A Brief History of St. Vincent Ferrer Parish (1931 - 2004)
The parish was named in honor of St. Vincent Ferrer, the Dominican known as the "Patron of Builders". St. Vincent, born in Valencia, Spain in 1357, was a renowned lecturer in philosophy, and was a dominant force in the evangelization of Spain, France, Italy, Germany, Flanders, England, Scotland, and Ireland. Although he was offered many ecclesiastical dignities he refused them all, yearning only for the missionary fields. He died in 1419.
During the eight years following the land acquisition, little was done to formalize the parish because of the very small number of families. In addition, there existed some confusion concerning the exact geographic parish boundaries. In the meantime, despite a severe economic drain on its resources, the Dominican Order, fully committed to providing the parishioners with their own facilities, eventually continued to underwrite the cost of maintaining the property. Finally, in 1931, with approximately 35 families in the parish, the Reverend William McIntyre, O.P. was appointed pastor. Father began holding services in the auditorium of Trinity High School, and there, on February 7, 1932, the first recorded Baptism in the Parish, that of Jeanne Helen Cusack, took place.
|The following autumn a temporary frame church, accommodating about two hundred people, was erected facing North Avenue. In December of the same year, the people of St. Vincent Ferrer Parish were able to attend Mass in their OWN church, temporary though it might have been. Three years later, by the end of 1935, the number of families in the fledgling parish had grown to sixty-four.|
Because of the economic difficulties of the Depression of the nineteen thirties and because of the continued uncertainty of the parish boundaries, the building program was continually delayed for five years. It was not until 1940 that the school building consisting of four classrooms was constructed. The total enrollment was forty-four with the largest class boasting twelve pupils. Of the four classrooms only three were used for school; the fourth served as a winter chapel because of the difficulty in adequately heating the frame church.
The new school was staffed by the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa with Sister Ramona McAllister O.P. as principal. With Sister Marie Williams, O.P. teaching the third and fourth grades, and Sister Virgine, O.P. teaching the first and second grades, Sister Ramona doubled as the fifth and sixth grade teacher.
By the Spring of 1942 the school enrollment had grown to one hundred forty-four, so two more classrooms were added along with an auditorium (the present gymnasium). The old frame church then was abandoned, and for the next fourteen years, the school auditorium was used exclusively for Mass and other services.
Unfortunately Father McIntyre did not live to see the first graduation ceremonies in June of 1943. Father died in September of 1942 and was succeeded by the Reverend Richard B. Connolly, O.P., the second official pastor of the growing parish.
Records show that the operating budget for 1943 provided for $20,000 of anticipated income and $18,680 of budgeted expenses. With those limited resources, accommodations for the parish staff still could not be provided on the premises, so, like their predecessors, Father Connolly and his assistants lived at the Dominican Priory at Division and Harlem.
In 1945 the old frame church was sold for $400. It was moved to Wood Dale, Illinois where it again became a "first" church, that of Holy Ghost Parish of the Diocese of Joliet. Refurbished, it remained in use through August of 1981.
During Father Connolly's pastorate the building continued; the convent was erected, two classrooms were added to the school and, in 1949, the rectory was built. Now the parish staff and the sisters had homes to call their own!
Rev. Connolly, O.P.
In September of 1950, the Reverend Stephen Redmond, O.P. was appointed to succeed Father Connolly. Soon after assuming his responsibilities Father Redmond launched a $250,000 Fund Drive in order to add ten more rooms to the school; the school population had tripled in the five years following World War II. In the twenty years since its founding in 1931, the parish had grown from approximately thirty-five families to over 1,250 families.
|With the completion of the ten classrooms, Father Redmond undertook the development of plans for the construction of a permanent church. On June 29, 1954 ground was broken, and on October 25 the cornerstone of the present church was laid and construction was begun. In less than two years, St. Vincent Ferrer Church was completed. It was consecrated by Cardinal Stritch on September 23, 1956, with relics of the Martyrs, St. Peter of Verona and the Companions of Gorcum, St. Thomas Aquinas and St. Vincent Ferrer sealed in the various altars during the ceremonies.|
The next pastor to be appointed was the Reverend Benjamin Arend, O.P., a former assistant at St. Vincent 's. Father served from 1957 through 1960. It was during his pastorate that the splendid church organ was installed, as were the eight magnificent and inspiring stained glass windows depicting various religious episodes.
By then the parish had grown to 1,575 families with a school enrollment of 929 student and a faculty of 17 religious and four lay teachers.
The Reverend Damien Goggins, O.P. succeeded Father Arend, but failing health forced him to terminate his pastorate in March, 1963. Short as his term was, Father was able to complete the building program; the rectory was extended northward by the addition of a front wing containing six parlors which still provided for private conferences and small group gatherings.
Father Goggins was followed by the Reverend Donald Sherry, O.P. During his term, Father accomplished the remarkable feat of liquidating the church debt.
It was also during Father Sherry's term that the changes mandated by the Second Vatican Council began to be implemented. A new altar was installed to comply with the liturgical changes, while the establishment of a school board and a liturgy team introduced opportunities for increased involvement of the laity in parish operations.
Additional vehicles for involvement of the laity were established under the direction of the Reverend Vincent W. Bryce, O.P. who succeeded Father Sherry and served from July, 1970 to July of 1979. The first Auxiliary Ministers were installed, a Parish Finance Committee was organized, and a Parish Council was established with the representatives nominated and elected by the parishioners themselves.
The outstanding characteristic of Father Bryce's pastorate, however, was the working out of his conviction that every parish should be a living Christian community, and that the principal endeavor of the pastor and staff is to create an atmosphere in which this Christian community can be nurtured and developed. In this effort, Father Bryce was eminently successful. Building on the accomplishments of the previous pastors he shepherded the parish as it came alive spiritually, liturgically, and socially, so that today, at St. Vincent 's the people truly are the Church and this Church is truly a Christian community.
Father Bryce's successor, the Reverend Edward W. Conley, O.P. served from 1979 to 1985. He was no less committed to the continued development of a loving faith community. He was steadfast in his support of parishioners and their endeavors, encouraging of initiative, appreciative, forever available, always approachable.
His successor, the Reverend Richard LaPata, O.P. served from 1985 to 1990. He introduced the capital improvement campaign to renovate the church and convert the convent into a parish center. Fr. LaPata was particularly well liked by parishioners for his availability and his active and loving approach to individual pastoral care.
The Rev. Benjamin Russell, O.P. began his appointment as pastor in 1990. He completed the implementation of the capital improvements begun by Fr. LaPata. Also during Fr. Russell's tenure, the parish began several new programs, including annual September picnics, day care at the school and an organization of lay sacristans. Fr. Russell is noted for his gifts as a teacher and administrator - two qualities of particular significance in the current days of stressed budgets and increased secularization in society.