Featured Photo Caption: Erwin Bogs, Roberta Bogs and Camille Dancer are pillars of St. Boniface Catholic Church in Monee. Roberta is secretary of the Women’s Club, Camille is the club’s president and Erwin is “everything,” alwys there when the parish needs something done.–photo by Karen Haave
By Karen Haave
St. Boniface Catholic Church has some interesting history.
For example, its original congregation – the German Catholic Society of St. Boniface – included a few French and Irish families, along with some Native Americans from the Raccoon Grove Reservation.
The picturesque white church on Main Street was built in 1868 for $1,500. In 1930, it was closed, windows boarded up and doors locked, because of a dwindling number of families.
Some time after the church reopened in 1950, two men arrived and announced that they had been sent by the Archbishop of Chicago to be priests at St. Boniface. They were warmly received by the parish but abruptly left town, taking all the gold vessels of the Mass, and some vestments, with them.
Once called the Little Church on the Prairie, St. Boniface is celebrating its 150th anniversary and is stronger than ever, serving Catholics from Monee, Beecher, Green Garden, University Park and other area towns.
The parish’s Sesquicentennial year so far has included the opening of a time capsule, stories from longtime members recalling earlier days, and a picnic that was moved indoors because of excessive heat.
A noon Mass was concelebrated by the Rev. Mark Menezes, retired pastor, along with the Rev. Tomy Chellekandathill and Deacon Mark Otten. The Rev. Roger Kutzner, current pastor of St. Boniface, was unable to be there.
Altar Servers for the Mass were Grace, Lily, and Clara Raftery.
Music was under the direction of Mary Pierce, with Mary Beth Crosser, Albert Fontana, and George Kwain.
At the picnic, a history of the church was provided, as well as a display of photos, newspaper stories, and other memorabilia.
In the history, it was noted that “On May 20, 1951, Father Kevin Gorman, O.S.B., returned to St. Boniface to celebrate his first Mass. A descendant of one of the original settlers of Monee was now a native vocation to the priesthood.”
The Gorman family continues to reside in Monee and still are members of the parish.
According to the history, “In the early days, before and after the reopening of the church, John and Lucinda Gorman were among those who would not let St. Boniface die. The early days of renovation also included other families, like Jack and Ruth Hackett, Dick and Bea Smullen, Chester and Anna Overrocker, Earl and Helen Siemsen and many others.”
Another interesting note in the history is that “St. Paul United Church of Christ in Monee has also been a friend to St. Boniface. The Edward Lehmann family from St. Paul’s was particularly kind to many of our members. They lived across the street from the church. During the days of the midnight Eucharistic fast, they regularly served breakfast to those from St. Boniface who traveled a long distance for Mass so that they would not have to travel home hungry. There were about 35 people who broke bread on Sundays with the Lehmanns. Mr. Lehmann’s father was also the tinsmith who finished the tower when the church was built.
“One hundred fifty years later, our history continues to be written by the present parish members. May that history continue to proclaim the Good News of Jesus as we walk with Him daily.”