Combined History of Shelby and Moultrie Cos Illinois
ST. ISADORES ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH.
BY REV. EDWARD M'GOWAN.
A traveler once entered Moultrie county by the lower road, one mile south of Dalton city. As he wended his way east from that point where the roads, east and west, north and south, intersect one another, which is also the dividing line between Macon and Moultrie counties, he could notice at once a difference in the color of their soil; that Moultrie county looked blacker in its earth and richer than Macon county.
Journeying on he was struck with the beauty of the hedgerows, green waving fields of corn, herds of cattle, boundless prairie far as the eye could reach. Thus absorbed, thus delighted in eyes and mind and heart at the goodness of God to His creatures, as seen in the book of nature around him, he plodded on his way till four miles from the county line. The Catholic church loomed up before him. He approached, and as he saw everything in good order and cleanly about the church, and a parochial house in process of erection,uncovering his head he said, "Thanks be to God."
Thanks," he said, "for here I have a key to the prosperity of Catholicity in Moultrie county, for wherever all over the States I have found good churches, well equipped for divine worship, there I have invariably found a prosperous Catholic people; but wherever I have found a miserable structure, black and dirty, unworthy of the God of glory who is worshipped, there too I have found a drunken, a degraded people.
Here, removed from the din of the city and the panting of the engines, and the ceaseless roll of machinery, where all is peace, man can compose himself for prayer, and pray without distraction, to the God of peace." The good-morning of a sturdy farmer started him from his reverie. His brilliant eye, elastic step and sprightly manner, told him plainer than words that he was one of Ireland's sons. To the stranger's inquiries how they came to have a church on the prairie, he said, Father A. Voghl, God bless him, was our first priest. He celebrated the first mass on this then unfenced prairie, at the house of Mr. Edward Bresnan, on the 14th of August, 1863. During that year, he, in his great wisdom, took up a subscription and bought and paid for forty acres of land from The Illinois Central Railroad Company, at $.5 per acre.
That you will readily see was a good investment--the same land is worth now $40 per acre. We had then only sixteen families, not one hundred persons in all, plenty of ground to build upon, but yet had no church structure. One morning, after celebrating mass and breakfasting at a farm-house, the good priest took his office book and went to recite the divine office. At his return be was greatly surprised to find that his little flock had voluntarily raised the means wherewith to build a little church. The first Catholic church edifice in Moultrie county, was erected then in the fall of 1864, in Dora township, at a cost of $200.
It was a frame building 20 x 40 feet. The names of those subscribers, our forefathers in the faith, deserve to be emblazoned in letters of gold on the temple of time, that posterity may learn what their ancestors did for the holy faith, and learn to follow in their footsteps. These are their honored names: Edward Bresnan, Patrick Smith, TimothySammon, W. Cronin, Patrick Burns, sen. Daniel Tueth, Wm. Fogarty, Patrick Neilan, John Kinney, Jas. Nolan, Francis Ryan, Richard Delauaunty Patrick Griffin, John Dunne, John Hickey, Nich. Bahan.
Number of members at present, 500. Strange, too, that one-fourth of the names I have mentioned to you were Patrick. Rev. M. Kane succeeded Father Voghl, in 1873, and enlarged and beautified the church, to meet the growth of the congregation. It is now a cruciform, 60 x 60 feet, worth about $2,000. Rev. Edward M'Gowan succeeded Father Kane, October, 1875, and ministers to our spiritual wants ever since. He was born at Draperstown, county Derry, Ireland, on the 9th of March, 1842. He received a thorough English education at the old homestead, and no less thorough classical education at Cumber Claudy, in the same county. Entering All Hallows College, Dublin, Ireland, by competitive examination, on the 3d of September, 1867, be passed through his classes with distinction to himself and satisfaction to his professors. He had the consolation, during his college course, to be called to all the orders regularly every year, and was crowned with the crowning glory of the priesthood on the 24th of June, 1872. In August of that year he bid a tearful farewell to home and friends, and native land, and sailed for the diocese of Alton, where, after a happy voyage, he arrived on the 26th of the same month. Speaking of his arrival at New York on the 20th of that month, The Irish World newspaper said of him: "The Bishop of Alton is happy in acquiring a man possessed of Father M'Gowans energy, and Father M'Gowan is happy in having in Bishop Baltes a kind and gentle father."
The bishop assigned him on his arrival to the pastoral charge of St. Patricks church, Grafton, Jersey county, Ills., where, during his stay of three years, he built a beautiful parochial house, redeemed the fallen credit of that church, and endeared himself in many ways to the hearts of his people. Thence he was transferred, with his own consent, to Macon, a larger field of labor, which he has attended alternately with Dora township, for five years. He is now engaged in building, and has just got roofed in younder beautiful parochial house beside the church. Its estimated cost is $2,000. He has made ithis cardinal point to make every one bear the burden in this, and every contribution, according to his means.
For, while our people are, in the main, very liberal, some drones there are who hold back from doing their duty, and nevertheless arrogate to themselves the right to complain of the work that is done and the manner in which it is done. The priest instructs the children in the principles of faith, sees to it that they are prepared for first confession and first communion; for children brought up without religion are a curse to their parents and to society. He knows that one of the most powerful means of preserving the faith and of leading a virtuous life is to receive the sacraments of the church often and worthily -- knows, too, that if they don't receive them when they are young they willscarcely ever receive them -- that if you would bend the tree you must bend the twig; hence he gives so much attention to the children. He has, too, a reward even in this world; his people grow up religious, honest, industrious, sober, and gain for themselves the respect of all their neighbors, without regard to creed or nationality.
It must, too, be consoling to him to see non-Catholic masters and mistresses come to Dora township for Catholic servants, and who will have no others but Catholics, and who comply with the duties of their religion. For well they know that while stealing is fashionable, from the highest to the lowest in the land steal, practical Catholics cannot steal and keep, they must restore. We have no parochial schools; we have our fair quota of school directors and school teachers. Catholics and the public schools work here very well. But, excuse me, said the speaker, it is noon time, come and have some dinner, andthey picked themselves up and went off together.
pages: 147- 148.
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