st. pancratius celebrates 175 years of faith in fayetteville

Story and photos by Liz Quirin
Messenger editor

Friends and family gathered at 2 p.m. Oct. 6 for a special liturgy at St. Pancratius Parish in Fayetteville to celebrate 175 years as a parish family of faith in the Diocese of Belleville.

Father Kenneth York was the celebrant and homilist at the liturgy with Father Elmar Mauer, OMI, Father James Blazine, former pastor, and Father Paul Nwanegbo, administrator at St. Liborius Church in St. Libory as concelebrants.

In 1837, Frank Buehner, along with two other Kentucky families settled in Pulliam Town, on the banks of the Okaw, or Kaskaskia River, in what is known today as Fayetteville. Father Casper Ostlangenberg celebrated the first Mass in Frank Buehner’s log cabin in 1838.

In 1849, property was donated by Thomas S. Pulliam, a member of the Methodist Church and founder of the original Pulliam Town. The frame church was built at North Second Street and West Jefferson Avenue and was dedicated to St. Pancratius, a teenaged martyr of the early Roman church.

It was a small intimate congregation that welcomed Father August Brickwedde in January, 1849. He was also pastor of St. Libory. Father Brickwedde had left Germany in 1837 because of the need for German speaking missionaries in the United States. He set out to build a church for the small congregation, and in 1851 it was dedicated. Father Brickwedde then built a rectory which was completed and dedicated in 1856. It was later used as a convent and in 1884 a two-story frame building replaced the first rectory.

From 1857 to 1864 there were many priests who served the community. Then in February of 1865 a still small congregation welcomed Father A. Rustemeyer to St. Pancratius Church as the first resident pastor.
Father Rustemeyer was succeeded by Father George Tuerk. Father Tuerk led the congregation in building a new church across the street to the northwest.

The records indicate that the property was donated by William Koester, a Catholic merchant. This new church, of brick Gothic style, had a seating capacity of 120, and was dedicated in 1867.

In September 1889 Father Charles Joseph Zwiesler led the church until 1894. The church purchased three bells in 1890 blessed on Dec. 18, 1890. Of the three bells, the largest is dedicated in honor of the Immaculate Conception; the second or middle bell in honor of Saint Joseph; and the third bell, the smallest, in honor of Saint Pancratius. The three bells cost a total sum of $593.

July of 1901, Father Phillip Becker was appointed pastor of St. Pancratius. Father Becker remained longer at Fayetteville than any other priest. During his administration he established many faithful societies. On April 22, 1931, Father Becker celebrated his Golden Jubilee. Then on Saturday, April 25, 1931, Father Becker died in St. Elizabeth’s Hospital.

Again priests were appointed to the community of St. Pancratius, the “Great Depression” came followed by Pearl Harbor, and the enlistment, the draft.

In August of 1953 Father Edmund G. Fitzmorris was appointed pastor. By this time the church building was growing old, and Father Fitzmorris set out to build a new and larger church.

By spring ground was broken under the trees at West Jefferson Avenue and North Third Street for a new church which would cost $90,000.

It was May 12, 1956, the feast of St. Pancratius, “a day to remember with joy” that ground was broken for a new brick structure to be forty by seventy-nine feet in size, and having a seating capacity of 208.

The work went forward and one year later the church was finished. April 24, 1966 the last note on the parish church was burned and the church was paid for in full.

Other priests were assigned to St. Pancratius over the years. They included:
1970 –1971 Father James Blazine
1971 –1974 Msgr. Harry Jerome
1974 –1980 Father James Blazine
1980 – 1990 Msgr. Leonard A. Bauer
1990 – 1993 Father Vito Lopardo (last resident pastor)
1987-2008 Deacon George Munie
1993-2000 Deacon George Munie served as Parish Life Coordinator
Father York is pastor, and Father Elmar Mauer, OMI assists with weekend liturgies.

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