The Catholic Church in Edgar County began in earnest in 1817 with the construction of St. Aloysius Church in North Arm. The community at the time built a log structure to accommodate a growing Catholic faithful. As more Catholics settled in the area, a second church was constructed in 1837.
Then, in the 1840s, several miles away in Paris, a railroad intersection was built, leading to a major demographic shift to Paris. That led to the creation of St. Mary Parish in the 1850s, and it becoming the main church in the area.
The present brick church on Main and Edgar streets was built in 1900. Inside, its beauty is striking.
“How this place is designed, you feel like you are in a prayerful place,” said Father Valery Burusu, pastor. “The sanctuary, the stained glass, and the color, it is all so beautiful. It is as if it was made by God.”
The more than 100-year-old church has gone through several changes over the years. In 2002, a major renovation project concluded with then-Bishop George Lucas rededicating the church. In 2006, a fire started on St. Joseph’s altar, smoke filled the church, and it caused damage. So, two new side altars were then built, and the church was once again touched up.
Built as a Gothic church, St. Mary in Paris is an example of how beauty can bring us closer to God.
“It reflects the presence of God, it reflects a place of prayer, and it reflects a place of caring,” said Father Burusu. “I feel humbled to be in this church. For the three years I have been serving here, I witnessed many people from neighboring counties and different states visiting us for Mass. After the Eucharistic Celebration, they would come to me and say, ‘Father, we are guests, and we stopped by here to visit your church, and it is very beautiful!’”
“Our beautiful church testifies to the glory of our awesome God,” said Mary Ann Sullivan, music director at St. Mary. “We are humbled that our ancestors sacrificed and gave so much to build such a beautiful space over a hundred years ago. It is a testament to their faith, a faith that we want in our life, strong and true. The physical beauty of our church helps us to strive to nurture in ourselves and our families that faith.”
“God is here!” said Mary Liz Wright, PSR teacher at St. Mary. “When people enter St Mary’s of Paris for the first time, there is, often, an audible gasp — God is here!”