In the beginning...
New Lenox was an unincorporated village claiming a little over 400 inhabitants in 1934. About a dozen Catholic families lived in the village, four more in the nearby community of Spencer, and a few families were scattered on nearby farms within a radius of two miles.
At that time, Father Roman Hasenstab, OFM, was stationed with the Franciscan Community at St John's Catholic Church in Joliet while serving at St. Mary's Church in Mokena. Since 1932 he had been coming to New Lenox "gathering souls" and, after two years, requested and was granted permission from the Catholic Chancery to organize the founding of a mission church. He mentions in an early report that "the Kluxers were a real thing and that Catholic people referred to them continually in their conversation. Last summer, they burnt a fiery cross on the property just adjoining the house in which I was giving Catechism instruction."
In 1934, a small group of Catholic families under the leadership of Fr. Roman, searching for an appropriate place to celebrate Mass, located property and buildings in the most centrally located subdivision in New Lenox. By an arrangement of a Catholic convert, Thomas Corwin Meyers, a real estate agent and representative of MacIntosh realty Company, a one-story frame house with inside partitions removed was obtained rent-free for church purposes. It was located on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Cedar Road. At the time, both were gravel roads, but the location was said to hold much promise for the future.
The first Mass was celebrated in this building "on a beautiful snowy Christmas morning" in December 1934. Postcards were sent as invitations, and about 80 to 100 people attended. One of those first parishioners wrote the following. "The church was mighty cold that day. In fact, Fr. Roman told us to stand during the Mass as the wind really whipped through the floorboards. There were no benches or kneelers. The windows were covered with blue crepe paper to dress the place up a bit. In the beginning, there was no sacristy, so the priest and the servers put on vestments at the altar. The collection box was a cigar box covered with wallpaper with a broomstick handle attached. I remember getting up on Sunday morning at 5 am dragging along kindling, paper, and wood, and lighting a pot-bellied stove. By 8 am the stove was red hot, though often the Holy Water was still frozen in the back of church. Another parishioner had to get up early and go to Joliet and get the priest each Sunday".
The Franciscan Friars of the Sacred Heart remained with us for a total of 59 years. Many wonderful priests served as our pastors and assistants as St. Jude and the community of New Lenox grew and prospered. Then, experiencing a priest shortage within their order, and aware of the projected building boom in the area, in 1993 they gave up their ministry here at St. Jude.
Upon their leaving we were blessed as the Augustinian Priests, belonging to the Province of Our Lady of Good Counsel, graciously agreed to serve the spiritual needs of our parish. In September of 1993, Fathers Dick Allen OSA, Ray Ryan OSA, and John Murphy OSA arrived to begin their ministry. These men quickly won the hearts of the parishioners and subdued any fears of change. Fr. Dick remained pastor until his untimely death on March 20, 1999. He will always be remembered for his fun loving personality and his high-five to all the kids at Sunday Mass. Frs. Dick, Ray and John helped our parish move into a new era.
Our present pastor is Fr. Don Lewandowski with associates Fr. Bill Sullivan and Fr. Robert Basler. We also are blessed with five permanent deacons, Bob Fitt, Bill Ciston, Dennis Theriault, George Goes and Mark Armamentos.
Frs. Don, Bill and Robert are continuing the legacy started by our previous Augustinians with a good mixture of spirituality and love of life. Their guiding principle is a sense of community and as Augustinian's, their brother priests support them in their vocation. This fits in well here at St Jude, as we identify ourselves as "The Catholic Community of St. Jude", supporting each other in our Catholic Christian faith.
We welcome you and your family!
(Click here for information on how to join our parish and become part of our parish family!)