Heritage-based, family-centered, and growth-oriented describe the parish community of St. George Catholic Church. From its humble beginnings in 1848 to its present structure in 2014, St. George Church provides worship services and family activities for its parishioners and for the community.
The village/parish of St. George was settled by French Canadians. Many of the settlers migrated from St. George Di’Henriville, Canada. The custom of the time was to name a new home after the old. Therefore, the first small wood frame church and cemetery in 1848 was dedicated to St. George.
From 1848 until 1853, the parish was served by the priests of Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Bourbonnais. In 1853, Rev. Epiphane Lapointe was appointed pastor. As the parish grew, the church building evolved into a stone structure by January of 1869. The elements destroyed the stone structure in April of 1869 during a tornado. This discouraging event only motivated the parishioners to plan and build a new church. By 1872, the second stone church was completed.
The parish grew and prospered servicing the community with both religious services and a school. The school eventually became the present St. George Public School. It was during this time that the Viatorian priests became installed as pastors for St. George. The first Viatorian pastor was Rev. Francis V. Chouinard, C.S.V. who served the parish from 1898 – 1903.
In the early 1900’s, St. George again suffered from tornado damage. The people of St. George again rallied to rebuild the church and make the needed repairs. Through two major wars and the Great Depression, the church remained intact until a catastrophic fire gutted the building in 1959. The roof caved in and the steeple fell in flames. The stone walls that remained were used to create the present structure we have today. Again from the ashes, St. George was rebuilt and a new belfry and steeple were added to the exterior in 1960.
The parish center was built in 1986 to replace the former convent structure and the old parish hall that was located across the street from the church. This building provides classroom settings for religious education classes and a kitchen and large meeting hall for various parish and community events.
During the 1990’s, the growth in the St. George area created a need to plan the building of a new church. A contributions campaign for funding the new church was begun. It was at this time that the stained glass windows of St. Mary’s in Kankakee were acquired to be placed in the proposed new church. In 2005, the determination of providing much needed maintenance and improvements took precedence over the construction plans for a new church. In 2009, the windows from St. Mary’s were installed in the newly redecorated church. In 2013 the last window was installed. This window was designed to honor St. George, our Patron Saint and depict the agricultural and French background of our community.
The Guardian Angel Grotto was dedicated on November 1, 2009. Various blocks both in the wall and on the patio walkway are sponsored by numerous parishioners. The grounds have been beautified through the help of the garden club. A summer garden was tended by parishioners in the summer of 2010.
A beautiful new organ is the most recent acquisition by the parish. Through the talents of the choir, music enhances our celebrations at St. George.
St. George Parish Census has grown in recent years from 140 families to now 300 families. The various communities of Bourbonnais, Bradley, Kankakee, Manteno, Momence, Grant Park, and St. Anne are only a some of those represented by the registered parishioners. This diversity melds both old parishioners who have roots from the beginnings of the parish in 1848 to those who have recently joined the St. George Parish Family.
With this growth, new committees and organizations have been created to meet the needs and accentuate the talents found among our parishioners. The parish is guided by the Parish Council and our pastor, Fr. Daniel R. Belanger, C.S.V. Religious Education is provided for children from K – 8th grade with sacrament preparation at the appropriate grade levels. Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults is held each year. In the last two years the classes have averaged five to six adults for religious preparation. All parishioners are encouraged to be involved in the Eucharist celebrations. All are encouraged to join the choir to enhance the celebration of the Mass through their talents vocally and/or instrumentally. A Concert is held in November of each year to highlight the choir, new organ, and guest soloists and guest organist.
The two largest groups of involvement at St. George are the Holy Name Society and the St. George Women’s Group. All men of the parish may be involved in Holy Name Society activities. These range from the annual December Stag Fish Fry to coordinating the July Summerfest as money-making projects for the parish. The St. George Women’s Group sponsors the Winter Dance in February, hosts the Ash Wednesday Soup Supper and coordinates the Annual Giving Tree at Christmas.
Additional organizations are the Peace and Justice Committee, Pastoral Care and Homebound Ministry, Family Ministry, and Garden Club. The Garden Club was mentioned earlier in the landscaping improvements that are seen throughout the parish grounds. Pastoral Care and Homebound Ministry provides one-on-one interaction with those parishioners unable to attend services but who would still like to receive the sacraments and to hear the news of events at St. George. The Peace and Justice Committee coordinates fundraising efforts to provide money to needy areas around the country and world..