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Articles & Local History > St. John's Church in Walnut

Source: 75th Anniversary Flyer of St. John's archived in Walnut Library

 Photo courtesy of Fran Day, Walnut, IL       


St. John's Catholic Church, Walnut, was dedicated May 30, 1912 by Most Reverend E. M. DUNNE, Bishop of Peoria, assisted by Reverend W. D. O'BRIEN of Chicago, who was later Archibishop O'BRIEN and until his recent death, Presidnet of the Catholic Church Extension Society. The following account of the event is taken from the Walnut Leader issue of May 31, 1912:

"The new Catholic church in this place was dedicated Thursday forenoon by Most Reverend E. DUNNE, Catholic Bishop of Peoria, assisted by Rev. W. D. O'BRIEN of Chicago, 2nd vice-president of the Catholic of the Catholic Extension Society, who sang the Mass: Rev. L. X. DU FOUR, Tampico; Rev. J. A. BURNS, Sterling; Rev. William MURTAUGH, Sheffield; Porcella, Maytown; Rev. G. M. PEIRSON, Arlington; Rev. D. J. Sullivan, Pekin; Rev. R. F. FLYNN, Ohio, pastor of the church. The children's choir of Ohio furnished the singing.

The cost of the church is estimated to be over $6000. It was built almost entirely by Walnut men and reflects much credit on them. Ben F. KERCHNER had charge of the carpenter work. Cleon WILSON did the cement work; Charley FULLER, the painting; Charley ABRAHAM, the tin work; R. G. WEILAND, the electric work. While many more lent their aid in the various things necessary to its completion.

The customary offering on such occsions was called for and the response was liberal to help pay the indebtedness on the structure.

The establishment of this church was instigated by Father FLYNN of Ohio and will be known as St. John's Church, in a way in memory of John Naughtin, a former respected and honored citizen who has passed away and whose wife donated the lot for the church. Fr. FLYNN will also have charge of this parish as an out-mission.

There was a very large attendance, many had to stand outside at the dedication, which indicates a regular good attendance at the meetings of this new church in Walnut. We consider it a valuable addition to this viallage in more ways than one."

Twenty families comprised the first Walnut parish and those listed on the first pew rent rolls were Mrs. Charles ABRAHAM; W. J. BREITENBAUGH; Michael CONROY; Mrs. John FULLER; James FOLEY; Dennis FOLEY; Mrs. J. R. KNIGHT; Mrs. Louis KEITHAHN; P. J. KELEHER; John KELEHER, Sr.; James KEALEY; Matthew MEYER; H. MEYER; Mrs. John NAUGHTIN; Henry PETRI; Fred SCHRADER; Mrs. J. STRAWN; A. P. NEUHOFF; Effie GRAMER; Mrs. Elizabeth McDONALD.

Twenty-two families were listed in the statement issued at the end of 1913, and a note on the staement ways 'the church was closed for seven months owing to the inability to secure a priest.' Twenty-four families were listed at the end of 1916.

At the end of fifty years, in 1962, families in the parish number ninety-five.

The first baptism in the church was that of Frederick Henry SCHRADER on June 15, 1912, and his sponsor was Magdalen Abraham. The first wedding in the church took place on November 8, 1922, when the marriage vows were repeated by Miss Frances CLINTON and Peter DIENSLAKE, before Rev. E. J. KNIERY.

Father FLYNN was succeeded in Ohio in 1914, by Rev. Charles MEDCALF, and in turn was followed in 1917 by Rev. John . Cummings, under whose administration the debt on the Walnut Church was paid in 1919. Rev. Cummings was succeeded by Father KORIN, and in 1934, Rev. T. P. KELLY became the pastor of Ohio and Walnut. Father BUCKLEY came in 1940 and was followed by Father Clancy in 1941, Father Carl A. MAYOS became pastor in 1943, and Father Theodore WUJOK in 1951. The next administrator of the parishes, Father Edgar TAYLOR, was apponted in 1955.

Assistants who helped care for the Walnut parish through the years, following Father QUIGLEY and Father CLIFFORD were Rev. J. J. McCABE; Rev. E. J. KNIERY; Rev. T. J. McKINNERY; Rev. H. CAUSEY; Rev. Walter BUCHE; Rev. John MAYER; Rev. Gregory EGAN; Rev. A. J. RUPSIS; many priests from St. Bede's College of Peru, including Father GILBERT, OSB; and Father ALBAN, OSB.

In September 1957, two lots south of the chuch, known as the Dye property, were purchased by St. John's for the erection of a rectory and future expansion. Two Masses each Sunday have become necessary to accommodate the congregation, and in March 1962, a building fund was started for the erection of a rectory. The trustees were Peter R. DIENSLAKE and Lynn KISER.

Organizations existing in the church were a Parish Committee whose members were: Herbert ADAMS, Chairman; Mrs. Dick ROSS, Secretary; Mrs. E. A. SPLAIN, Stephen KELEHER and Anton ZUEGER, and the Altar and Rosary Society, which is affiliated with the National Council of Catholic Women, through the Deanery and Diocesan Councils.


The history of St. John's parish as a parish is relatively brief. In 1964 St. John's was raised from the status of missiion to that of parish. Before 1964, St. John's was a mission church served by Immaculate Conception Church in Ohio, IL. The spiritual needs of the people of St. John's were served by both Docesean and religious order priests, especially Father Edgar TAYLOR and the Benedictine Fathers of St. Bede's Abbey in Peru, Illinois.

In 1964, Bishop John B. FRENZ appointed Father Richard MEANS as the first rsident priest of St. John's. Father MEANS served until 1967 and was succeeded by father Dale MALOY. Father MALOY served until 1971 and during his time the present rectory was built. Father MALOY was succeeded by Father Donald SCHLADEN who served until 1974. Father J. Richard FAGAN, came to Walnut in June of 1974. In 1978 Father Joseph ANDERSON was assigned to Walnut, who was followed by Father William S. HARBERT in 1981. On Sunday, May 30th, 1976 ground was broken for the new Church and hall.

The first Mass offered in the new Church was on December 18th, 1976. The dedication of the Church by Bishop Edward W. O'ROURKE, Bishop of Peoria, took place March 27th, 1977.

Although our history is brief, much has been accoomplished by the people of St. John's. Realizing how much God has given to us, we have returned a portion to Him. The Church stands as a symbol of our Faith, our commitment and our Love of God and neighbor.

May God continue to bless all those, both living and deceased, who have contributed to the history of St. John's and its development and growth. Rev. William S. HARBERT

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