The church's roots run deep in the O'Fallon and Shiloh community contributing to it's selection as one of the O'Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce 42nd Annual Salute to Business Awards recipients, specifically the Heritage Award.
"For me, the words 'heritage' and 'legacy' go together. Heritage is a way of honoring all the faithful, dedicated Catholics over our 150 years of ministry for Christ. At the same time, our present generation of Catholics have the privilege of carrying that same torch of faith and leaving it as a legacy for the next generation," said the Rev. Jim Deiters, who has served as pastor at St. Clare Church since 1996.
You will find St. Clare parishioners, who come from more than 1,000 local families, actively supporting the O’Fallon Food Pantry and the Feed My Lambs summer student lunch initiative, creating beautiful public green spaces, like the new Stations of the Cross Garden on church's Third Street campus, and encouraging fun fellowship for all with St. Clare's annual Oktoberfest, held near the heart of historic downtown O’Fallon.
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The current home of St. Clare Church on Cross Street is actually the third structure to bear the St. Clare name.
"It is a privilege for us at St. Clare to be a witness for Christ to the larger O'Fallon-Shiloh area, and this award is reminding all of us of the importance of church communities working together for the spreading of God's Kingdom," Deiters said.
Before any structure bore the St. Clare name, O’Fallon’s Catholics in 1858 celebrated the first Mass in the home of Thomas and Catherine Mackin, near our downtown core at the corner of First and Apple streets.
The first church, a simple 36-foot by 56-foot brick building, served a congregation of 40 Catholics who put together $700 for four lots on Third Street and $5,000 to build. This first, most humble, St. Clare Church was dedicated on Dec. 17, 1867.
With the assignment of a permanent pastor in 1868, St. Clare began to make its mark on the community. A rectory was established and the Catholic school was founded. By 1890, the growing parish laid the foundation for the second St. Clare Church, which still stands today as a local landmark near the downtown core on Third and Oak streets and serves as the school's chapel.
So that worship could continue without interruption during years of construction, the new larger church was actually built up and around the smaller first church. This larger space, built by 70 families at a cost of $35,000, was dedicated in 1895 and served as the parish home for more than 100 years. But with cramped seating, no plumbing and no viable way to expand to meet the needs of parish families, St. Clare greeted the 21st century with a growing need to build once more. The gift of 20 acres of land from lifelong parishioner Louis Rasp in 2001 inspired parishioners to bring the current church into being.
"It is such an honor for me to be the pastor here at St. Clare during this historical time for both our parish and school. I see this award as a gift for all those who have gone before us and laid the foundation upon which we now serve," Deiters said.