Historic church to be demolished

Cala Smoldt/Staff Reporter

According to Father John Thieryoung, in a decision made by the Catholic Diocese of Peoria, St. Mary Catholic Church in Keithsburg will be demolished before Oct.1 this year. He was the last pastor to tend the parishoners there when doors were closed July 2013. "At one time it was THE parish in Mercer County, and took care of all the other catholic congregations for many years," Said Thieryoung.

He said the Peoria Diocese did an assessment of parishes and how they could cooperate with each other and the viability of each place. With the reassessment it was decided to close the parish and the building itself was beyond repair. The cost to fix it would have been astronomical.

The church was condemned for disrepair, and during the last 4-5 years the church had mass in the church hall. The hall was built in 1967. The remaining property will be sold after the demolition.

An article that can be read in it's entirety on the City of Keithsburg's 'About Keithsburg' section of their website (, written by Mona Parsons and Patty Sackville and published in Mercer Remembers 1985, describes how St. Mary's Catholic Church began, "St. Mary's Church was erected in 1869 on land donated by T. B. Cabeen at a cost of $6000."

"Ironically, Keithsburg had one priest and he went out horse and buggy or by railroad to Aledo, Viola, Matherville, he rode the circuit, then for a time we had a situation where every station had a pastor, and now we're back to we're riding the circuit, not horses, but driving cars, the same pattern has returned. Full circle," Father Thieryoung remembers. He currently serves St. Anthony, Matherville, St. John, Viola and St. Catherine, Aledo.

Besides the ridiculous cost to repair the church, St. Mary's Catholic Church is a consecrated building, and as such must be torn down. "They don't want it to end up - the building you were baptized in becoming a home or a barn," explains Thieryoung, "it would probably still come down even if it were in better shape." Over the past year, Father Thieryoung explains, they removed all the religious materials and distributed the pieces among other parishes in Mercer County.

They've had lumber salvagers, who didn't take hardly anything. "Not much interest to salvage", they couldn't get people from stained glass companies to come and look to take some of the windows that remained. "We've tried a variety of avenues," describes Thieryoung, "Somebody wanted to remove floorboards at one point, but that didn't happen."

"It's emotional for a number of people who had attended there. People remember it, what it used to be like, what it was like at one time.... it's sad to see a community disappear over time." Father Thieryoung said they had a final ceremony last July when they closed the doors.

St. Catherine Catholic Church in Aledo will celebrate their 100 year anniversary come September. Celebration details are to come.