Joy as the latest expansion at St. Jude Parish and School in Peoria is blessed

Bishop Jenky greets David and Nellie Gould and their daughters Norah, Bridget and Charlotte, who are students at St. Jude, and Margaret. Holding baby Sally is Sister Teresa Paul, OP. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Members of St. Jude Parish in Peoria have been enjoying their spacious new parish hall, and they invited Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, to make himself at home there, too, as he blessed the facility after Mass on April 24.

In addition to Hettinger Hall, he extended his blessing to the new preschool and kindergarten classrooms, middle school wing with library, enrichment classroom, and band and music room, and chapel at St. Jude School.

Bishop Jenky walks down the long hall that now connects St. Jude Church, Hettinger Hall and St. Jude School as he prepares to bless the new construction on April 24. Accompanying him are Father Patrick Henehan, pastor; Sister Maria Christi, OP, principal; Sister Maria Canisius, OP, and Sister Catherine Thomas, OP. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Bishop Jenky walks down the long hall that now connects St. Jude Church, Hettinger Hall and St. Jude School as he prepares to bless the new construction on April 24. Accompanying him are Father Patrick Henehan, pastor; Sister Maria Christi, OP, principal; Sister Maria Canisius, OP, and Sister Catherine Thomas, OP. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

This second phase of construction added 21,000 square feet to the parish complex and made it possible to walk throughout the buildings under one roof. The cost of $3.2 million is largely paid off, according to Father Patrick Henehan, pastor.

“I cannot believe six years ago where we were and where we are now, after two phases,” he told the parishioners before accompanying Bishop Jenky to the new parish hall for dedication ceremonies and brunch.

“I thank God, certainly, for your presence and your commitment to St. Jude,” Father Henehan said. “May God bless you all for your sacrifice, for your generosity, and for what you have done to further our parish for four generations. Thank you.”

Bishop Jenky added words of gratitude before sprinkling holy water in Hettinger Hall, named for Msgr. Clarence J. Hettinger, the pastor when St. Jude Church was built.

“Over the past several years I’ve seen the growth of this area and the growth of your parish. Your response to that growth has been inspiring,” Bishop Jenky said. “I see your generosity, and I appreciate all you have done to further the mission of our Lord.”

He noted that St. Jude School would graduate students for the first time this spring and said, “Know how proud I am. I am also especially grateful for the work of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, both here and at Peoria Notre Dame. The presence of religious in our schools is a great gift.”

As part of the blessing for the new social hall, Bishop Jenky prayed that “this place be a center for our parish activities and a place where we come to know one another and give witness to our faith in Christ.”

He also prayed that those entrusted with the education of the students in the school would teach them “how to join the discoveries of human wisdom with the truth of the Gospel, so that they will be able to keep the true faith and to live up to it in their lives.”

BUILDING UP THE PARISH

A key piece of the construction for Father Henehan and Sister Maria Christi Nelson, OP, principal, is the chapel in the new middle school wing. All Dominican schools have one and it’s for the benefit of the teachers, students and parents alike.

Sister Maria Christi, OP, called the new chapel the heart of St. Jude School and said it allows students, teachers and parents to stop by for prayer during the day. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

Sister Maria Christi, OP, called the new chapel the heart of St. Jude School and said it allows students, teachers and parents to stop by for prayer during the day. (The Catholic Post/Tom Dermody)

“It’s beautiful because the younger ones can go down there and learn how to pray in a small, sacred space that’s not as overwhelming as the big parish church,” Sister Maria Christi told The Catholic Post, adding that the middle school students like to stop by as they’re changing classes and will genuflect and just say, “Hello,” to Jesus in the tabernacle.

“Sometimes parents will stop by and say, ‘Can I make a visit to the chapel?’” she said.

To reserve the Eucharist there, it must be refreshed on a regular basis — usually monthly, according to Father Henehan. He has started celebrating Mass there, one class at a time.

The chapel also caught the eye of Bishop Jenky, who sat in silence for a moment after blessing it with holy water.

As for Hettinger Hall, Father Henehan said they wondered if they had built it too large and would ever be able to fill it. The Knights of Columbus, Women of St. Jude and other parish organizations love it, however, and have “shattered every record” in terms of sales for events like the fish frys in Lent.

Having a kitchen for the school and kitchen for the hall also allows them to have funeral luncheons and school lunches at the same time, or to use both for large parish events, Father Henehan said.

“Now the key is not just building a building, but building up the parish using those buildings,” he said.

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