As church moved in Williamsfield, parish is drawn closer to Christ

By: Text and photo by Jennifer Willems

WILLIAMSFIELD — It isn’t unusual to see furniture or equipment hauled to a new location on the back of a flatbed truck, but what was moved through the streets of this Knox County village earlier this week was much more precious to the people who followed in procession.

St. James Church was lifted from its foundation at 111 S. Olive St. two weeks ago and taken to 2279 Knox Road (1450N) by Balagna House Moving Inc. of Farmington on June 2. To make that possible, Ameren Illinois shut down electricity to the entire village and linemen carefully removed the power lines overhead so the structure could make its way in safety.

More photos from the moving day are posted on The Catholic Post’s
Facebook site.

When the church and parishioners arrived at the new site, Father John Verrier, pastor, offered prayers of blessing. Then he walked the perimeter of the foundation, sprinkling holy water as he went.

“Just enough,” he said with a laugh as he poured the remaining drops of holy water on the ground inside the foundation. Before everyone went to the nearby American Legion Hall for lunch, Father Verrier led them in singing “The Church’s One Foundation.”

“For the St. James Church community this means that we’re moving closer to Christ,” Father Verrier told The Catholic Post. “The move is also a spiritual move and we want to have an even closer bond of brotherhood and sisterhood in the family of God, where Jesus is our true Savior and we look to him as the foundation of all our bonds of love.”

The practical reason for the move is that the parish community — one of the smallest in the Diocese of Peoria — has 38 families now, but is growing, and the church could only seat about 75 people.

“We needed a bigger space and it will be really nice to have bathrooms and running water,” Father Verrier explained. “But the most important thing is through the sacraments and through the love of Christ we will grow closer to God and each other.”

The church was to be placed on its new foundation on June 4 or 5. Not only will the building be extended in terms of length, but it will grow by another 8 feet on either side. In addition to two bathrooms, the project will give the church a sacristy, confessional and utility room.

Parishioners took “whatever wasn’t nailed down” and put the items into a storage facility owned by Ann Murdock. She also donated the acre of land for the faith community’s new home.

BONDS OF FAITH, LOVE
Mass will be celebrated in the American Legion Hall until construction is finished. Father Verrier said they hope to be back in the church by the end of October, just in time to lay a spiritual foundation for the Jubilee Year of Mercy that will run from Dec. 8 to Nov. 20, 2016.

Being in the American Legion Hall is nothing new for St. James parishioners. They use the facility during the year for religious education classes and traditionally have Sunday Masses there from Memorial Day to Labor Day to accommodate visitors from the Oak Run recreational community.

The cost of the project is $320,000. While the Ralph C. Norman Foundation provided $50,000 and agreed to match up to $50,000 more, parishioners raised $209,000 in two pledge drives. Father Verrier praised them for their generosity.

“It’s a tribute to the strength of the bonds of love between the people here,” he said. “With only 38 families to raise the necessary funds, it was a huge, huge testimony to their faith.”

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