“Some things have to be believed to be seen.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle
Organized religion played a major role in the settling of Illinois and continues to influence the culture of our region. We highlight two places of worship, one in the country and one in the city.
Country Church: St. John’s Lutheran Church • Est. 1887
6821 Main St. (Northrup Road), Union • (815) 923-2733, stjohnsluth.org
In 1887, the first organizational meeting for this church was chaired by the Rev. J. Craemer, who became its first pastor. Services were held in German, first in the Union Town Hall, and later in the rented Methodist Church. Members went without their own worship space for almost 15 years.
Finally, in August 1901, the congregation bought one acre of land, at 6621 Main St., for a church and schoolhouse. The church was dedicated in November 1901; school began in fall 1903. In 1926, the church was destroyed by fire after a lightning strike. Services were again held in the Union Village Hall until the new building was dedicated in May 1927.
In 1930, worshippers decided to hold services in English every other Sunday; in 1938, English was adopted, and the constitution was revised and translated into English.
In 1943, fire damaged the interior of the church. A third fire, in November 1952, destroyed the church and school; the cornerstone was laid for the new church before the start of the new year.
The current facility was dedicated in 2000. In 2001, St. John’s Little Blessings Learning Center opened for daycare and preschool education; in 2010, it began full-day kindergarten.
St. John’s is a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, with a confirmed membership of 726 led by The Rev. Caleb Schauer, senior pastor. Services are held Saturday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 7:45 and 10:30 a.m.
City Church: St. Mary’s Catholic Church of Gilberts • Est. 1852
10 Matteson St., Gilberts, (847) 426-2217
he area in Coral Township that is now Gilberts was first settled in 1836 and called Rutlandville. Among the many settlers who started large family farms was Albro Gilberts, who established his farm in 1839, in what is now the center of Gilberts.
The Galena & Chicago Union Railroad spurred the village’s growth. In 1852, a post office established at the depot was called Gilberts Station, and the area came to be known by that name. In 1855, Elijah Wilcox and Andrew Pingree bought the Albro Gilberts farm, platted the village and named it after Gilberts.
St. Mary’s was the first church erected in Coral Township, in 1852, about two miles east of the present building; that location later became known as the “old Catholic burying ground.” A larger church was built in 1855, on land donated by Pingree; it was demolished in 1882 and the present structure was completed later that same year, using some materials from the old church. Designed and built in the Stick style of architecture, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1992.
The rectangular frame structure features a steep gable roof but no steeple, accentuated with dormers, window hoods and wide eaves on either side. Large stained-glass rose windows adorn the front and rear of the church, each with a large pointed arch above and five smaller window arches below. The front and two sides have additional stained-glass windows with pointed arch openings. The front side has an additional quatrefoil window in the gable.
Concrete steps with iron railings lead to the entrance of oak-paneled double doors. The interior resembles a simple basilica with a high nave, a vestibule and low aisles. A second set of wooden doors separates the vestibule from the rest of the interior. Statues, the altar table and the tabernacle were restored in 1990.
The parish is led by Msgr. Martin Heinz. Mass is held each Sunday at 9 a.m.