ST. MARY TODAY
The modern St. Mary of the Assumption Church with the rectory just in view on the right.
Entrance to Church with Above Entrance "MARY ASSUMED INTO HEAVEN PRAY FOR US"
From the Springfield Diocese Site:
NEOGA, St. Mary of the Assumption
Parish: NEOGA, St. Mary of the Assumption Contact: (217) 895-2166
Hall: (217) 895-3835
FAX: (217) 844-2309 Staff: Rev. Robert DeGrand, Parochial Administrator
(Residence: St. Michael the Archangel, Sigel)
Sr. Pat Thies, S.S.N.D., Pastoral Minister
Mary Lou Hoene, Secretary Address: 690 N. Walnut St.
Neoga, IL 62447
C/O St. Michael's
Sigel, Il 62462
Statistics: 420 Parishioners, 142 Families
Daily: 8:00 a.m. (Wednesday)
Saturday evening: 5:00 p.m.
Sunday: 8:00 a.m.
Eve of Holy Days: 7:00 p.m
Holy Days: 6:30 a.m.
Sacrament of Penance: Saturday: 4:15 -4:45 p.m.
Eve of Holy Days: 6:15 - 6:45 p.m
At the risk of some duplication of information previously given, here is the history of tne Catholic Church in the Neoga area which hopefully serves to recognize the courage and dedication of those who pioneered in this great effort.
Fr. Kilian Schlesser
Founding of St. Patrick's Parish Trowbridge (Big Spring Twp.), Shelby County, Illinois
Fr. Kilian Schlesser, O.F.M.
Born Koeln. Rheinland. May 9. 1826
The fIrst Franciscan pastor was Fr. Kilian Schlesser, O.F.M. Fr. Kilian came to America on August 18, 1860, at the age of 34. Being in poor health, he accompanied Fr. Gregory Janknecht, Minister Provincial of the German Province of the Holy Cross, with the hopes that the ocean voyage would improve his health. The fact is that he felt so much better after the trip to the United States and showed so much interest in the work of the American missions that the Fr. Provincial, when about to return to Germany, asked him to remain and to take part in the work of the pioneers. He became one of the most active and successful missionaries, serving many of the mission parishes in central Illinois and later on in California where he died on August 31, 1904 and was buried in Old Mission Santa Barbara.
In 1862 Fr. Kilian began to go to Trowbridge in Shelby County, Illinois, every two weeks and conducted divine services in the home of Patrick McAndrew. Two years later, he had Brother Adrian Wewer draw up plans and they built a new frame church. It was dedicated to St. Patrick and blessed by Bishop Juncker the same year (1864). In the early accounts of the Franciscan province, Trowbridge is referred to as Big Springs, St. Patrick's and even Neoga, although there was a town of the same name in the neighboring county of Cumberland. The latter was a mission attached to Trowbridge.
In the provincial chapter which was held at Wiedenbruck, Germany, in 1864, Fr. Kilian was chosen as commissary provincial in the United States. During the fIve years that he held the office of commissary, Fr. Kilian continued to serve as superior of the Teutopolis monastery as well as missionary to the outlying missions. In his capacity as commissary, he attended the Second Plenary Council of Baltimore in 1866. This council had been contemplated already in 1862 but because of the civil war, it had to be postponed. During the council, Fr. Kilian was assigned to the first private congregation of theologians, which studied the subjects of the Orthodox Faith, Baneful Errors and Divine Cult.
The extent of the missionary labors of the Friars who resided at the monastery in Teutopolis, and at the college after it became a separate house in 1870, was extensive in that they attended 48 missions in 19 counties of Southern Illinois. In at least 15 of these they built the fIrst churches, most of them eventually being turned over to the diocesan clergy. The official membership list of the Holy Cross Province in Germany for the year 1873 mentions Sigel and Pocahontas as regular mission stations of the Teutopolis monastery and Green Creek, Trowbridge, Bishop, Howards Point (near St. Elmo), Edgewood and Kindmundy as mission stations of the college.
Fr. Kilian had charge of the Trowbridge Parish until 1868 when Fr. Francis Moenning took over.
The list of the regular mission stations attended from the two Teutopolis friaries at the time that the province was established in 1879 included the following thirteen places in Illinois: Altamont, Big Spring (Trowbridge), Bishop Creek, Blue Point (really Shumway), Coloma, Green Creek, Island Grove, Lillyville, Loudon, Montrose, Pesotum, Sigel and Radom.
(The following are exerpts taken from a letter written by Fr. Kilian from Santa Barbara, CA, to the novice master in Teutopolis in 1900):
"On one of these trips (visiting the mission parishes) I had as many as 32 baptisms, some of them adults. On one occasion, I was overtaken by night in the woods and was compelled to put up with a family in a lonely house. Here I had the happiness of baptizing five persons. The old grandfather of the house, who was protestant, told me that seven years ago he had seen the last Catholic priest, a venerable Benedictine from Kentucky, who was readily harbored once a year when he passed the place. The old man considered himself fortunate that he could offer hospitality again to a priest, for, he said, 'the wife of my son is a Catholic. ' In the old man and in his married son I soon found two well disposed catechumens. I used the time at my disposal that evening to instruct them and the next morning I baptized the grandfather, the father and three children. The good Catholic mother had evidently by her prayers obtained this grace for her family. At Mass I gave holy Communion to the three adults. This was a real festive day for the family and, of course, for me.
On another occasion, overtaken by fatigue, I was not able to make the next station before evening, and again I spent the night in a farm house out in the woods. The farmer immediately called for one of his workmen. The latter soon galloped away and ringing a little handbell at the homes of the neighboring farmers announced to them the glad tidings that a priest had arrived and that on the next morning Holy Mass would be celebrated. 0, but what a stir in the woods the next morning! A large table with a kind of a screen was set up against a tree. Some of the ladies brought clean linens and a large crucifix and then ornamented the altar with wreaths and flowers. While this was going on, I sat under another huge oak tree and heard confessions. The Mass commenced and during the Mass men and women sang church hymns with such exultation of heart as to make the woods reecho with their joyous sounds. On such occasions a person forgets all hardships which a priest must undergo on his missionary journeys.
It was during my first years at Teutopolis that Catholics from Towbridge came to our monastery and asked for our ministrations, since they were without a priest and all spiritual help. I visited the place every fortnight and said Mass at the home of Patrick McAndrew, a man whom I shall never forget. He donated several acres of timber for church purposes, and soon the erection of a church was begun. Brother Adrian Wewer not only made the plans, but personally helped erect a beautiful little sanctuary. Trowbridge became my dearest stopping place. I converted its little cemetery into a lovely garden of flowers.
New settlers arrived shortly after, amongst whom were the parents of our Father Augustine McClory. I attended this mission every two weeks until 1868 when it was handed over to my successor Fr. Francis Moenning." (Incidentally, the horse's name was "Mission Foxy".)
(Exerpts from a letter written by Fr. Kilian to Fr. Provincial Othmar of the Holy Cross Province in Germany in 1864):
"...Finally, another somewhat impetuous request. Two years ago I founded a new little parish fifteen miles from here in a place named Neoga (Trowbridge). In this place I built a church and laid out a cemetery. Although the parish is poor, the church is equipped with such articles as priest and altar demand by necessity. When the church was dedicated, the Bishop was highly pleased and surprised to hear that I had obtained all these things by begging in St. Louis and other places. In consequence I was asked to found three more English parishes, namely, one at Howards Point, one at Edgewood and one at Odin. "
He then proceeds to ask for the German friars to supply him with any church linens, vestments and other articles that they can spare. In Fr. Othmar's reply from Germany, he mentions reading the account about the dedication of the Neoga church in one of the local (German) papers.
Brother Adrian Wewer, O.F.M.
Other Friars Arrive From Germany Accounts from the Province Chronicles are given of the arrival of other friars from Germany (Brothers Adrian, Camillus, Victorin, Martin, Cresar, etc.):
On October 22, 1862, they left the convent of Wiedenbrueck, ... On the same day, late in the evening, they arrived at Bremen. On October
24th, a small steamer transferred them to the great ocean liner "New York" which layout in the ocean ready for the voyage and which departed on Sunday morning, October 25th.
The very first day was marked by storms and after the steamer had left Southhampton it had to contend with such adverse winds and such high sea that the entire voyage lasted no less than eighteen days. The boat did not enter the harbor of New York until late at night, on November 11. On the feast of St. Didacus, Nov. 12th, the passengers were permitted to leave the steamer and after all the formalities and requirements of the customs officers in Castle Garden were complied with, the travelers betook themselves to the Rev. Redemptorist Fathers on 3rd Street in New York
...After resting from the hardships of the voyage they resumed their journey for the place of their destination on Nov. 17 by way of Cincinnati. They remained at Cincinnati for two days at the friary of the Franciscans who did not omit to show them every mark of fraternal charity. Early in the morning of Nov. 20 they set out again and, although under God's kind protection they had finished such a long journey happily, they encountered on this last stretch a great number of difficulties. In a strange country not understanding the language they felt their embarassment doubly.
Finally on Nov. 21 in Mattoon which at the time was attended from Teutopolis, they suddenly saw themselves face to face with the superior of Teutopolis, Fr. Kilian Schlesser. Great was his surprise and still greater his joy on beholding this new increase of friars. He at once arranged to bring them to their desired goal. Towards evening they took a train to Effingham and fmally arrived in Teutopolis at a late hour when all had already retired. The news of the unexpected arrival soon aroused everyone out of his sweet slumber. The newcomers were conducted into the refectory where all conversed with one another in brotherly charity until the bell sounded for the midnight choir.
(Of the six friars due to arrive only five arrived at this time. Br. Cresar, getting his passports in Vienna, was delayed and hence could not reach Bremen in time for the boat.)
Some of the projects Br. Adrian undertook was to build the gothic altars at St. Francis Solano Parish in Quincy, Illinois, and he was charged with building projects at St. Francis Orphanage and Immaculate Heart .Parish, Pajaro Valley, California; St. Boniface, San Francisco, CA; St. Elizabeth, Oakland, CA; St. Joseph School, Los Angeles, CA; St. Francis, Sacramento, under the guardianship of Fr. Augustine McClory (Trowbridge native); St. Anthony, Tigard, OR; Immaculate Conception, Union, MO; St. Francis Church, School and College (now Quincy University), Quincy, IL; St. Augustine, Chicago, IL; Sacred Heart, Indianapolis, IN; St. Bernard Church, St. Bernard, NB; St. Paul, Omaha, NB; and others.
Other accomplishments by these Franciscan Brother artisans include: . Teutopolis, IL - St. Francis of Assisi Church: BVM Altar - Br. Daniel; St. Joseph Altar - Br. Facundus; two altars in the novices chapel - Br. Daniel; choir stalls in the main choir - Brs. Adrian, Irenams, Bruno, Eugene, Seraphin, Isidore - and vestment cases in the sacristy. . Quincy, IL - St. Francis Solanus Church: high altar and St. Anne and St. Anthony altars - Br. Adrian.
Further information on Br. Adrian Wewer, can be read in Heralds of tile King (FRANCISCAN HERALD PRESS [Franciscan Press, Quincy University, Quincy, Illinois] @ 1958 xxix, 856 p. iIIus. 27 em.) cf. pp. 68, 84, 226-8, 232, 236, 244, 263, 269, 279, 2867,299,307,313,320, and 490.
Br. Jack Hardesty, O.F.M. -Trowbridge native
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