Church of the Sacred Heart, Franklin, Morgan County, Illinois
Established in 1866
Franklin, Morgan County, Illinois, was visited by Reverend Patrick Joseph O’Rielly, rector of St. Catherine Church, Virden, with a view of a building a place of worship for the Catholics of that neighborhood. The corner-stone of the new church was laid June 18, 1886, and it was dedicated March 18, of the same year. It was a handsome wooden structure, 100x40 feet with a seating capacity of 400, costing $10,000. The beautiful parochial residence was built the same year.
On May 4, 1893, the church and parochial residence were completely destroyed by fire. The pastor, nothing daunted, assembled his faithful little flock and once again resolved to rebuild. The corner-stone of the new church was laid August 15, 1893, by Bishop Ryan, who came all the way from Alton to encourage the people. Five months later, on January 1, 1894, Mass was said in the new church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
This new church was even more beautiful than the first one; larger and more substantial. It was a brick structure 120x46 feet with a seating capacity of 500, costing $18,000. The spire is 190 feet high, surmounted by a golden cross which can be seen for miles. At the call of the plucky rector, members of the congregation supplied the church with the articles necessary for Catholic worship. Outsiders helped members, two local bankers giving $250 each.
The parochial residence was also replaced. Well might the pastor and people feel proud of their Herculean feat of building in the short space of eight years two such beautiful churches. It remains as a monument to the zeal of the pastor and to the faith and loyalty of the people. Thirty-two years have now elapsed since the church was erected, and during these years much progress has been made in every sphere, but even today the church is up to date in every detail. In 1897 Father O’Rielly was promoted to St. Patrick, Alton, and was succeeded in Franklin by Reverend Patrick A. Lyons.
Reverend Father Lyons remained until the fall of 1904. During that time the active congregation was well cared for by the energetic pastor. He spent his time completing the work that always remains to be done in a new parish. He also did much towards reducing the debt.
The next pastor was Reverend William McGuire who died here in March, 1914. Father McGuire was of a kind and amiable disposition, and during his ten years as pastor, the parish grew in temporal and spiritual wealth. He purchased the old Methodist church, which now stands on the west corner of the property and bears the name Marquette Hall. His foresight in purchasing this building has been well appreciated, as ever since it has been used by the members of the parish for their social affairs. During the long winters, many enjoyable evenings have been spent in social entertainment under the supervision of the pastors since his day. It was also used during the summer of 1925 for church services while the church was being frescoed and repaired. It has proved a blessing to the people of the church and community.
Father McGuire’s place was filled by Reverend Andrew Smith, who came here from Decatur, Illinois. During his stay he continued the work of beautifying the church and property under his charge. He enlarged the Marquette Hall building, the stage and basement kitchen. His years here were years of active service. He got together the talent of the parish and staged two plays each year. He equipped the hall, and with the aid of the ladies of the parish purchased articles for kitchen of hall for suppers and picnics. He installed electric light fixtures in the church, house and hall added to the church furniture a tabernacle safe, and had the beautiful high altar decorated, and when he left here in January 1925, everything was in first-class condition. During the trying days of the World War he lent his able aid in all branches of war work, Red Cross, Liberty Bonds, etc. He is now engaged in building the new St. Thomas Church, at Decatur, Illinois.
In January, 1925, Reverend Edmund D. Butler succeeded Father Smith as pastor of Sacred Heart Church. After his arrival his first task was to engage Max Autenrieb, church decorator of Edwardsville, Illinois, to paint and decorate the church. The work was started in April and concluded in July, 1925. The contract called for and was executed in three coats of oil painting in flat finish, wood-work grained and finished and fifteen pictures in light proof oil color. The lighting fixtures were also changed so as to be in keeping with the Gothic architecture of the building.
The following are the names of the first members of Sacred Heart church: Anton Bergschneider, Joseph Bergschneider, Charles Lynch, Mrs. Lukeman, Martin Ryan, John Eck, Joseph Scheferkort, Michael Ryan, John Fitzjohn, Michael Kenney, William Ludwig, James McDonald, Miles Lyons, John Mooney, Mrs. Angela Yunker, James Whalen, Patrick Harmon, John Ryan, Thomas Harmon, Patrick Ryan, William Treacy, John Harmon, John Ryan, John Lukeman, James Feore, Patrick Murphy, Felix Schanle, John Gorman, Owen Doyle, Thomas Gavin, Joe Kumle, Thomas Walsh, Mike Crowley, John Wagner, and Thomas Johnson.
In 1909, the people of Alexander having received permission to build a church, then laid the corner-stone of their new church, which took all the families living north of the three and a half mile line from Franklin. Just a few of the old settlers left in the parish are Mrs. Jane Ryan, Mrs. James Whalen, and Mrs. Lynch.
Reverend Thomas Harmon of the Chicago Archdiocese was born in Sacred Heart parish of Franklin, also Sister Sextus of the Dominican Convent, Springfield, daughter of Joseph Bergschneider, and Sister M. Elizabeth Kenney of the Franciscan Order of Peoria.