About our church

Left to Right – Father Michels, Bishop Blanchette and Dr. & Mrs. Rooney

The February 16, 1950 edition of the Joliet Herald News reported that the newly formed Joliet Diocese had purchased land on West Jefferson at Woodlawn Avenue to build a new west side church and school. It would be the first new parish established in Joliet since St. Raymond’s was founded.

Bishop McNamara asked Father Michels, pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Minooka, to clear the property of the knocked down trees and take a census of the territory. The results showed 250 families – 50 from St. Patrick and 200 from St. Raymond – comprising the new parish.

St. Paul the Apostle was canonically established September 21, 1950 with Father Michels officially named pastor. Sunday Masses were held for the first time on October 13 in the foyer of Pershing School and continued there until August of 1951.

Early in 1950, Mr. John E. Doyle was selected as architect for the new building which was to be a one story structure containing four classrooms. A parish hall in the basement was to be used as a temporary church. The general contract to build the school was awarded to Mr. Jesse Shepherd.

Parish organizational activities began October 16 when the first meeting of the men was held at the Knights of Columbus home and October 23 saw the first meeting of the women.

Sister Lorraine talks to students.

An open house was held August 25, 1951 in the new building which was officially dedicated on October 28 by Bishop McNamara. Sunday Masses were said for the first time in the new church basement on September 2. School opened September 5 with six grades in four classrooms and an enrollment of 180 pupils. Students were taught by Sister Lorraine, Sister M. Grace and Sister M. Dominic of the St. Francis Order.

In May of 1952, a group of men met and decided to build a rectory for the pastor. He had been living in the school office as the nuns were occupying the small rectory.

The new rectory was completed in 1953 with all the labor donated by the skilled tradesmen of the parish. Father Michels celebrated his silver jubilee of the priesthood that year on April 10.

A second floor to the school was added in 1954 providing six new rooms for a ten room school building. St. Paul was now a parish of six hundred families and five hundred children in the school.

In addition, the convent was completed in 1956 and in 1959, plans were made for another addition to the school.

Parish organizations were now established and the parish has been successful in raising money through annual carnivals, children’s bazaars, and fund drives.

First Grade – April 1960

By the 1960s there were 700 families in the parish. In January of 1960, construction began on another six-room addition to the school, bringing the total to 16. Semitekol and Larson were architects, and Tony Blazevic the contractor. It was completed in August, at a cost of $135,500. Sister Miriam David, proncipal, welcomed 621 pupils that fall, an increase of 104 from the previous year. The faculty consisted of seven nuns and seven lay teachers. The “spacious new hall” of the addition was the setting for the opening meeting of the Women’s Club on September 16, 1960.

Expansion of the physical plant continued in 1961 when the plans for a new convent with housing for 16 nuns were announced, at a cost of $168,000. Semitekol and Larson were again chosen as the architects, and Ben Cabay was the general contractor. Bishop Martin D. McNamara blessed the new convent on August 26, 1962.

In August, the parish’s last carnival netted $11,000. The first annual dinner-dance was held at D’Amico’s 214 on October 27, with the proceeds buying furnishings for the convent.

On April 28, 1963, Harry McKeown and Mrs. Barbara Erickson directed the reception committee for the open house and celebration of Father Michel’s 35th ordination anniversary. Also that year, Sister Miriam David, school principal, left Joliet for her community’s Brazilian mission.

The parish indebtedness was $180,000 as of September 1964. the parish committee recommended another fund raising campaign for the new church. Fox and Fox, architects began the plans. The Bishop gave permission to go ahead and promised a diocesan loan of $300,000 provided the parish raised $300,000 in pledges.

Construction of New Church

On September 15, 1965 Father Michels turned the first shovel of ground for the church. Phillip Schaack was the chairman and Irv Leuken co-chairman of the building fund campaign. The general contractor was Mazzucco Construction Company.

Father Michels in the new church.

Bishop Romeo Blanchette officiated at the laying of the cornerstone on May 30, 1966. The bulletin listed costs of individual items for those who wished to make a memorial donations – a window, $1000; the tabernacle, $2000; baptismal font, $1000; a station of the cross, $100 each; and altar boy cassock, $15.

Father Michels described the church in the local press as “unique in its simplicity.” The first Mass was March 12, 1967, with Bishop Blanchatte presiding. That same day, the honor of being the first baptized in the new church went to Mark Joseph Hutten, son of Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence J. Hutten. The formal dedication ceremony took place on June 18.

Bible School – 1977

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