By ANDREW HANSEN
GRANITE CITY — Three separate churches, two different cities, one parish. St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish in Granite City has a rich history in our diocese, and this year marks their 150th anniversary.
The parish began with farm families that lived in the area in what is now Madison County. About 20 families gathered in a house in 1870 for the first Mass. Seeing the need for a church, one was constructed in Mitchell for $4,900 with the cornerstone laid on Oct. 7, 1871, the Feast of the Holy Rosary.
Fast forward to the 1950s and with the church overcrowding and rapid growth in Granite City and the surrounding area, a parish relocation was necessary. In 1952, Bishop William O'Connor appointed Father Lawrence Mattingly for the task of relocation, but the relocation wouldn’t be right away, and the project would be more than just the church.
The first project, at a cost of $167,098, was the construction of a school, which opened in 1955. It had 125 students and a teaching staff of four Sisters of Divine Providence.
“The Sisters of Divine Providence were a driving force for our school that started in 1955, and their presence today, although in different roles, still reminds us of our history and how it began and of their dedication to education and to our families,” said Tammi Mooshegian, a longtime parishioner.
In 1957, a residence across the street from the school was purchased to be used as the rectory and the parish office. Then in 1959, the second phase of the expansion was started. A cafeteria and temporary church later to be used as an auditorium was built. From 1953 to 1962, both facilities in Mitchell and Granite City were being maintained. The last Mass at the old Mitchell church was celebrated on Nov. 11, 1962. The first Mass in the new “temporary” church, which was connected to the school, was celebrated the following Sunday.
Eight more classrooms were added to the school in 1963 and a convent was built. From a parish of 20 families in 1871, it grew to more than 700 families in 1971 and had hundreds of students in the school. With continued growth over the next three decades, St. Elizabeth needed a bigger, new church.
In 1996, the parish began working toward building a church to replace the “temporary” church. After much hard work, sacrifice, dedication, and faith of the St. Elizabeth parishioners, the current church was completed in 2002 at a cost of $2.3 million.
“We're a family that has so many familiar faces with never ending connections,” said Michele Stabinsky, a parishioner who can trace her family back to the origins of the parish. “There are those that knew my grandparents, my mom, and now my family. There is a true sense of belonging.”
In all, 27 priests have served St. Elizabeth over the last 150 years as missionaries, administrators, or pastors and on Nov. 13 this year, Bishop Thomas John Paprocki joined Father Alfred Tumwesigye, the current pastor, and parishioners of the parish in celebrating the 150th anniversary with Mass and a dinner reception afterward. When parishioners reflect on what they love about their parish, a common theme is the people.
“Our Pastoral Team, volunteers and organizations really care about this parish and put their heart and soul into seeing that St. Elizabeth remains a vibrant, religious, and growing community,” said Jackie Jones, the parish bookkeeper.
“Faith-filled and faithful people working together to accomplish the many tasks it takes to keep the parish thriving for 150 years and on into the future,” said Cathy Cassy, the parish’s director of music.
“I love all the people over all the years of my life that have been at church with me,” said Frieda Hicks, a longtime parishioner who turned 103 years old on Nov. 20. “It is always good when I go.”
Thanks to Bret Ware, parish secretary, who compiled the church history.