, Sept. 7, at St. Catherine Church in Aledo (pictured).

ALEDO — The excitement is growing for a celebration 100 years in the making at St. Catherine Parish here.

“This only happens once,” said Father John Thieryoung, pastor, of plans to mark the parish’s centennial on Sunday, Sept. 7.

Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, will be on hand and will celebrate an 11:30 a.m. Mass at the church, 106 N.E. 4th St. A dinner will follow in the church hall. Those planning to attend the dinner are encouraged to call the parish at (309) 582-7500.

That the parish is celebrating during a month when parish religious education classes are resuming seems fitting, for St. Catherine Parish once had a national reputation in catechetics.

In the middle of the last century, with the assistance of a group of Heading Avenue Franciscan Sisters invited by Father J. T. Shields, Aledo became the base for creating and distributing materials for the religious instruction of students not attending a parochial school. Until other religious book publishers entered the field, the Peoria-Aledo Plan, as it was called, was the only one of its kind in the U.S. At its height, the plan’s materials educated not only about 500 children in Mercer County — of which Aledo is the seat — but tens of thousands around the nation.

Playing a key role in its spread was Father Clarence Meyer, who guided the Aledo parish from 1945 to 1980.

As the parish nears its centennial celebration, Father Thieryoung said the parish is continuing efforts to help members deepen their spiritual lives and love of Christ “and to pass it on to their children and grandchildren.” St. Catherine has active catechism programs, with high school youth using materials from the Dead Theologians Society, a Catholic apostolate that uses the examples of the saints to inspire today’s youth. For adults, Bible studies are organized that often feature guest speakers.

Much has changed in Mercer County since St. Catherine’s was founded from St. Mary Parish in Keithsburg in 1914. A farming region, Aledo is transitioning into a bedroom community for the Quad Cities. Through the years, the Aledo parish has benefited from relationships with other faith communities in Preemption, Matherville, and Viola. In 1987, priests based in Aledo served parishes and missions located in Keithsburg, New Boston, and Oquawka.

The present St. Catherine Church, built in 1930 under the direction of Father Shields, replaced an original structure dedicated on Easter Sunday, 1910. Four years later, Father E. J. Welsh would become the first pastor.
A parish center was added in 1968.

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