The Association for the Preservation of St. Rose of Lima Chapel has certainly lived up to its name.
The group took on the task of keeping the historic Kankakee place of worship vibrant more than two years ago after a unification effort brought three parishes together — St. Rose, St. Martin of Tours and St. Teresa — to form the new St. John Paul II Parish.
The change left the parish with additional property, all of which was not necessary in order for it to function. After St. Rose no longer was used to hold Masses, Bishop Daniel Conlon, of the Diocese of Joliet, made an offer: the church could continue as a chapel if a group stepped forward to initiate and manage the transition.
In stepped the association. The latest of several accomplishments it has realized is the re-plastering of the ornate stained glass windows found in the choir loft in the back of the church. This project was preceded by previous work done on the heating and air conditioning units, among other items.
The window, which was donated to St. Rose by the late John and Cleo Patterson, has been in place for nearly three decades and is a breathtaking work of beauty. It shows Jesus and the Lamb of God together and is themed “Risen Christ.”
But age tends to compromise all beauty, and such was the case with this window. The plaster around it had become cracked and eroded, and the deterioration was threatening the window itself. That’s when the preservation board and its supporters pulled together $7,400 to purchase the necessary plaster and refurbish the area.
It proved to be a labor of love. Matt and Dave Felber, the men who did the restoration work, issued a letter to “all the friends of St. Rose of Lima Chapel” to describe the pleasure derived from it.
“We would like to express our sincere appreciation for honoring us with the opportunity to take part in the restoration of the plaster around the stained glass windows above the balcony,” the letter read. “If work can be fun, we always consider it to be a special time when we are able to work on magnificent historical buildings such as St. Rose’s.
“A special thanks to all on the board for your continued labors in the preservation of such a Magnificent Chapel.”
The final paragraph of the note truly resonates, as it was the hard work and determination of the association which has kept St. Rose away from a potential date with the wrecking ball.
Two years ago, Bishop Daniel Conlon of the Diocese of Joliet held a meeting to make an offer. The offer was to turn the St. Rose property over to a dedicated group so it could continue as a chapel.
There were some, perhaps many, in the large audience gathered that day who doubted if such a group would step forward. But those loyal to St. Rose thought otherwise. The 14-member board was quickly formed, and began taking the necessary steps to make the plan reality.
There were numerous hiccups along the way, but by summer 2019, all the steps had been completed and the deed was turned over to the association.
The diligence of the association members, as well as numerous dedicated volunteers who have helped with the cause, has certainly been noticed. Since the chapel began hosting Masses on the last Friday of the month in August 2019, crowds reaching into the triple digits have attended every time. At the first Mass in late August, some 400 people attended.
Gene Marcotte, vice president of the association, called the event “the most moving Mass I’ve ever been to.” People openly wept tears of joy as their dreams had come true.
On that day and days since, Marcotte said he has heard the same remark over and over.
“Most of the people I have spoken to say, ‘Why did they close this church? It’s the most beautiful church in the area.’”