Historical society marks St. Malachy's sesquicentennial

Staff Writer
Geneseo Republic
St. Malachy's Church in Geneseo, was designated a Sesquicentennial Church by the Illinois State Historical Society. The Geneseo church celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2016. Marilyn Boardman, left, accepted the honor on behalf of the church. Also pictured is Randall Saxon, president of the Illinois State Historical Society.

St. Malachy Catholic Church, in Geneseo, capped off its 150th anniversary year with a special honor from the Illinois State Historical Society.

The church was one of 36 Illinois churches earning the “Sesquicentennial Church” designation.

All 36 sesquicentennial churches were honored at a special Illinois State Historical Society luncheon, in Peoria.

Holy Mass was celebrated for the first time in Geneseo in 1857, at the hands of Fr. J.G. Allman, of Rock Island.

Missionaries served the fledgling parish until 1864, when land was purchased for the purpose of building a church. The price was $243. Soon a brick building was erected, but furniture and decorations were postponed until a full-time pastor arrived.

Fr. F. W. Smyth was appointed in 1867, and he purchased the church’s first organ.

By 1883 the congregation of St. Malachy’s numbered more than 400 and was part of the Chicago diocese.

The church’s golden jubilee was celebrated in 1907, at which time a new building was constructed and dedicated the following year.

In 1991, the former church building, on Russell Ave., was demolished and the land sold for a condominium development.

The new St. Malachy was already under construction and was dedicated in July of 1989 at a cost of $3.5 million.

Under the leadership of Fr. Michael Pakula, construction began on a 20,000 square-foot expansion to the church, which included parish offices, more classrooms, and a community hall.

St. Malachy students, who watched the construction project going up around them, were invited to sign their names to the last beam before its installation and dedication in July 2010.

Parishioners at St. Malachy Church celebrated the 150th anniversary with special 150th themed tasks and events throughout the year.

Tasks ranged from collecting packages of diapers, writing holiday notes and distributing packages of sunflower seeds.

A special 150th anniversary celebration was observed on Oct. 9.