Saint Patrick Parish History
St. Patrick Catholic Church’s history in Rochelle reflects a dynamic, growing, and caring Parish. Catholics among early settlers grew in number as railroads pushed west. Missionary priests in northern Illinois offered Mass in Rochelle perhaps as early as 1853.
However, in 1856, Father Thomas Kennedy, from Dixon, visited Rochelle, offered Mass, made arrangements for services at specific times, and Rochelle became an out-mission church from Dixon.
Father Kennedy organized construction of the first Church, a wood structure on the northwest corner of Lincoln Avenue and Eighth Street. This remained a mission church until 1868 when Father Patrick Duhig was assigned as the first resident pastor. Father Duhig and Father Kennedy both signed the deed for the first Rectory, at that time the second house south of Fourth Avenue, on Seventh Street.
Continued growth led Father James Treacy in 1884 to begin plans for construction of a new church. Fund raising took until 1890, when Father J. J. Greene had the wood Church relocated to make way for a brick Church on the site. Due to Father Greene’s illness, completion of the second Church fell on the shoulders of Father Andrew Carr, and it was dedicated December 9, 1890.
Illness resulted in Father Carr being replaced by Father Thomas Finn in 1893. He purchased land next to the Church and had a new Rectory constructed. The building today is a private residence.
By 1908, a parochial school was on the wish list. In September, Father D. J. Conway opened the first school in a purchased residence next door to the Seventh Street Rectory, with teachers from Sisters of St. Francis of the Immaculate Conception, Clinton, Iowa.
Disaster struck the Parish on June 4, 1918, when a fire ravaged the Church. Pastor Father Paul Bourke led the effort to quickly repair the Church, and by December 22, the first services were held in the restored (third) Church. Sadly, the fire damaged the 2,250 pound bell, installed in 1877 by Father Edward Froelich.
Father Bourke also purchased land north of the Church and Rectory for a new school, but his untimely death passed that torch to Father Thomas J. O’Brien. The new School was completed in 1929 and served until 1972 when it closed.
Father Thomas L. Lynam, arriving in 1948, became pastor in 1954. He presided over the 1951 blessing of new bells, made in part from the old fire-damaged bell.
In 1963, Father Edward J. McIsaac became pastor. Seeing a need for expansion, he acquired property on Caron Road, site of the current Church. Succeeding his departure in 1966, Pastor Father Francis Kennedy was responsible for design and construction of the new Church. Under his leadership, a new Parish Center also was constructed, and later a nearby large building was acquired for a Learning Center.
After 33 years as pastor, Father Kennedy died in 1999 and was succeeded by Father John P. Earl, who began rearrangement of interior Church furnishings.
In October 2000, Father David A. Peck became pastor, and he continued the interior Church improvements begun by Father Earl.
Father Steven J. Lange’s arrival in 2009 as Pastor resulted in additional renovations, completely changing the Church’s interior appearance. When illness forced Father Lange to step aside, Father William Vallejo, having arrived in 2008 as Parochial Vicar, was appointed Parochial Administrator on January 13, 2013, but a few months later was reassigned to a larger parish.
Father Juan Ayala, as Parochial Administrator, succeeded Father Vallejo. Appointed Pastor on April 14, 2014, Father Ayala only a few months later was severely injured in an automotive accident.
The Diocese of Rockford appointed Father Johnson Lopez as Parochial Administrator in the interim, and he was installed as pastor June 21, 2015.
Father Ruben Herrera is serving as Pastor as of June 2017.
There is a wonderful history book available for sale in the parish office for $29.95. Please call or stop by to purchase your book.