“The church is the work of the people so the fact that we are 3,500 families today and such a vibrant parish community, we owe a great debt of gratitude to those who have come before us,” said Brad Baker, pastor at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church.
Saints Peter and Paul History
For decades, hundreds of people have walked through the doors of Saints Peter and Paul in Naperville. And this year, the Catholic church is celebrating 175 years. In 1846, it was introduced to the community as Saint Raphael Parish. 18 years later, it would be renamed to what we know today.
“There have been three different structures that served as our church. So there was an original wood structure and then that was enlarged. There was a stone structure and that was destroyed by fire,” said Baker. “And then the magnificent structure that we have today – the magnificent church – was built in 1927.”
350 families came together to rebuild the church after that fire. The cause of it is unknown. Saints Peter and Paul’s school, built in 1853, was also destroyed by a fire in 1911 before being rebuilt. Baker said though they’ve been through difficult times, they’ve always remained resilient – a similar trait today’s community shares over 100 years later during the pandemic.
“We could not have operated as church without so many committed volunteers,” said Baker. People were incredible in their dedication and time and helping us facilitate who we are as church while we had so many restrictions imposed upon us.”
Saints Peter and Paul School
The long-term dedication to Saints Peter and Paul isn’t just from the community. Current school principal, Tricia Weis, is an alum herself and has a special connection to the church. “Our family was one of the original founders of the parish. So in knowing that and then just being named as principal, it’s exciting that I entered and then we had this 175th anniversary celebration,” said Weis. “It just seems providential and very much God’s perfect timing.”
Junior high religion teacher, Ruthy O’Malley, is also an alum and has been working at the school for 24 years. “The students actually teach me and I’m relearning everything all over. Just how they are or how they look at things or how they question,” said O’Malley.
Bishop Hicks in Naperville
Saints Peter and Paul has been celebrating their anniversary throughout the year. But the culmination to that was Bishop Ronald Hicks, the new bishop of the Diocese of Joliet, marking his first formal celebration with the Naperville parish community.
“So today, as we celebrate 175 years, let us be a people filled with grateful hearts as we remember the past, celebrate the present, and always look to the future with hope.”
Naperville News 17’s Aysha Ashley Househ reports.