The History of St. Germaine Parish
This family had its beginning when one of the assistants from St. Philip Neri Parish, Father Walter J. Sheridan was called to the Chancery Office by his Eminence Albert Cardinal Meyer on June 6, 1962. Cardinal Meyer appointed him to found a new parish in the vicinity of 95th and Kildare in Oak Lawn. The impetuous new pastor hurried out to the site of his new parish and started immediately to lay the groundwork for what was later to become “The Family of St. Germaine.”
There is a certain charm and enthusiasm that is found only in beginnings. A place had to be found for our pioneer congregation to celebrate its Masses. A visit to Brother Bates at Brother Rice High School solved this problem. Brother Bates graciously offered the facilities of the high school for the needs of the new parish.
With this problem solved, the next hurdle to clear was that of establishing boundaries with the neighboring parishes. Until this understanding could be reached, the new parish could not be canonically erected, nor could it be given a name. Neighboring pastors Monsignor John Vitha of Queen of Martyrs, Monsignor William McNichols of St. Gerald, and Father Bernard Burns of St. Linus were consulted about the boundaries, since the new parish was to be made up of parts of their parishes. They cooperated in forming “the perfect parish in the perfect square mile” which was to become the new parish of Saint Germaine. Monsignor Vitha extended Father Sheridan an invitation to reside at Queen of Martyrs’ rectory until the new parish could provide a rectory.
Hand bills were distributed door to door in the area by high school boys from St. Philip Neri parish. These hand bills explained the boundaries of the new parish and invited all to Holy Mass at Brother Rice High School starting Sunday, July 1, 1962. Masses were held at 7, 9, and 11 o’clock with 1,100 people in attendance.
Father Sheridan then returned to the chancery office to notify Cardinal Meyer that boundaries were now set, to petition the Cardinal for canonical erection and to offer suggestions as to the name under whose patronage the spiritual and material growth would begin.
The catalogue of names in “The Lives of the Saints” was checked and re-checked. Priests and lay friends offered many names. In January, a convert had given Father Sheridan a brief history of a Saint whose life made a lasting impression on her. After reading it, that name burned in Father Sheridan’s mind. Here was the Saint for the parish; a Saint whose history read like a fairy tale; the Saint who was known as the “Cinderella Saint.” This name was submitted to Cardinal Meyer, who gave ready acquiescence, and the Patron Saint became Saint Germaine.
By coincidence, the July, 1962 issue of Extension Magazine featured the life story of the “Cinderella Saint.” Extension Magazine supplied Father Sheridan with 600 copies of that issue which were distributed to the loyal pioneer families who had been attending masses in the gym at Brother Rice High School.
On July 23, 1962 the Parish of St. Germaine was canonically (officially) erected and Father Sheridan took the required Profession of Faith establishing him as Pastor on July 27th, 1962.
The next important visit Father Sheridan made was to Reverend Martin Collins, Superior of the Columban Fathers. His purpose was to seek the help of one of the priests of this order to offer Mass for the people of St. Germaine each Sunday. Over the course of time, every Columban Father residing at that mission headquarters has offered Mass at St. Germaine.
In late September, 1962, a house was acquired at 99th and Kenton to serve as a temporary rectory. Since it was also to become the convent when the Sisters arrived, a beautiful Chapel was constructed through the “moonlighting” of the parish men with an assist from the ladies. It was called the Shrine Chapel and the first Mass was said there on November 19, 1962 at seven o’clock. Daily masses were offered, confessions were heard and Baptism was administered there until the church was opened.
With no facilities of their own, the parishioners were fortunate to have such kindly and zealous friends as Blake-Lamb Funeral Home and Kilty’s Restaurant. These places were the scene of Parish meetings and of Parish events. The first Parish meeting was held at Blake-Lamb and after discussion, representatives of about three-hundred families agreed that every effort should be made to plan only permanent buildings and to borrow as much as possibly could be obtained from the Archdiocese to achieve these goals.
The weeks that followed saw the beginnings of the Women’s Club and the Holy Name Society. The Parish, comprising segments of three separate parishes, needed to be welded together. These two organizations set up offices on the basis of a President from each section. This began the period of rule by “Troika” – a three headed organization. How well this system worked is evident in the vigorous status of these organizations today.
The first Campaign Fund Raising Drive was started in March, 1963. The Groundbreaking Ceremony was held August 4, 1963. Monsignor James Hardiman and Mother Estelle turned the first spadesful of earth, followed by men, women and children picked at random. Construction began soon after, and the cornerstone was laid in November of the same year.
As the buildings were close to being completed, news came from His Eminence, Cardinal Meyer, assigning Reverend Anthony J. Clair as our first Assistant. He received a hearty welcome and set to work immediately. In accordance with the new liturgy, Fr. Clair initiated the training program for readers and commentators, urged parishioners to participate in the singing at Mass, and generally availed himself to be of service to all. The first Mass offered in the new church was on July 26th, 1964.