St. John the Baptist Catholic Church  

  

Church Address:  703 East Main Street, West Frankfort, IL 62896

Phone: (618) 932-2828

Fax: (618) 937-0200

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St. John the Baptist

St John the Baptist parish was founded in West Frankfort, Illinois in 1916. We are a parish within the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois. We consist of a church and a pre-kindergarten through 8th grade school. The school website may be accessed through the 'School' link at the top of this page.

Mission Statement

We at St. John the Baptist Parish are a faith-filled community who, through prayerful discernment, call forth the gifts of the Spirit given to each individual, that Christ may be known in our community and in our world. We hold before us the goal of being a vibrant and welcoming community that provides for and participates in a variety of ministries, services and events that support discipleship and promote God’s power and presence in our daily lives.

History

The first Catholics of West Frankfort attended Mass in Johnston City, a small town about six miles south. As more Catholics settled in West Frankfort, the demand for local services became greater and West Frankfort was named a mission to the Johnston City Church. In 1914 Mass was first held in West Frankfort at the Bergin home. On July 5, 1916, West Frankfort received its first resident priest, when Rt. Rev. H. Althoff of Belleville appointed Rev. Joseph Tragessor to take full charge of the Catholics in this community as a separate parish. After Tragessor's arrival, a block of ground was purchased for a church site. The lot was located in Frankfort Heights at the corner of Clark and Day Streets. On November 1, 1916, after the completion of the new church, a new rectory was built just east of the church. Rev. Tragessor's new home was ready in the fall of 1917 at the cost of approximately $5,000. The original church is pictured below.

St. John the Baptist Church - 1916

During the next few years, the congregation of St. John's grew and by 1920 the little church could no longer accommodate its members. In January 1921 Father Tragessor announced that the parish would erect a fine, new church at the site of the present rectory. The projected cost of the building was between $30,000 and $40,000 and work was to begin in March. There is no record of what may have changed those plans, but on February 19, 1921, the local paper printed the headline, "Catholics to Build on East Main Street." The story announced that, "a deal has been closed whereby St. John's Catholic Church has purchased a site for its proposed splendid new church on East Main Street, immediately east of the new Community High School Building." The reason given for the chosen site was that the church in the Heights was no longer centrally located for the parishioners. Frankfort had spread further west with the newer coal mines. A professional church architect in St. Louis, Missouri drew plans and specifications for a new church of brick, steel, and stone.

On July 18, 1921, the cornerstone was laid for the new church. The local paper printed, "The day made a splendid beginning with the daily Mass which was said in the old church on the hill by the Rev. Dean Gillen of Cairo. The little church was filled to capacity ... at 12:30 p.m. the members of the parish gathered at the corner of Main and Locust Streets to receive their banners, badges, sashes, and flags for the parade." The parade was followed by a summary of events and speeches, which took place at the church site, before the 3,000 West Frankfort citizens who had gathered there. A copper box was laid in the cornerstone, containing "pertinent signs of the times," including: a list of all donors to the St. John's first parochial school.

School classes began in two rooms of the convent and remained there for about four months during 1921. The first school opened with 168 pupils and 4 teachers who were nuns from the Order of Franciscan Sisters in St. Louis, Missouri. On April 28, 1976, an organizational meeting for the construction of a new school was held under the direction of Fr. John Baggio. The school was built and students moved into the new facility on April 3, 1978. The old 61-year old school building was torn down and the ground on which it stood was made into playground and parking area. The old rectory was torn down and a new one was constructed on the same site. The buildings are major landmarks in the city.


Founded 1916 - A parish of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Belleville, Illinois.