St. Patrick Catholic Church of Merna
Our parish has a long history in this area. We have compiled some interesting facts about this topic, which we hope you enjoy! To see a list of Pastors at St. Patrick Church of Merna CLICK HERE
As far back as 1860, Catholics around the Towanda Township would drive lumber wagons to Bloomington for Mass when the weather conditions allowed. Around 1870, the priests from Holy Trinity would celebrate Mass bi-monthly at the homes of James Merna & Edward Hanley. In 1873 the site for Mass changed to the schoolhouse located one mile south of Merna. In 1875 the pastor of Holy Trinity, Fr. McDermott, proposed that the Catholics of Merna build a church. Patrick Kinsella donated an acre of land directly across from the school. The original frame church was built at a cost of $1,625.
In 1876 the Illinois Central Railroad had not been constructed. The school and the small-frame church were built one mile south of what his now Merna. Since Ed Hanley owned the quarter section directly east of the school, the area was called Hanley's Corner. Priests referred to the out mission as Hanley's Corner. In 1877 Mr. Hanley sold his farm to Richard and Anna Kerwin. Mr. and Mrs. Kerwin continued to look after the church and take care of the priest on Sundays as the Hanleys had previously done. The Kerwins are the maternal great grandparents of Dan Gould of Towanda, Angie Bergin of Merna, and Father Michael Gould MM, serving in Bolivia, South America.
In 1879, Fr. Schrieber requested that Statins of the Cross be erected in the worship area for the Merna parish. A few young ladies rode on horseback around the countryside collecting what they could from the women of the parish. They received $1.50. Those were the days when chickens averaged 4-5 cents a pound; eggs were 6-7 cents a dozen; butter was 10-12 cents a pound! Due to the generosity of the people, the Stations of the Cross were erected. To celebrate, a picnic of baked chicken & ham, bread, pies & cakes was held on the church grounds on August 15, 1879. The young people had driven in lumber wagons to gather the food, which was prepared by the "willing women of the parish".
In 1883 Fr. Edward Ryan was appointed our parish’s first resident pastor. He roomed and boarded with the Kerwin family. Mr. Kerwin owned a fine, black horse, and Fr. Ryan loved to ride. It was Fr. Ryan’s delight to borrow the horse and visit his parishioners who lived further away.
In 1885, Fr. M.L. O’Connor succeeded Fr. Ryan. At that time the congregation sang hymns, with Mrs. Will Merna as organist. Since Mrs. Merna’s home duties took much of her time, Fr. O’Connor re-organized the choir and attended all rehearsals. The choir members at the time were M/M Michael Gould; Mary & Maggie Crane; Ellen & Rebecca Kinsella; Thomas Hanley, Mary Kerwin and Maggie Larkin.
In 1885, An acre of land is purchased from Edward Crane to build a rectory.
In 1886, The rectory burns to the ground during the winter and is rebuilt by the parish the following summer.
In 1890, Plans are finalized and work began on a new church by parishioners. The cost is $13,500.
In 1891, On June 30th, Bishop Spaulding dedicates the new church in Merna.
In 1902, A tornado strikes Merna and severely damages the church. Sunday Mass is celebrated on the lawn outside the church while repairs are being completed.
In 1982, On August 24th, a second tornado completely destroys the church in Merna.
In 1983, The decision is made to build a new church on the corner of Route 9 and Towanda Barnes Road on the James Dee property.
In 1985, The church is dedicated on December 1st.
In 1991, In January, the Pastoral Planning Commission begins planning for the future needs of the Parish.
In 1993, Recommendations for a new facility are made to meet current and future parish needs.
In 1996, A capital campaign begins to raise $2.4 million for new facilities, to purchase 10 additional acres of property, build a house for Habitat and retire previous debt.
In 1997, Construction is completed on new facilities for administration, religious education, nursery, parking and meeting space.
In 2000, After a successful campaign along with Holy Trinity Parish, a $3.5 million addition is completed on Holy Trinity Elementary School and renovation of Holy Trinity Jr. High School.
In 2003, The new Central Catholic High School opens.
In 2003, The design development phase of a new church begins.
In 2005, On June 9th, Bishop Daniel Jenky celebrates the Ground Blessing ceremony for the new church. Construction begins on the $8 million project.
In 2006, The new church is dedicated on November 5th and a week of celebration follows.
In 2009, We continue to grow as a parish family with over 1,750 registered households.
In 2015, Holy Trinity School is renamed Corpus Christi School.
In 2015, We continue to grow as a parish family with over 1,850 registered households.