Stories from intrepid reporters attending the Illinois Press Foundation Journalism Workshop at Eastern Illinois University
(Video by Mia Mastandrea)
By Maher Kawash
Religion teacher Cindy Vahling sat beside her son to pray during holy hour. She looked up and admired the stained glass windows that revealed a luminous light throughout the church as the resiliency told the story of the life of St. Francis.
St. Francis of Assisi Church has stood in the heart of Teutopolis for the past 160 years.
In a town that is 90 percent German Catholic, the church is a vital part of their everyday life.
“This church is the foundation of our town, it really means everything to us,” Vahling said. “It is even more special when we sit in the back, look up at the murals and just realize that this is the most amazing church.
As a result of the town being mostly Catholic, residents of Teutopolis find multiple ways to be involved in the church.
For example, the huge celebration for the town’s 175th anniversary will begin with an outdoor mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church.
The Church also hosts many fundraising events suchas two events that take place in July: the town picnic and The Feast of The Sacred Heart.
“Pretty much everything goes through the church around here,” Father John Eaton said.
Eaton estimates that about 800 people attend the Sunday mass every week. “It’s an exciting atmosphere in here every Sunday, it’s especially nice seeing some younger couples with their children attending,” Eaton said.
It is obvious that the town cares about their church when they constantly volunteer with fundraising events such as the town picnic and the Feast of The Sacred Heart.
With about 1,200 families in the parish, it seems as if the church has a lure that keeps people coming.
“The church has been here since the start. All the businesses were built around it, so it is the foundation of this town,” Vahling said.
The church is a part of many things in the town but the most unique one is with the school.
The church owns Teutopolis Grade School. “We have one of the most unique situations in the whole state of Illinois where the grade school down the street is owned by this parish and it has been forever,” Vahling said.
Regardless of what is happening in the town, Teutopolis residents are dependent on the only church in the town.
Assistant Chief of Police Dave Zerrusen said, “The church is our faith, that’s what drives us.”