Heritage Business Award: Corpus Christi Catholic Church

Salute to 2014 O'Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce Business Awards

For the ProgressApril 10, 2014 

Celebrating its 100 year centennial isn’t the only good news Corpus Christi Catholic Church in Shiloh is talking about – the church is this year’s recipient of the O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce Business Heritage Award.

"We are very pleased and excited about (the award), some were even surprised," Father Jim Marganson said. "We have our Parish Council President Dennis Whelan accepting the award, who will also be bringing with him some of our parish’s oldest parishioners."

For example, joining Whelan at the chamber banquet will be Helen Moonigham, 92, who has lived in Shiloh her whole life and the church was only eight years old when she joined, Marganson said.

The original church is still standing across the street from the new building off of Rasp Street. The new church building was dedicated in September 2011, Marganson said.

"I’ve been resident priest for 10 years now, and I’m very happy to be here with a growing congregation that has grown by 150 households, or about 1,200 people since I’ve been here when it only supported about 50 households," Marganson added.

Marganson delved deeper into the church’s history, which began as a satellite church to provide for the coal miners.

"Originally this started as a mission church without a resident priest. The priest from St. John’s Orphanage would perform services for the parish," Marganson said. “Many of the catholics in Shiloh would attend St. Peters Cathedral in Belleville prior to Corpus Christi being established because the farmers at the time had wagons to travel the distance, but there were a lot of coal miners in the area who didn’t have the means to get there.”

The primary reason for the church making itself a home in Shiloh was to take care of the miners, Marganson explained.

Corpus Christi has had a total of 22 affiliated priests, including Marganson. In 1973 the rectory at 206 Rasp was built under Father Ralph Arnold, and the parish center was built in 1993.

According to O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce Director Debbie Arell-Martinez, the chamber doesn’t give the Heritage Award out every year, but rather only when the chamber board votes there is a deserving recipient.

"Because of Corpus Christi’s 100th anniversary, and just the fact that they are still around and going strong after 100 years was a huge factor in why it was chosen," Arell-Martinez said. "We felt they more than needed to be recognized."

Arell-Martinez said past Chamber President Ken Diel is a long-standing parishioner and is very involved with our local community.

"He wasn’t on the committee that voted and decided for the heritage award recipient however because that would be a direct conflict of interest," Arell-Martinez said.

Ken Diel said he’s on the church’s finance committee as he is an accountant by profession and was very involved with the building of the new church in 2011.

"It turned out to be a very nice church and I did some construction work like, I helped design the new baptismal font and built the alter platform, which was quite rewarding," Diel said.

Ken Diel’s wife, Pat, was a secretary for many years prior to Ellen Vernier stepping in, Pat said.

"We joined in 2007 because we were looking for a smaller parish group that was very welcoming, and I think we definitely found it at Corpus Christi," Pat said.

Pat said she was immediately drawn to the active outreach the church commits to.

"One of our current strong points as far as worship is concerned is we have an excellent music director, Drew Cowell, who draws new people into the church because of his style of music that is more broad than your typical liturgical worship music, which I think is also a draw to the younger people and a little more upbeat and modern style but uses very traditional songs in a way that is more uplifting," Pat said.

Before joining Corpus Christi, Pat said she had experience working with youth ministry through the diocese.

"An important part of the parish is reaching out to the youth – our future generations," Pat said. Organized through the diocese, a visiting priest named Father Masyus from Uganda stayed with the parish for about a year, which was such an eye opener, Pat said.

"It was a great learning experience for the church parish as far as customs and differences in worshipping styles and practices go," Pat said.

"Not only do some of our individual parishioners keep in contact with Father Masyus via phone calls and letters, but we also still help finance some of his ministries in Uganda. He has an orphanage and some of our parishioners help support several seminarians, the young men going into the priesthood, over there as well."

According to Pat, Corpus Christi is one of the very few churches in the region that hold a Sunday evening mass at 6 p.m.

Marganson said Corpus Christi partners with St. Clare and St. Nicholas Catholic churches to help operate St. Clare Catholic School in O’Fallon.

"We have quite a tradition of young people showing involvement in issues of the community and volunteering is a (staple) in their daily lives too,” Marganson said.

rkirsch@bnd.com

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