About Our Parish
Church has always been important; from the early settlers for strength and hope and to the thriving communities for the same reasons As we grow in understanding and in membership, we grow in faith and good works. In the telling of the history of Saints Peter and Paul Church, one must look further to a small church on Algonquin Road named St. John Nepomucene.
In the year 1860, immigrants of Czech ancestry came to the Fox River Grove Valley adjoining Algonquin, Fox River Grove, and at the time Cary Station, now Cary. Most of them were farm folk who moved to Illinois seeking a new life. They included eighteen families in all. They were all families of great faith. Most of the early settlers were Catholic. So, after building their homes, there was the goal of organizing and building a church and setting aside some land for a cemetery.
In 1867, it was decided in the home of John Stanek to purchase the land for a church and cemetery. An acre of land on the highest hill was purchased from John Bohacek for a total of twenty dollars. The church was to be located on the Algonquin-Fox River Grove Road, midway between the two towns. Prior to the construction, the church and cemetery were named in honor of St. John Nepomucene, the patron saint of Bohemia.
The building began in the year of 1871, by Frank Opatrny Sr., Frank Pekny, Joseph Krupicka, Albert Suchy Sr., John Stanek, and Mr. Richter. The lumber for the church was hauled on a lumber wagon from Barrington. The common lumber was ten dollars per thousand feet, and the clear lumber was twenty-two dollars per thousand feet. In 1874, a church tower bell was purchased. John Kanka donated twenty dollars, which was extremely generous. They had built themselves a fine church.
For the caring and upkeep of the church, as well as the spiritual welfare, the Association of Saint John Nepomucene was formed. The Association charged members four dollars and twenty-five cents for quarterly dues. Many dances were held to raise money for payments. Typical parties were held in a neighbor’s home or barn. These affairs gathered the parishioners together and helped make their church stronger. The cemetery was located near the church. Lots in the cemetery sold for the price of ten dollars, plus an additional fifty cents for the ringing of the bell. The bell served as a way of communication for the early settlers. Prokop Kvidera was one of the first men designated to ring the bell.
The bell could signal deaths, births, or wedding celebrations. There were very few visits from priests at the church because there were so few parishioners. Once a year a priest would make the trip by train from Chicago to Barrington, and then by wagon to Saint John Nepomucene. The first priests who came to celebrate the Mass, baptize, hear confessions, and celebrate marriage ceremonies were Fathers Choka, Molitar, Bobal, Hynek, Keclik, Jedlicka, and Kestle. During the absence of a priest, members of the Association were elected to conduct the Sunday services. The parishioners, with no priest, would simply gather together and pray.
Easter was celebrated as the most important holy day of the year. Everyone came from miles away to go to the services. People would march around the church as they carried lighted candles, and sang hymns. It was a beautiful celebration. In 1892, the number of visits increased to two. As the parish grew even more, a priest came once every three months. Finally, a priest came once a month.
Due to the growing parish, in 1900 a two hundred dollar confessional was installed and a gold and silver chalice was purchased. The church was a great memorial to the hard work of its patrons.Though it never received a resident pastor, Saint John Nepomucene provided a strong Catholic base from which other churches would grow. One of these churches would be Saints Peter and Paul Church in Cary.
The parishioners of Saints Peter and Paul began as a small group of Catholics meeting in the Richmond Smith Milk Company, which was an empty factory. As the winter of 1910 came, it became too cold and meetings were moved inside to an empty home. Soon, as the parishioners grew in number, the home became too small. It became apparent that a new church must be built. Father Lonergan of Barrington organized the church in 1911. He still kept residence at Barrington, but oversaw that Mass was held once a week at Saints Peter and Paul and once a month at Saint John Nepomucene. Property was purchased at the corner of First Street and Main Street in Cary. The corner stone was laid in 1912. The construction was completed in 1913, but services were held as soon as the basement was finished. The Peknys donated the church bell. The church was dedicated to saints Peter and Paul.
The first resident pastor was Reverend Joseph Gies who served as Fr. Lonergan’s assistant. Reverend Gies served only a year before he died. The Reverend Edwin McCormick succeeded Fr. Gies. The Reverend McCormick was then transferred to Crystal Lake, and Father Lonergan returned briefly. Reverend Theodore McCormick took over in 1917, soon to be succeeded by Reverend Francis Kilderry, who began forty years as pastor in July of 1918. By this time, bazaars and fundraisers were very important in the continuation of construction. These were held in the basement of the church. It would still be vital when the groundbreaking for the school and convent took place on July 2, 1929. The school and convent were located in the same building with four large central classrooms, with the sister’s quarters around. Farther Kilderry played a very important role in the development of the school. He was the one who was able to encourage the Dominican Sisters of Springfield to staff the school.
The sisters also were very important. Upon the opening school year there were fifty-six students in all. There was no eighth grade the first year. Sister Mary Alacoque taught the four lower grades, while Sr. Mary Clementine taught the four upper grades. The Sisters received a minimal salary and were also supported by Sister showers where pupils brought food for their teachers. The nuns were very young, so young, that at recess they were participants. Concerning the fun and games, the school had a baseball team. All of the boys Sister Mary Alacoque and Sister Mary Clementine and girls would practice at recess with Father Kilderry as their coach. Their rivals were Reverend McCormick’s team in Crystal Lake. Also, one year, Fr. Kilderry promised a gold watch to the student who knew their lessons best. Mary Lazansky won. I believe she is living in a nursing home now and still has that watch. Students also competed at school under Father Kilderry trying to earn points by having their lessons learned. School may have been fun, but students who graduated were well educated, and many graduates went on to be very successful.
Fr. Kilderry died in 1958 and left forty years of service to Saints Peter and Paul. By this time, Cary was experiencing enormous growth. For Father Alfred Dietsch, Mass was very busy. Mass was held both upstairs and downstairs. Father Dietsch knew that a new church must be built. In 1958, the Holy Name Society purchased fifteen acres of land on the West Side of First Street. Later on an additional six-and-a-half acres were purchased, construction of a new school, rectory, and temporary church was begun under the direction of Father Dietsch. The school and temporary church building was completed in 1962. The building was dedicated in 1960 by Bishop Loras T. Lane. The same year as the old church and school were demolished, 1967, the rectory and convent were completed. By 1969, the parish had saved a good portion of the cost for a new church. Fr. Dietsch pressed for generous stewardship.
For several years, the school was the center of the parish. In the first year there were thirty-five graduates. There was much growth for the school. The Principal for several years also served as the eighth grade teacher. She would go back and forth from her office and classroom. The Dominican Sisters served for many years. The first lay teacher was Mrs. Laino. She served for thirty-one years. The most graduates the school ever had was forty-six in 1969. There was soon enough money saved to build a new permanent church. James R. Crownin and Associates of Park Ridge, were selected as architectural engineers. William Tonyan Incorporated of McHenry was the contractor. In 1969 construction began, and in 1971, the beautiful, modern church was dedicated. The church seated nine hundred. It cost approximately five hundred thousand dollars.
It is a circular building with walls pierced with colored glass and bricks. It is in the book of world records as the building with the most stained glass windows (18,000). 28 large white pillars circle the church and a cloister walk circles it. In 1972 the entire parish plant was dedicated. Since 1970, there has been much growth and change in the parish. In 1970 the temporary church was remodeled into the school gym.
Father Dietsch retired in 1975 and was replaced by Father Andrew Plesa and his assistant Reverend William Budden. Since then, the church has also had many significant changes. Parishioners went from one thousand to two thousand five hundred families in only a few years. There were four masses each weekend. The old rectory was converted into a Parish Center, and a new rectory was built.
In 1988, Father Donald Ahles became the pastor and the Pastoral Council initiated stewardship and tithing. In 1989, a Development Committee was formed. The Committee decided to make stewardship the church’s main source of funding, eliminating fundraisers. The Committee decided to build a new addition to the church to include a kindergarten, meeting rooms, bathroom facilities, bride’s room, and gathering space. The addition is used often and is a sign of the church’s unity and generosity. It is a sign of our stewardship and it is through stewardship that we grow. The parish retains reminders of the past. The church contains the cornerstone, stained glass windows and bell from the original church. Altar servers still use the same cross from the first opening mass of the old church. The meeting rooms in the new addition are named after Fathers Kilderry, Dietsch, Plesa, and the Dominican Sisters.
In the school, many changes are apparent. The Principal’s office was once a busy hallway. The learning center one was once the principal’s office, and the learning center two was a lounge and copy room. In the gym where the church was, the sanctuary is now a lounge for teachers, music office, and gym office. The parish reflects the past in it’s present active life. The parish has experienced continued growth.
The town of Cary has also grown. Many young families have moved to Cary over recent decades. I never really thought of the labor and love that went into creating a church. For me, it had always been there. Others worked to build a place to worship. It took faith and dedication to build Saints Peter and Paul Church, and it still takes faith and dedication to keep it running.
Written and compiled by Kristen Delevich, Gr. 7 SS. Peter & Paul School - Spring, 2000