Participation keeps Virgil church vibrant for 100 years

By on March 11, 2009

Church plans events to celebrate milestone
by Lynn Meredith
In keeping with its tradition of an active and involved parish, St. Peter and Paul Church is celebrating its centennial year with a host of events that call on parishioners to contribute their time, talents and memories.

One of those activities is the creation of a quilt made of blocks designed and created by individual families.

“We wanted to do more than events,” said Mary Newhouse, a member of the Centennial Committee. “We wanted participation. What better way to participate than to contribute a quilt block?”

Of the church’s 200 families, 60 created a block. Some blocks have the family name stitched on them. Some have pictures, and some have remembrances of one sort or another.

The parish’s new pastor, Father Perfecto Vasquez, suggested that the quilt be designed to be part of the altar cloth for the celebration in June. Instead of a square, the quilt is a long rectangle shape.

The centennial celebration will culminate on June 28 with a community mass followed by a dinner. To make it even more special than the many potlucks and dinners the Virgil church is famous for, this one will be catered.

“Virgil is known for its potlucks and funeral luncheons,” Newhouse said. “We’re having (the centennial dinner) catered, so we don’t have to work. We don’t want some of us stuck in the kitchen. We want to enjoy it.”

All year long, the parish has been keeping its families aware that this is the 100th year of the church through special announcements and special events.

“We’ve had an in-house awareness campaign with weekly petitions for all the people who have worshipped here over the last 100 years,” Newhouse said.

A member who is an artist designed a logo that will be used for invitations. It pictures a church in the center with a piece of wheat around the edge to indicate the rural community.

In October, the church held an auction instead of its traditional turkey raffle. Once again, the parishioners stepped up to contribute. Each individual family created a themed basket to be auctioned off. Some of the themes were movies, Legos and New Year’s Eve.

“I got a pair of white mink earmuffs and hot chocolate from a parishioner who is a mink rancher,” Newhouse said.

Father Vasquez got in on the act, donating his cooking skills for a dinner at the rectory for six to eight people. That service alone brought in $1,000.

“It’s not every day that your pastor will cook dinner for you,” Newhouse said.” And he’s a really good cook.”

All in all, the church auctioned 52 items and raised $5,000.

The Snow Ball Dance in January kicked off 2009 and was followed by a spaghetti dinner and a chili-Bingo night. Both events were designed for families and involved the Christian Education students.

The last event before the June centennial is a May celebration of Mary Mother of God. Father Vasquez plans a procession from the school to the church.

“He has brought the spirit back to Virgil. He loves to do partying. He loves to do things,” Newhouse said. “We’re happy to be celebrating. Virgil is a tiny town and the people are proud of it.”

Photo: In celebration of its 100-year anniversary, a quilt is being sewed at SS Peter and Paul church. Sixty families have participated in the designing of the quilt. Here, (from left) Millie Diehl, Mary Anderson, Anna Pecoraro, Glory Martin and Sue Juns work on the quilt. Photo by Sarah Rivers

Prior to 1879—Virgil Catholics attended
St Mary’s Church in Lodi (Maple Park)
1879—15 Catholic families send a
committee to petition Chicago Diocese about
having a church of their own. They construct
St. Peter and Paul Church on two acres.
1881—A school is built.
1909—The current church and rectory is
constructed on four acres donated by
John Sauber. The Rt. Rev. Msgr.
Charles S. Nix is its first pastor.
1913—A new school is built.
1942—A fire destroys the sacristy and its
contents, causing $10,000 in losses.
1953—The old school is torn down and a
new one built. the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Nix
returns to lay the cornerstone, 32 years
after leaving as the church’s first pastor.
1964—Two classrooms and an office are
added to the school.
1971—St. Peter and Paul School
closes in June.
1983—The closed school is opened
as a youth center.
1999—Organist Fran Berens retires
after 30 years.
2001—Parish enrollment is 230 families.
2009—The parish celebrates its Centennial.