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Wilsonville       Churches
Photographs & Information furnished by : George Vincent
Holy Cross Church
church photo
church photo

Brief History of
Holy Cross Church

Compiled by
Rev. Casimir F. Gierut, A.B.; B.A.; A.A.S.
    The village of Wilsonville began its history in the year 1917 with the opening of Coal Mine Number Four (4). Immigrants predominately from Italy, Croatia and Lithuania began to settle in great numbers in Wilsonville. the chief employer was the coal industry. Wilsonville grew rapidly. With the population reaching 1,500 in the year 1925, Wilsonville changed from a village to a staus of a city.
    The Catholics attended the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass services at the SS. Simon and Jude Church in Gillespie. Although the distance was only six miles to Gillespie, the transportation by means of horse and buggy proved a hardship, especially in winter, for those who wanted to attend church services in Gillespie.
    Observing the need of a church in the growing city of Wilsonville, the reverend Clement Stolze, J.C.D., the pastor of St. Mary's Church in Bunker Hill, brought to the attention of the recently consecrated Bishop of the Springfield Diocese, the Most Rev. James Griffin, D.D.
    On Nov. 14, 1923, Bishop James Griffin commissioned Rev. Clement Stolze to start a mission church in Wilsonville. In the same year, the theatre closed its door in June.
    Rev. Stolze made inquiry of the closed theatre. The theatre was steam heated with a seating capacity of two hundred. The floor slanted down at an angle toward the stage. Rev. Stolze envision the stage to become the future place for the altar and sanctuary. The regular theatre type chairs would remain and serve the purpose for the next 19 years. the theatre was located on main Street known as Wilson Avenue. With permission from Bishop James Grifin, Rev. Stolze purchased the theatre for the sum of of $5,250.00.
theater converted to church
Theatre becomes Holy Cross Church

    Rev. Stolze proceeded with great caution. He was aware that the opening of a church in Wilsonville would be of mixed reaction and feelings. Catholics were happy, but the rest of the townsfolk were not pleased. As for Catholics, the women in great numbers attended the church regularly at SS. Simon and Jude Church, Gillespie. By far, a majority of the Catholic men did not attend church services. The men did not want to be ridiculed by their fellow workers in the coal mine because they went to church on Sunday. The man most ridiculed on Monday morning was Mr. Alexander Pacewic. He was the first man to register membership in the church. Because he later was appointed the first trustee of the church and because he would ring the church bell on Sunday morning, the workers in the coal mines gave him a rough time. The ridicule did not discourage neither him nor his wife, Catherine.
    Mr. Alexander Pacewic volunteered his services as janitor and he fired the coal furnace each week for church services. His wife, Catherine, volunteered her services as sacristan. she took meticulous care of the altar linens and cleaned the church. When both died, they willed their home and property to Holy Cross Church.


Additional Information furnished by : Debbi Geer
    When Father Gierut retired, Father Robert Porter was named pastor of St Mary's Catholic Church in Bunker HIll of which Holy Cross was considered a "mission parish" along with St Denis Catholic Church in Shipman.
A mission parish was one which was a child of another parish for which support could be obtained as needed. Masses were not required to be said on a daily basis there, as at the main parish to which the priest was assigned, but was required on Sunday.
    When Father Porter retired in June 2004, St Denis, Holy Cross and St Mary's were all closed by Bishop Lucas. St Mary's parish was annexed to Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Bethalto, but very few of the members from St Mary's chose to go there. Depending on where they lived in the Bunker Hill area, some chose St. Alphonse in Brighton, some to SS. Simon and Judy in Gillespie, some to St Joseph's in Benld and a vast majority to St Michael the Archangel in Staunton because it is 4 miles closer than Bethalto.
Benld is closer, but Bishop Lucas annexed Wilsonville to Gillespie.

Holy Cross Church

photo of Rev. Clement T. Stolze
Rev. Clement T. Stolze
served as Pastor
from 1925 through 1932
photo of Rev. G. H. Powell
Rev. G. H. Powell
served as Pastor
from 1932 through 1937
photo of Rev. J. P. Diggins
Rev. J. P. Diggins
served as Pastor
from 1937 through 1938
photo of Rev. Maurice Gavin
Rev. Maurice Gavin
served as Pastor
from 1938 through 1945
photo of Rev. J. A. Colavecchio
Rev. J. A. Colavecchio
served as Pastor
from 1945 through 1947
photo of Rev. T. J. Davenport
Rev. T. J. Davenport
served as Pastor
from 1947 through 1959
photo of Rev. Casimir F. Gierut
Rev. Casimir F. Gierut
served as Pastor
from 1959 on

Highlights In 60 YearsAt
Holy Cross

First Holy Communions154
First children baptized in 1925 :
      Raymond Nadler
      Anna Luketich
      Maria Degardin
      Frances Smith
      Martin Verlucca
      Edward Margherio
      Angelina Bogliani
      Richard Balestri
      Louis Bonio
First marriages in 1925 :
      Angelo Verlucca and Ann Kelner
      James Hoffner and Anna Frankovich
      Francis Gribinas and Anna Roglis
      Baptista Bogliana and Mary Cavallo


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