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St. John the Evangelist Church celebrates centennial

Parishes have long relationship

WALNUT – The Catholic churches in Walnut and Ohio have a long relationship.

For years, Walnut’s St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church was considered a mission of Ohio’s Immaculate Conception Church, but they have been separate parishes since 1964. The towns are 7 miles away from each other in northern Bureau County.

Next month, St. John, founded in 1912, is celebrating its centennial. Immaculate Conception started in 1875.

St. John members say it was natural that Ohio had a Catholic church first because it had many Irish Catholics, while Walnut counted many German Protestants among its residents.

In 1912, 22 families started the Walnut church, but it was a part of the Ohio parish.

“When there isn’t enough members to support a church fully, it gets attached to another parish,” said Thomas Shaw, who has served as the pastor for St. John and Immaculate Conception for the last year and a half.

A half century ago, it was considered big enough to be its own parish. In 1976, the church built its current building.

Years ago, the church had 300 members. Now, it’s down to about 200, Shaw said.

“It’s been a gradual decline across the country in church membership,” he said. “Part of it is with the demographics of small towns. There’s not much in the way of opportunity. Family farms are drying up.”

The two parishes, part of the Peoria diocese, now have the same pastor, who lives in Walnut. They share a Knights of Columbus council, chartered in 1996.

The St. John parish has an Altar and Rosary Society, which takes care of the altar, provides liturgical items for the parish and runs two major fundraising events every year to help with paying for the items. 

If you go

St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, 204 N. Main St. in Walnut, is celebrating its centennial with a special Mass at 3 p.m. Nov. 4, followed by a dinner and social. There will also be a display of memorabilia.

Call 815-379-2602 for more information.

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