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Closing St. Patrick’s?

SHEFFIELD — A committee in the Peoria Diocese has recommended the merger of St. Patrick’s Church in Sheffield into St. Anthony’s in Atkinson, and closure of the church building by July 2014.

But the decision is not final.

“No final decisions have been made, and all members of the cluster team ask the faithful of each parish to keep an open mind, enthusiastically continue the good work and support they are giving to their parish, and pray that the Holy Spirit will help everyone, most especially our bishop during the coming weeks and months,” said the Rev. Tony Lee, priest at. St. Anthony’s.

Parishes through the diocese are in the process of an eight-step restructuring process called Growing in Faith Together, which began in August 2011. In the first step of the process, the parishes, including the communities of Geneseo, Atkinson, Annawan and Sheffield, formed clusters to conduct a process of self-study and review of each parish.

In February, the cluster team made a preliminary recommendation that St. Patrick’s link with Sacred Heart Parish in Annawan and the two then partner with St. Anthony’s and with St. Malachy Parish in Geneseo.

This preliminary recommendation was reviewed by the Diocesan Planning Commission.

“Based on their study of the parish and cluster reports, the challenges identified and the goals of the Growing in Faith Together as set forth by Bishop Daniel Jenky and the good of the diocese as a whole, they proposed a different model,” Lee said Monday.

That new model includes a merger of St. Patrick, Sacred Heart and St. Anthony at the Atkinson site no later than July 2014. In addition, Sacred Heart would be used as an additional worship site for weekend liturgies and occasional weddings and funerals, and that there be a partnership between St. Malachy and the newly-formed parish in Atkinson.

Lee said the recommendations were based on the proximity of the parishes to each other, the sharing of resources, including time, talent and treasure.

Lee said, following many hours of conversation and review, the local cluster team will make a final recommendation to the planning commission.

“The local cluster team suggests that Sacred Heart and St. Patrick merge into one new parish with a worship site in both Annawan and Sheffield, with the Sacred Heart location designated as parish office,” Lee said.

The newly-formed parish would then formally link with St. Anthony, and the parishes would be served by one priest, possibly with the assistance of a deacon. Both the new parish and St. Anthony would partner with St. Malachy to build and leverage their strengths, particularly in the areas of youth and adult formation, evangelism and social justice.

“Our response is Step 5 of the process that will ultimately conclude with the decision of Bishop Jenky to be announced at the end of August,” Lee said.

Members of the cluster team will be available at three town hall meetings to further explain the final recommendation and answer questions. The town hall meetings will be at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday for members of Sacred Heart; 6:30 p.m. Thursday for the members of St. Patrick’s; and 6:30 p.m. May 8 for members of St. Anthony’s. All meetings will take place in the parish hall of each parish.

The members of the cluster team from St. Patrick’s are Ken Brummel, Gene Menard, Sara Osborn, Ann Sprowls and the Rev. Sebastian Tumusiime.

Comment on this story at

St. Patrick’s history in Sheffield

By 1863, the Catholic community in Sheffield had grown to more than 100 people, and the Rev. Thomas O’Farrell became a regular visitor, coming to Sheffield from Mendota.

On Sept. 10, 1864, the Sheffield Mining and Transportation Co. sold Lot 8 in Block 24 to the Right Rev. James Duggan, bishop of Chicago and to his successors, “to have and to hold the same for church and school purposes.”

The 80-by-150-foot parcel, located at the southeast corner of Reed and Walnut streets, was sold for $2.

A wood frame church was constructed and called St. Patrick’s, as Sheffield was then known as the “Irish Capitol of Bureau County.”

In 1877, St. Patrick Mission achieved the status of parish.

On May 31, 1885, the new church was completed at the present site, and Bishop John Lancaster Spalding, the new bishop of the newly-created Diocese of Peoria came for the dedication.

The bell tower was dedicated Nov. 8, 1888,, and the building was expanded in the early 1920s.

Source: “A Short HIstory of St. Patrick Parish, Sheffield, Ill.”

The time line ...

According to a letter sent to cluster team members April 18, the planning commission will make a final recommendation to Jenky, “after prayer and reflection, further study of the data from the parishes and clusters, your cluster responses and the needs of the Diocese.”

After that, “the bishop will pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit, study the final recommendations and the supportive data, consult with the Priests’ Council and other consultative bodies and make final decisions about how the parishes in the Diocese are to be reconfigured. The bishop may accept the final recommendations of the Diocesan Planning Commission or make decisions different from the recommendations.”

In addition, Jenky has decided that when parishes merge, the assets and liabilities of the merging parishes go to the newly-formed parish.

It is expected that the planning commission will have their final recommendations to Jenky by the end of June, and that he will make decisions about the restructuring of parishes in late August or early September.

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