History of St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church
Welcoming... Growing... Active...
Surely, the presence of the Lord is in this place
We hope you'll visit us at St. Thomas Parish soon. Our "home," an orange brick church at 1500 Brookdale Road on Naperville's northwest side, is fronted by a statue of our namesake. We're very proud of this statue because it truly is unique: one of our founding parishioners designed and executed it. The St. Thomas statue embraces our fondest desires to praise God and ask his blessings on our activities.
The building itself traces its roots to the plans and high hopes our founders had for what was a 10-acre cornfield almost 25 years ago. We were an eager corps of some 300 families when we officially became a parish on June 19, 1984, and celebrated Mass for the first time the weekend of June 30 – July 1. The Rev. Jim Curtin – Father Jim – also was installed as our first pastor at that time by the Most Rev. Joseph L. Imesch, bishop of the Joliet Diocese. In those days before the church building was dedicated Sept. 13, 1986, Mass was celebrated down the street at Thayer Hill Middle School.
That first decade was a busy time: our community grew to include about 3,100 families; and we organized many ministries to help run the parish, and to serve our needs as well as those of the community beyond our immediate parish family. A rectory also was built, and a ministry center was added to the church building to provide offices, meeting rooms and a gymnasium. In no time at all – or so it seemed – we celebrated our 10th anniversary. A six-month series of events culminated the weekend of June 4 - 5, 1994, when special Masses were celebrated and $10,000 was donated to two charitable diocesan institutions; church memorabilia were displayed; and children received anniversary balloons and gathered around the statue of St. Thomas in front of the church for a commemorative picture. Anniversary celebrations were bittersweet, however, because Father Jim would be leaving.
Our new pastor, the Rev. Donald W. Kenny, installed July 17, 1994, continued building on the sound foundation that greeted him on his arrival. And, as the new millennium approached, Father Don's forward thinking helped establish commissions through which parishioners became more actively involved in decision-making processes affecting all church activities. The commissions were up and running by fall 1999, when our membership totaled some 3,800 families. (More about PLC Commisssions.)
Also welcoming the year 2000 were millennium activities that included a Millennium Meditation Garden and Labyrinth, and the St. Thomas Meditation Park, a verdant area for reflection. Indoors, a stained glass memorial in the narthex celebrates the life of Christ, Vatican II, St. Thomas Parish, community service, world unity and the return of Christ in nine brilliantly-hued panels. Through the Twinning Project, we also paired with St. Marie-Madeleine Parish in Duchity, Haiti, the poorest country in the hemisphere, in an agreement of mutually beneficial support.
In the fall of 2001, Father Don announced his decision to pursue his life-long dream to become a missionary, and we continue to support his efforts as he lives and does God's work among the poor in Ecuador.
The Rev. Joel Fortier arrived in early summer 2002 to become our third pastor, and was formally installed Sept. 22. His major interests include: responding to the need for a regional Catholic School, the Spirituality of Stewardship and spiritual renewal.
All Saints Catholic Academy, located about two miles from St. Thomas Church, opened in fall 2005, providing the added dimension of religious education to students in grades pre-K through five. We joined with St. Elizabeth Seton Parish and St. Margaret Mary Parish in sponsoring this school that eventually will serve students through the eighth grades. During that first year, 75 youngsters representing 51 St. Thomas families attended. By fall 2007, we had 126 youngsters representing 90 St. Thomas families attending All Saints Academy, and the school enrolled students through grade seven.
Fr. Joel also embraced the Spirituality of Stewardship: the concept that all we have is grace – a gift from God – and our role is to be responsible stewards of all our gifts of time, talent and treasure. The goal of our Stewardship Commission is to guide parishioners toward mature discipleship and using our gifts for the greater good of all.
Since his arrival, Father Joel also has initiated the Pastoral Care Department that strives to serve the physical, spiritual and emotional needs of parishioners.
In September 2006, award-winning Christian rock composer and recording artist John Angotti began a two-year commitment as visiting guest artist at St. Thomas, funded through the courtesy of a group of parish families. This Music Missionary spends five consecutive days each month at the parish, headlining selected weekend Masses, various services and special events.
While we anticipate our silver anniversary as a faith community in 2009, we continue to celebrate the past and prayerfully consider our future. New projects and activities are undertaken as needs arise, reflecting the vitality and interest of parishioners who recall and perpetuate the hallmarks of our original founding community: praying, and loving and serving God, each other and our neighbors wherever we find them.
By Cheryl J. Marshall