BEARDSTOWN — On Saturday, July 14, St. Alexius Church in Beardstown will be celebrating the 180th anniversary of its establishment with a 4 p.m. Mass celebrated by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, with other priests concelebrating. Following Mass there will be a church picnic and celebration at the parish hall.
In the Sesquicentennial history of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, Come to the Water, only three diocesan parishes — established just a year earlier — are listed as older than St. Alexius, which was established in 1838. According to historic articles in Catholic Times files, as early as 1833 Beardstown had been visited by Father Charles Felix Von Quickenborne, SJ, from St. Louis. By 1838, the recognized founding of St. Alexius, Father John B. Rabo, CM, of LaSalle, was ministering to about 200 families who lived along the Illinois River, extending for 60 miles. In 1851, Bishop James Oliver Van de Velde of Illinois donated $50 toward building the first Catholic church in Beardstown. That church was completed in 1852.
Moreover, in 180 years St. Alexius has been under the administration of a number of dioceses. It was begun under the administration of the Diocese of Vincennes, Indiana. In 1843, the entire state of Illinois was formed into a single diocese, with Chicago as the see city. In 1853, Pope Pius IX erected the Diocese of Quincy. A few years later, in 1857, Pope Pius moved the see to Alton. Of course, in 1923, the see was transferred from Alton to Springfield, to become the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois.
Today St. Alexius is home to about 735 parishioners in almost 300 families and is known as the heart of a multi-cultural Roman Catholic community. A recent news release from the parish noted that its parishioners are thankful for the many blessings that God has bestowed upon the parish during the last 180 years. They pray for continued prosperity as they celebrate this milestone in the life of St. Alexius, the news release stated.
Father Thomas Meyer, who is pastor, and Father Rafal Pyrchla, who is parochial vicar, serve in Jacksonville and three Cass County parishes including St. Alexius. On Aug. 1, the parishes will be welcoming Father Braden Maher, who will be parochial vicar.