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About Our Parish

 

In the heart of old Mokena stands the original St. Mary German Catholic Church. This small white frame church sits back from Wolf Road, an old Indian trail which was a route for fur traders, and 195th Street. Its steeple gently rises up in the midst of towering trees. Like many parish churches of the nineteenth century, our old St. Mary Church is surrounded by a picturesque cemetery, which is the final resting place of many wonderful men, women and children who called this faith community “home,” and who still do. We remember them fondly in prayer.

St. Mary’s roots run deep in the community of Mokena, which was settled  by German immigants when the railroad came through in the mid-1800’s. With a donation of land by Mathias and Margaret Summers Enders in 1860, Mokena’s nine Catholic families began to dream and plan for their own parish church.  During the next four years, as the war between the Union and the Confederacy waged on, this small and determined group raised the $1,400 necessary to build their own church, working with their own hands to finish their classic white wooden frame building that still proudly stands today in our cemetery as a tribute to all who went before us.

In 1864, St. Mary Church first opened its doors. The first pastor resided at St. John Church in Joliet and traveled by horse every other Sunday to celebrate Mass. At that time, St. Mary’s was the smallest church in Will County and the only Catholic Church between Joliet and Chicago Heights. This church building would serve the community for the next 87 years, staffed by various missionary priests. Franciscan priests arrived in 1914, and continued to serve the parish until 1972, when diocesan priests from the Joliet Diocese were assigned to serve the pastoral needs of the ever-growing parish community.

The faith and determination of many priests, women religious, and lay men and women shaped the small community of St. Mary’s. In the 1920’s, parish membership numbers were still small, but the community’s needs required a new parish hall. That hall was built facing Wolf Road and would later serve as the first St. Mary School.

St. Mary’s also had its own mission church, which was convenient for farm families south of Route 30. St. Anthony Mission was housed in an old railroad car on Route 30. Later growth in the area prompted the mission church to become a separate parish for the town of Frankfort.

St. Mary’s first major growth spurt came between 1950 and 1966, with the parish increasing from 50 to 500 families. On 195th Street at 115th Ave., the parishioners built a new church, school, convent, rectory, and a bus garage which became a parish hall, later very famously named the “Cow Palace.”

In 1986, because of another growth spurt, the parish broke ground for its third and current church building. With its gleaming golden cross atop its lofty gables, and the welcome sound of its glorious bells ringing out across the village fields and homes, the faithful still come to celebrate their Catholic faith and their community life together at St. Mary Parish today, as they have done almost 150 years.

The quiet old Indian trail is now a bustling thoroughfare with many businesses and several stoplights. Subdivisions have risen out of old farm fields. The numbers of the faithful keep growing, and we continue to build, having completed a new parish center complex in 2003. In 2008, the parish completed the renovation of its school buildings, and transformed the second parish church (1956-1987) into the Koop Library and Media Center, in memory of Fr. Cecil Koop, O.F.M., who brought us to our present location in 1955. In 2012, we celebrated the 25th anniversary of the dedication of our current church building, and we celebrated our parish’s 150th anniversary on May 18, 2014.

At St. Mary’s, there are new leaders and new faces, but one thing is for certain: we are a vibrant faith community with a very rich history. Our parish was built on the faith and gifts of many dedicated people.  We still dwell and thrive in the heart of the ever-growing community of Mokena. We are dedicated to “living and growing in God’s love.” We warmly invite you to join us in this great adventure of faith.

Come and enter into the heart of our parish community! You are at the heart of St. Mary’s!  Come, let us “live and grow in God’s love” together as a parish community of faith! 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

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