Rockford, IL: The Labor Day assault on Saint Mary’s Oratory

You have probably heard examples of encroachment on private property by state and city governments through aggressive use of "eminent domain".

A reader alerted me to this Very Alarming Development in the Diocese of Rockford, IL.

This is from the Rockford Catholic Examiner with my emphases and comments:

The Labor Day assault on Saint Mary’s Oratory
September 4, 11:56 AM
Rockford Catholic Examiner
Scott P. Richert

In 2010, the second-oldest Catholic church in Rockford will celebrate its 125th anniversary.  Yet just a few years ago, it seemed as if Saint Mary’s Oratory might not reach that milestone.

Founded in 1885, Saint Mary’s is an imposing red-brick Gothic structure. The stained-glass windows are some of the most intricate and beautiful of any church in Rockford. Having survived a fire in 1962 and low Mass attendance throughout the 1970’s and 1980’s, Saint Mary’s became the home of Rockford’s only traditional Latin Mass in 1997, when Bishop Thomas Doran put the church under the administration of the Institute of Christ the King.

Catholics from across northern Illinois and as far north as Madison, Wisconsin, began to flock to Saint Mary’s. But [The point…] when the voters of Winnebago County approved the construction of a new county jail, the church’s future was cast into jeopardy.

Over Labor Day [NB:] 2003, an email from a member of the Winnebago County Board inadvertently revealed county officials’ plans to force the Rockford diocese to sell Saint Mary’s to the county.  The church and its school would be razed, and the grounds would be used for parking for the new jail.

Fortunately, one county board member, the late Mary Ann Aiello, sounded the alarm, and the parishioners of Saint Mary’s, as well as Catholics from across the country, rode to the rescue.  Faced with national headlines, opposition from the Rockford diocese and from the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, the county dropped its plans.

Today, 500 Catholics attend Mass at Saint Mary’s every Sunday, across the street from the new county jail.  And when they celebrate the church’s 125th anniversary next year, they will undoubtedly light many candles, and offer many prayers, for the soul of Mary Ann Aiello—a Catholic first, and a politician second.

There is something redolent of the ancient in this story.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. ssoldie says:

    Ah! that it be, the sweet smell of of the ancients. (tradition?)

  2. chorst01 says:

    Credit also should be given the Rector, the Rev. Brian Bovee, and the Bishop of Rocford, the Most Rev. Thomas G. Doran. Bishop Doran’s personal involvement was a major factor in defeating the effort to close St. Mary’s. May God bless them.

  3. Jayna says:

    A parking lot for a prison?! Are you kidding me?

  4. grottoflower says:

    so many good people trying and also suceeding in saving there church. brings tears to my eyes. i belong to an old st. marys in lowertown st. paul. our priests are wonderful holy, devout “sons of the Imaculate conception”

  5. KAS says:

    This is BEAUTIFUL!! God bless her for having her priorities straight!

  6. moon1234 says:

    My wife and I were married here in 1999. We came from Portage, WI at that time so we were another 40 minutes north of Madison, WI.

    If your interested in what the inside of the church looked like at that time, our wedding is on youtube. Fr. (now Canon) Bovee was the priest who married us.

  7. Mary Ann says:

    Thank you so much for posting your wedding link, moon1234! Very beautiful High Mass, in sequential 10 minute segments on YouTube.
    FrZ—might this deserve its own blog entry? I’m just saying ;)

  8. paterpetri says:

    My wife and I were married here in 2003. She had been Father Bovee’s secretary.

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