St. Anthony Parish History

St. Anthony of Padua is the oldest Catholic Church in Effingham and has a rich history.


Our History Through the Years

On Christmas Day in 1858, the first Mass was celebrated in the newly created St. Anthony of Padua Church in Effingham, IL. St. Anthony was a mission parish, served by priests from the neighboring villages until 1871. In the beginning, St. Anthony Parish consisted of 40 families. Ten years later, the parish registry listed 120 families, and by 1875, it had grown to 225. In that time, land for a cemetery had been donated, a two-room brick school building had been built, and a six-room frame rectory had been erected. On March 1, 1870, the congregation was officially incorporated as St. Anthony’s Roman Catholic Church of Effingham.

In 1871, the first resident pastor, Rev. Michael Weis, arrived. During his administration, the present church was built, and shortly thereafter, the School Sisters of Notre Dame arrived to minister to the children. During the term of pastor Rev. H.J.F. Jungmann, which began in 1877, a new main altar was built. Other improvements included the construction of a new brick rectory, and a new six-room school. On January 1, 1896, St. Anthony’s received a new pastor, Rev. Louis W. Lammert. Fr. Lammert made many improvements to the parish buildings, including an addition to the parish hall that included a stage, and the installation of the pipe organ and the stained-glass windows which grace the church today. He had a new convent built, which the Notre Dame Sisters occupied in 1918.

June 8, 1929, marked the arrival of Rev. John H. Gramke as pastor. He built a four-room addition to the school, saw the installation of the hot lunch program, received full recognition of the high school by the state authorities and accreditation from the University of Illinois, and received a superior rating for the grade school from the state. Fr. Gramke served as pastor until his death in 1945.

Rev. John J. Goff succeeded Fr. Gramke. During his administration, new Stations of the Cross were erected, as well as new statues of St. Anthony, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, and St. Anne. Fr. Goff added fourteen new classrooms, a library, and a new gymnasium to the school. In the last year of his term, he built a new high school building. He also introduced C.C.D. classes in the parish, raised the old rectory, and built the present one. He remodeled and added a wing to the convent. Fr. Goff also had the difficult task of offering a Requiem Mass for the victims of the St. Anthony’s Hospital fire in 1949.

Fr. Goff was succeeded by Monsignor John McGrath in 1968. Msgr. McGrath served the parish as pastor until 1972, when a team ministry consisting of Revs. William Peters, Robert Spriggs and Donald Meehling took over the administration. In 1976, the Rev. Robert Heintz became pastor and joyfully retired the parish debt in 1983. He served as pastor for one more year, until Rev. Michael Kuse arrived. When Fr. Kuse was called by the Bishop to serve the Springfield Diocese as the Director of the Ministry to Priests Program, he was succeeded by Rev. William Overmann, who began serving the 1500 families of the parish in 1988.

In June of 1989, the Very Rev. Leo Enlow became St. Anthony’s pastor. In 1997, Fr. Leo, together with Fr. Mark Lewis and the church renovation committee, designed and oversaw the renovation that brought the traditional beauty of the church in line with the revised liturgical rites of the Second Vatican Council. Soon to follow, with the support of Pastoral Associate Sr. Justine Henley, a new, accessible, senior-friendly parish center was constructed next to the church. The building was occupied in March 2001 and houses the parish office and a kitchen. Shortly following the construction of the parish center, another successful parishioner-led capital campaign began, in conjunction with Diocesan support, to renovate and expand St. Anthony High School. While celebrating the 150th anniversary of St. Anthony Parish on June 13, 2008, it was announced that the debt for the high school addition had been retired. In December 2006, Msgr. Enlow learned of a tremendous, anonymous gift to the parish – funds were donated to build a new grade school.

In 2008 and 2009, the construction of the new grade school occurred on the grounds and parking lot of the existing grade school, providing little interruption through the school year for grade school students during construction. The new grade school was completed in time for the 2009-2010 school year and included kindergarten classes for the first time, with a 3- and 4-year-old pre-school program added the following school years.

After twenty-one and a half successful, faithful, and spiritual years of leadership, Msgr. Leo Enlow was transferred from St. Anthony of Padua Parish on January 11, 2011. In the summer of 2011, a new team of priests were assigned to St. Anthony Parish, as well as Sacred Heart in Effingham, and Annunciation in Shumway, led by Fr. David Hoefler as pastor. This was the first in the history of the Effingham and Shumway Catholic communities that a team of priests were assigned to minister to all three parishes. With the 2012-2013 school year, new principals arrived at both the grade school and high school. St. Anthony Grade School welcomed Brandi Borries as principal, replacing Mary Lynn Byers who retired after 30 years in education and 24 years as the first lay principal of St. Anthony Grade School. Greg Fearday began his term as St. Anthony High School principal with Fr. Brian Alford as chaplain of the high school, which was the first in a number of years that a chaplain had been assigned to the high school.

In 2013, St. Anthony parish launched the Rise to the Challenge campaign to raise money for much needed church roof and steeple repairs. The parishioners overwhelming responded to the $2.5 million need and raised more than the campaign’s goal in a four-month timeframe. Repair work began in August 2013 and was completed in March 2014. The scope of the project included a new copper steeple topped with a new cross, masonry repairs to the steeple and church, replacement of a shingle roof with a slate roof, reinstatement of the church’s original internal gutter system, and replacement of the white buttresses and coins of the exterior architecture with painted stainless-steel caps. Interior repairs included drywall and plaster repairs in the areas of the bell tower, main vestibule and side vestibules as well as the bathrooms. A new, larger cry room was installed under the west aisle of the balcony. Acoustic panels were installed to improve the sound quality within the church. New front doors were installed at the main entrances to the south, replacing doors that had been in place since 1970. Along with the church repairs, the campaign alleviated unpaid bills to the diocese in the amount of $800,000.

In 2014, Rev. David J. Hoefler was assigned by Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki as Vicar General of the Springfield Diocese, replacing Rev. Carl Kemme who had been appointed Bishop of the Diocese of Wichita. Rev. Christopher J. Brey was assigned as Pastor of St. Anthony of Padua, Sacred Heart, and St. Mary’s in Shumway, continuing the pastoral team arrangement for the Effingham and Shumway communities. In 2016, Principal Brandi Borries was promoted to Superintendent of Schools for the Diocese of Springfield, IL.  Matt Sturgeon succeeded Brandi Borries as principal of St. Anthony Grade School from 2016-2020.

In July 2017, Bishop Paprocki assigned Fr. Michal Rosa as pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Effingham, ending the six year stretch of team ministry for the Effingham and Shumway communities.  Later that fall, Fr. Chris Brey formerly submitted his resignation to Bishop Paprocki and the Diocese of Springfield, deciding to leave the active ministry of the priesthood.  Msgr. David Hoefler was assigned interim parochial administrator of St. Anthony and Annunciation until Fr. Chuck Edwards arrived in December 2017 as pastor then Fr. Mark Tracy arrived in July 2018 as parochial vicar.

St. Anthony Schools celebrated 150 years of Catholic Education and Formation with the 2018-2019 school year. The anniversary year was launched in September with a kickoff Mass and family fun day at the grade school. Events throughout the school year included a St. Anthony float in the Effingham Halloween Parade in October, an open house at the high school in November, special alumni Homecoming activities in December, a celebration of Catholic Schools Week at the end of January, an open house at the grade school in February, and the Bulldog Bash in April with attendance from St. Anthony alumni, parishioners, and school families. The anniversary year ended with Mass celebrated by Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki, concelebrated by priests that had been part of the St. Anthony community over the years with School Sisters of Notre Dame and other religious sisters in attendance.

In May 2019, St. Anthony Parish launched the A Time to Build campaign to raise $1.1 million for a new rectory facility. The existing rectory was built in the early 1950’s and was the parish’s third rectory at the time. The beauty and structure of the existing rectory had slowly diminished over the years as the needs of the church and schools were placed before the rectory. Demolition of the rectory began in the summer of 2020 and the parish’s fourth rectory was constructed and completed by the spring of 2021. The new facility provides a collection counters’ room off the north side of the church sacristy, a climate-controlled hallway from the church to the rectory, a basement for parish and school storage, as well as three suites, one guest room, and a private chapel within the rectory for the parish priests. The rectory was blessed by Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki on July 18, 2021.

In April 2020, Fr. Albert Allen was assigned as pastor of St. Anthony and Annunciation parishes amidst the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down the schools and the parish in March 2020. Cody Rincker was also promoted to Principal of St. Anthony Grade School with the start of the 2020-2021 school year. During this unprecedented time, St. Anthony Schools moved from in-class learning to remote learning for the final quarter of the 2019-2020 school year. St. Anthony Church closed for Mass, including the Easter Triduum, through May 2020. Masses moved online with daily live-streaming on Facebook and YouTube. In June 2020, churches were allowed to open at 25% capacity.  St. Anthony Church maintained 25% capacity for weekday and weekend Masses from June 2020 through May 2021.  Signs for seating were positioned at every third pew.  Masks or face coverings were required while in church. Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki provided dispensation from receiving the Holy Eucharist until the pandemic restrictions were lifted. The St. Anthony Parish Picnic was cancelled in August 2020.  In its place, the St. Anthony Picnic Raffles were promoted online in an effort to provide an alternative fundraiser for the parish and schools. By May 2021, signs for seating were removed in church; servers, gift bearers, and ushers returned; the baptismal font was filled and blessed; and holy water was made available at the entrances of church. By the end of June 2021, masks were considered optional.   St. Anthony parish began offering 6:30 am and 8:30 am daily Mass again. Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki removed the dispensation from receiving the Holy Eucharist except for those with serious health conditions or for those isolated or quarantined due to COVID-19.  Nursing homes and long-term care facilities began to re-open, allowing for distribution of the Eucharist. Despite the pandemic, St. Anthony Schools were able to provide in-person learning from the start of the school year in August 2020 through the last day of school in May 2021.  Face masks, frequent hand washing, social distancing, plastic desk and table dividers, and increased classroom and building sanitation occurred.

In early 2020, following the completion of the 2017 Diocesan Synod in Springfield, Fr. Al Allen and Fr. Mark Tracy brought a group of parishioners together to evaluate St. Anthony’s current parish mission and to review how well it reflected the diocesan goals of stewardship and discipleship. “Every parish must strive to become a total stewardship parish so that we may become a total stewardship diocese of intentional disciples.” The centrality of worship in the life, identity, and mission of the Catholic Church is this truth – “How we worship reflects what we believe and determines how we will live.” In reviewing the outcomes and goals of the 2017 Synod, this committee determined it was time to refresh St. Anthony’s parish mission statement which was more than 15 years old. An updated vision, mission, and set of values was established to be more intentional in building up the faith and energizing those within our parish and schools. In considering the full scope of becoming a total stewardship and discipleship parish, the parish and school logos were updated to better reflect the new mission, unifying our identity as St. Anthony and as a Catholic parish and school system.

In August 2022, Fr. Peter Harman arrived as pastor for St. Anthony Parish after spending nine years in Rome as rector of the North American College. After more than twenty years of joint ministry, St. Anthony Parish and Annunciation Parish in Shumway were assigned their own pastors. Fr. Michael Berndt joined St. Anthony Parish in July 2021 as parochial vicar and currently assists Fr. Harman with ministerial leadership of the parish and schools. With the 2022-2023 school year, Sandra Faber was promoted from teacher to assistant principal of St. Anthony Grade School, a new position created for the school in response to increased enrollment over the past ten years.

Help us preserve the history of St. Anthony

If you have historical photos or information that you would like to share, please submit them using our online form, or contact the Parish Office.