Lacon parish to celebrate 150 years since church’s dedication with Mass on Aug. 17
LACON — Bishop Daniel R. Jenky, CSC, will be the principal celebrant of a 4 p.m. Mass on Saturday, Aug. 17, celebrating the 150th anniversary of the dedication of Immaculate Conception Church here.
“Our invitation is very open,” said Father John Bosco Mujuni, who is in his second year as pastor. That welcome is specially extended to past as well as present parishioners and all priests who have formerly served Immaculate Conception Parish.
The celebration, which includes a catered reception to follow in the parish center, caps a year of commemorative events at the first Catholic parish established in Marshall County.
“We’re almost at the 180th anniversary of the parish,” observed John Wabel, a member of the Immaculate Conception Church sesquicentennial committee, a local historian, and the mayor of Lacon.
When the sesquicentennial year opened last August, Wabel led parishioners through the Lacon faith community’s rich history in a presentation after all weekend Masses. He noted that the present brick church — dedicated 150 years ago — is actually the third church to serve the parish. The first, made of logs, was destroyed by fire in 1856 and was immediately rebuilt as a wood frame structure.
Both of those churches were under the patronage of St. Mary, but the much larger brick church begun a decade later was named for Mary under the title of the Immaculate Conception — a doctrine newly defined by Pope Pius IX.
“We ask the Patroness of our church, the Blessed Virgin Mary, to keep us under her special protection and intercession, so that our celebrations may be successful and that we may prove ourselves worthy of God’s continual blessings for many years to come,” says the closing of an anniversary prayer parishioners have been reciting near the end of Masses since last August. The prayer also gives thanks for the faith of those who have contributed to the success of the church throughout its 150-year history.
“As we celebrate, may we look back in appreciation and forward in hope,” reads the prayer.
During the three years from the start of church construction to its dedication on Aug. 22, 1869, the parish was served by three different pastors — Father John Kilkenny, Father P. Flanagan, and Father M. McDermott. Its dedication took place eight years before the establishment of the Diocese of Peoria.
Through its 150-year history, the church has seen many changes in its neighborhood and even withstood a strong tornado in 1942 that tore off a part of its roof and destroyed area homes. Its loving care has included several extensive remodelings — the latest in 2000 — and in 1962 a large mosaic of the Blessed Virgin Mary was added to the sanctuary wall.
Around the church a parish hall, known as The Catholic Center, was built in 1975, and a new rectory and office added in 2006.
Today the parish embraces 160 households. While the founding members were mostly Irish immigrants, the present faithful are “a mixture of everything,” said Wabel.
The sesquicentennial year was recalled at a variety of events in the past year, including a bus trip to the St. Maximilian Kolbe Shrine and Mundelein Seminary last October; a Thanksgiving Dinner in November; an Advent Family Celebration on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception in December; an interfaith Seder Meal in March, and an ice cream social on June 30 at which a “Sweet Treats Cookbook” featuring recipes from parishioners past and present was made available.
A parish photo directory is being compiled, and the anniversary Mass book will include a summarized version of the parish history.
Father Mujuni said that the anniversary Mass will feature music from a combined choir comprised of members of the parish’s three Mass choirs.
Reservations are requested for the reception to follow the Mass. Dinners featuring fried chicken and spaghetti will be provided by Kenyon’s Place in Lacon for a suggested donation of $10 to $15. Reservations may be made by calling the parish at (309) 246-5145 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, with a deadline of Aug. 11. More information is available on the parish website, iccclacon.org.