ST. RITA CATHOLIC CHURCH

6254 Valley Knoll Drive     Rockford, IL   61109     815.398.0853

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CHURCH HISTORY

The first Catholics in Cherry Valley were served by the priest who attended Rockford and Belvidere.  The first Mass celebrated in Cherry Valley was offered at the home of Thomas Steele in 1855, by Father William Lambert, the pastor of St. James Parish in Rockford.  His successor, Father Thomas Boulger, also said Mass here, as late as 1859.  There is no evidence that Father John Donelan ever said Mass at Cherry Valley, but as pastor in Rockford and Belvidere he had charge of the area.

Father Peter Birch presided over Mass here for a long time; then Father Jeremiah O'Neill.  It was during the pastorate of Father O'Neill that the Rockford-Belvidere parish was divided in July of 1864.  Father Patrick McGuire became the pastor at Belvidere with Cherry Valley as a mission.  Father McGuire often celebrated Mass here as did his assistants.

In 1891, Father Thomas Smith, an assistant to Father McGuire at Belvidere, raised about $1,100.00 toward building a church in Cherry Valley.  It proved difficult to secure a desirable piece of property with a clear title, so the project was dropped; the money was held for a few years, then turned over to the Belvidere parish.  When Father McGuire died in 1893, Father C.J. O'Callaghan succeeded him and continued to care for the people of Cherry Valley.

When Father Thomas Finn was made pastor at St. James Church in Rockford, St. Rita mission was turned over to him.  Mass was offered once a month in Woodman Hall.  This was in 1907.  In the spring of 1914, property was deeded to Bishop Muldoon by Mr. & Mrs. Garlock.  On June 21, the cornerstone was laid and the first Mass was said in the new church on Sunday, September 13, 1914.  Bishop Muldoon dedicated the church a few weeks later on October 25, 1914.  He came to Cherry Valley on the Interurban streetcar where he was met by a band and many members of the clergy and laity.  Together they marched from the center of the village to the church for the dedication.

Priests from the pro-cathedral cared for Cherry Valley until July 19, 1929, when Bishop Hoban appointed Father Leo Binz pastor.  Father Binz immediately organized the Altar and Rosary society and prepared a confirmation class.  The first parish records date from the beginning of his pastorate.  Shortly after his appointment to St. Rita's as pastor, Father Binz was appointed Chancellor of the Rockford Diocese on December 1, 1929.  He continued to serve as chancellor and pastor until February 1, 1932, when he became pastor of St. Peter's in Rockford and Father Charles Meehan was appointed pastor of St. Rita's until September 21st of that year, when it was again placed under St. James Parish in Rockford.  Father William McMillan was pastor of St. James at that time.

On July 19, 1933, Father Charles Quinn was appointed pastor of the parish, with residence at the Poor Clare Monastery in Rockford, where he acted as chaplain.

In May of 1940, Father Quinn was succeeded by Father Clement Caine, who resided at the Poor Clare Monastery as did his predecessor.  In December, 1945, Father Caine was succeeded by Father Francis McNally who served as pastor of St. Rita's and also as chaplain of the Poor Clare Monastery until October, 1950 when Father Michael Shanahan was placed in charge of the parish.  He held his post for two years at that time, and then returned in 1957 to remain as administrator for the parish for another five years.

Father Eugene Baumhofer was pastor of the parish from April, 1952, until February of 1954.  Father John Dolan was appointed the pastor of the parish in 1954 and held his post for the next 3 years until Father Shanahan returned as administrator of the parish in 1957.  During these years Father Shanahan renovated the interior and exterior of the church and also purchased the Thomas Healey home, which was next door to the church, for a rectory.  This was the home of the parents of Msgr. Joseph Healey, the only priest ordained from St. Rita's.  

Monsignor Raymond Wahl was appointed pastor of St. Rita Parish on September 4, 1962.  Monsignor Wahl opened a school in Cherry Valley for 4 and 5 year old children, staffed by two sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.  Due to the rapid growth of the area, it became necessary to look for more property for a larger church and school.

 

In 1968, four additional classrooms and a gymnasium were added.  St. Rita School then had classes from pre-school and kindergarten through the sixth grade.

Father John Tuchlinsky succeeded Monsignor Wahl on January 6, 1970, and he served the people of Cherry Valley until July 3, 1975, when Father Edward R. Hughes was appointed.  In 1975 the parish had 780 families.  He served our parish until August 3, 1987, when he was succeeded by Father Thomas Brantman.  

Father Brantman was pastor of St. Rita Church until October 1, 1994, when Father William Wentink was appointed pastor. Fr. Wentink, who also served as chaplain at St. Anthony Hospital and the Rockford Police Department in addition to his duties at St.Rita's, was our parish priest until June 10, 1997, when the Bishop assigned Father Eric Barr as pastor.  

Father Barr was our parish priest until June30, 2000, when he was appointed Vicar for Clergy and Religious by Bishop Doran.  

Father Gerald Kobbeman was appointed by Bishop Doran to serve St. Rita Parish beginning July 1, 2000 until the present time. Our parish now has over 1560 families.  

On Friday, June 22, 2001, Father Kobbeman signed the last mortgage payment for the Church in the amount of $10,740.80. The hard work and commitment of our parishioners of the last 20 years has come to fruition. Our focus on the future of our parish includes the addition of a new parish center.

 

Source: That All May Be One, A History of the Rockford Diocese by Reverend Robert R. Miller.