The History of
St. Mary Parish
In 1883, Archbishop Patrick Feehan designated a Mission Parish to serve Des Plaines, IL, and the surrounding area. The Catholic population chose the name St. Mary by acclamation. The first parishioners moved a small frame church on a railroad flatcar from Arlington Heights to a site at Thacker and Cora Streets. Father Goulet, a French Mission priest, offered the first Mass.
Following his ordination on July 25, 1897, Rev. John Linden was assigned to St. Mary’s Training School (now Maryville) with concurrent duties as priest for the Mission Territory extending from Arlington Heights to Edison Park. The first funeral in the church in November 1898, was that of Jacob Walter. Walter helped transport the frame church to its new site. The first wedding solemnized by Fr. Linden in the Parish church was that of John Woolfe and Anna Collet on June 21, 1899. The second was that of James Meehan and Elizabeth Collet, sister of the first bride, on May 1, 1901. Their descendents continued an association with St. Mary Church.
In 1906, Archbishop James Quigley established the permanent parish of St. Mary in Des Plaines, IL with Father Linden as first resident pastor. A larger church building at Pearson street and Prairie Avenue was completed in 1907 and dedicated in September 1908 at a Solemn High Mass celebrated by Fr. Linden. The parish purchased land for a school and convent in 1920. On September 1, 1924, five sisters of St. Francis of Mary Immaculate arrived from Joliet to staff the new St. Mary’s School with an initial enrollment of 162 pupils. (Sister Ruth Yirku, the original first-grade teacher, celebrated her 60th anniversary as a nun in 1983). The class of 1925 was the first to graduate from St. Mary’s School. There were eight members in that class.
In 1913, Fr. Anthony Lauer assumed the position of Choir Director, marking the beginning of a long association between St. Mary and the Lauer family. The Lauers donated St. Mary’s first pipe organ in 1925. Rev. Wilfred Lauer, S. J., was the first priest ordained from the parish in 1932. Antoinette Lauer retired after serving as church organist for 61 years.
Mass was celebrated in a new church on Christmas Day 1936. This third building for St. Mary was a remodeled bowling alley, located directly across the street from the existing church. The existing, second church became the present rectory. Vigorous parish growth in the early 1930′s made an expanded Mass schedule a necessity. Fr. Theodore Schmitt, an Augustinian priest, came regularly from Racine, WI to assist Fr. Linden on weekends. Rev. Peter Fuessel, the first Assistant Pastor, began his assignment at St. Mary in 1939. Fr. Linden served as Pastor until his death. He died on November 6, 1947.
Fr. Patrick Bird, appointed in 1948, was the second pastor of St. Mary. His pastorate saw 20 years of expansion and development in Des Plaines and the parish. This growth included a school addition as well as preparation and provision for a new church building. Fr. Bird continued to serve as Pastor Emeritus after the appointment of Fr. Martin Farrell as third Pastor in 1968. Fr. Bird celebrated his Golden Jubilee as a priest in 1970. He died on December 7, 1978.
On Christmas Day 1970, Fr. Farrell celebrated the first Mass in the fourth and present St. Mary Church. Soon after
completion of the new church, the parish began a remodeling project for the present rectory and the adjacent house, which was the original rectory. Upon his retirement in 1981, Fr. Farrell became
Pastor Emeritus as Fr. Paul Rosemeyer began his assignment as the fourth pastor at St. Mary Church that same year.
After serving fifteen years, Fr. Rosemeyer retired in April of 1996 and is now Pastor Emeritus. Fr. Gene Dyer became St. Mary’s fifth Pastor with his appointment in June of 1996. Our current Pastor, Fr. Lawrence Collins, began his assignment as the seventh pastor of St. Mary Parish on July 1, 2010.