History of St. Mary Catholic Church, Woodstock

Woodstock is an old Catholic community dating back to the time of Donnelley’s Settlement and Little Port (which became Waukegan) in the early 1840s. It is known that Bishop Simon Brute of Vincennes traveled through the neighborhood, as did Fathers John St. Cyr and John Guiguen. Aside from the traveling missionaries, Woodstock was first attended from Hartland.

According to anecdote, Father Hugh T. Brady, who was pastor at Hartland from May 10, 1850 until 1853, was transferred to Woodstock in 1853. Father Bernard O’Hara is listed by Father Cornelius Kirkfleet, O.Praem., as the first resident Pastor, coming in 1855.

The next definite date available is the pastorate of Father John Carroll from 1870 to 1877. Preceding him was Father Patrick Riordan, who later became Archbishop of San Francisco.

During the pastorate of Father Thomas F. Leydon (1877-1885), the church was enlarged. At this time, Crystal Lake and Barrington were attended from Woodstock.

Father James J. Clancy (1885-1895) attended the above missions. The large bell which hung in the old St. Mary Church was placed there by Father Clancy.

In June 1905, Father Michael S. Gilmartin (1905-1909) was appointed Pastor. Father Gilmartin built a new rectory, acquired additional ground for a cemetery and raised about $30,000 toward a new church.

Work had already begun on the church when Father Gilmartin was transferred to Chicago, and the Diocese of Rockford was separated from the Chicago Archdiocese. Father David J. Conway (1909-1929) was appointed by Bishop Peter J. Muldoon to succeed him.

Bishop Muldoon placed the cornerstone on May 23, 1909, and building proceeded under Father Conway’s direction. On Passion Sunday, 1910, the new Church of St. Mary was dedicated. Three years later, the entire cost of $60,000 was paid.

In March 1916, the old church was torn down. The site, along with an adjoining lot which had been purchased two years earlier, would be used for a parochial school. The school opened January 1, 1917, with six Sisters of the Holy Cross serving as the faculty. The high school began in 1923 with a single classroom in the grade school building, and with 22 freshmen. The later expansion of the high school required moving the sisters out of the rooms they had been occupying in the school building. In 1925, the Dacy home was purchased and remodeled as a convent for the sisters. The gymnasium was built in 1929.

During Father Joseph M. Egan’s pastorate (1934-1968), the increased enrollment in the schools called for the separation of the grade school from the high school. In January 1951, the new St. Mary High School building was opened. In the fall of 1959, Marian Central High School was opened in Woodstock and the St. Mary High School building was converted into classrooms for the parish junior high school.

A new rectory was built in 1964, with the entire cost paid for through a donation from Mrs. Audrey Berdeau in memory of her mother, Mrs. Elizabeth Glennon Quinn.

Father William H. Regnier (1970-1973) became Pastor in 1970 and had the sanctuary remodeled in keeping with changes adopted during the Second Vatican Council.

Under the pastorate of Father John W. Cahill (1983-1989), the church was air-conditioned and under the pastorate of Monsignor Alphonsus F. Harte (1989-1997), the school expanded to various buildings.

Father James W. McLoughlin succeeded Monsignor Harte as Pastor on November 11, 1997. The new St. Joseph Center was dedicated on November 5, 2000 by Bishop Thomas G. Doran. The center is 13,000 square feet, and is connected to both the church and the parish office building. The two floors and basement are all connected by an elevator, which makes the church accessible to the handicapped.

Plans were then begun for extensive renovating and restoring of the aging church and school buildings. Much of the labor came from parishioners. Upon completion, Bishop Thomas G. Doran blessed the improvements and anointed the new altar on June 27, 2004. The Woodstock Historical Society has declared the church a historical site and provided a plaque for the parish.

St. Mary Parish, during the term of Father McLoughlin, who was elevated to Monsignor on January 24, 2003, celebrated its sesquicentennial anniversary in 2003.

In July, 2007 Fr. Bob Jones became pastor.  He was moved in November of 2008 to start a new parish in Sugar Grove.

In November, 2008, Msgr. Aaron Brodeski was named pastor.  At that time, there was about 2,300 registered families at St. Mary parish. He was then moved in February, 2013, to Holy Cross, Batavia.

In February, 2013, Fr. Burt Absalon was assigned as pastor. By this time the number of registered families was over 2,500. The Hispanic community at St. Mary has increased to 20%.

History of the Diocese of Rockford History of St. Patrick, Hartland
  (our founding church)