The German and Irish Catholics were among the first to settle in the city of Minonk. The nearest Catholic churches were in Lacon, Metamora and Lourdes on the west. LaSalle on the north, Bloomington on the south and Pontiac on the east. When the church was established at El Paso, the Catholics in and near Minonk gradually became attached to it because it was more convenient. In the fall of 1865 the resident pastor of El Paso and the Catholics in the Minonk area met and decided to build a church of their own in the town. A lot about four or five blocks southwest of the Illinois Central depot was selected and a frame building 65 feet long was erected. Services were held every two weeks by Father Keenan. He was followed by Father Costa and Father Keating. In 1878 the Franciscan Fathers of the Cincinnati Province in Ohio were invited to take charge of the parish. Father Pacific was put in charge as the first resident pastor, with Father Paul as his assistant. These two Franciscan Fathers were introduced to the people of Minonk on the first day of September 1878 by Father Keating at the request of the Right Rev. J.L. Spaulding D.D., then bishop of the Diocese of Peoria.
The site of the present church property was purchased in 1880 and the old church was moved there. A pastoral residence was built and ready for occupancy by October of that year. When Father Innocent took over the parish in 1887 he found it in a flourishing condition and the congregation growing. He was also, that a new church was a matter of necessity. By 1892 he had accumulated enough money so that with the promise of the congregation to donate whatever more was necessary he felt justified in beginning the erection of the present beautiful edifice which was to last for so many, many years. The structure is of brick with stone finish and is 125 feet long, 60 feet wide and 45 feet high. The beautiful spire, rising majestically toward heaven, is 165 feet high and is a landmark which can be seen for miles around. The architecture is of Roman style. The interior is richly frescoed and over the arches are beautifully hand painted pictures-really works of art. Certainly the Minonk Catholic church compares well in grandeur and enduring the construction with any of the churches in a wide area and is a source of pride to its congregation and community. In 1978 (When this article was published) this edifice and its contents could not be duplicated for less than $300,000. It was dedicated September 15, 1892.
Father Isidore took up the good work in 1894. In that winter a special donation of a main high altar of Roman style to harmonize with the church was made by Mrs. Abbie Breen, grandmother of Arthur and Maurice Roche of Chicago. In the spring of 1896 a fine crucifixion group was donated and imported from Germany. The figures are of hand carved wood- a piece of art which it would be hard to duplicate. All of the windows in the church are of beautifully stained glass and were donated as memorials by families in the parish. The school and the Sister's convent were built during the pastorate of Father Isidore. Father Edward Leary built the new rectory. The whole church plant is well located in one of the finest residence districts of the city and makes a remarkably attractive appearance. Other pastors, all of whom served the parish faithfully and well include Father Maurice, Father Bertrand who came from Streator and remained in Minonk a long time: Father Generose and Father Patrick. In the year 1903 St. Patrick church was free of debt and on Sunday, August 30, of that year the church was consecrated in the presence of the Most Rev. Diomode Falconio from Washington D.C. Apostolic Delegate to the United States. At that time St. Patrick church was the second parish church to be consecrated in the Peoria Diocese, the cathedral at Peoria being the first.
The names of old settlers associated with the parish are J.A. Riley, William H. Ryan, Michael Gibbons, William Tobin, Arnold Brandt, James Langan, George Hindert, Bernard Brockling, John H. Golden, and John Fehring.
In 1950, Rev. Osmond Braun O.F.M. was pastor of the church. He arrived in Minonk in July 1935. During his administration many improvements have been made including substantial repairs and he has won the loyalty and generous support of the people of the parish. The women of the church carry on their work through the Altar and Rosary Society which has 135 members and has as its president Mrs. Vera Mae Rich. Mrs. Lucille Ketchmark is vice president; and Mrs. Edward Barr, secretary; and Mrs. Aline Schneider, treasurer. The officers of the Holy Name Society are as follows: John Louis, president; Charles Finlen, vice president; Fred Rutkowski, secretary; and Arthur Ganister, treasurer. The society has a membership of 138. The St. Patrick Civic Club is composed of grade school students who conduct their meetings in the school building. The trustees of the church are Walter D Hayes and Harold Vogel. Charles Finlen, Charles Shepherd, Ray Oltman, Norbert Petri, Henry McGough and John Konwinski are ushers.
Father Ambrose Kroger became the next pastor and under his pastorate, various other renovations were accomplished. In 1960, the family of Neil Esposito donated a new electric Wicks pipe organ, in memory of Regina Esposito, their wife and mother. On Sunday, May 15, 1960 Arthur Eymans, who was then the music instructor for the Minonk School Unit, presented a recital on the organ, which contains eight sets of speaking pipes, 38 stop keys, with a total of 523 pipes including 11,769 notes. The pedal and chime section is dispersed on either side of the two chambers with the pipes exposed. The instrument is operated by an exclusive patented all-electric system, thereby adding to the versatility and flexibility of the organ. The organ replaced the Hinners and Albrecht pipe organ made in Pekin and installed after the dedication of the church in the fall of 1893. Also participating in the recital were Sharon Sabol, the regular church organist, and senior choir member, Frank Rutkowski. On Sunday, December 26, 1965 St. Patrick's held an open house for viewing their newly-renovated church. Father Clarence Tittel was the pastor during this tie when the front entrance of the church was revamped, bricks tuck-pointed, a new roof installed and the steeple reinforced and topped with a five and one-half foot stainless steel cross. The interior was also redone, with complete replastering repainting, the vestibule screened, using oak paneling, and the stairway moved for greater convenience. All new church pews were also installed during this time. The sanctuary is of oak paneling placed eight feet from the floor. The Altar of Repose is also of oak, finished in a dark fruitwood stain and it features a large crucifix twenty-five feet high, upon which is a figure of Christ of hand-carved linden wood. The statues above the side altars, as well as the stations of the cross are also of hand-carved linden wood.
During the pastorate of Father Leo Pfeiffer, new glass doors were installed across the front of the vestibule of the church, adding greatly to the beauty of the building. About the same time, a lighted church bulletin board, donated by the Rossman family was installed in front of the church.
Also while Father Leo was pastor, following a fire which broke out in the school building in the early morning hours of Saturday, March 11, 1967, much of the building was renovated. This included paneling of the lard dining room, and a new floor. The kitchen was also completely remodeled, giving the parishioners a modern and convenient place to work during parish social functions.
Classes in the school, which began in 1882, ended on May 28, 1971 with the Sister's withdrawal from Minonk. The final enrollment figures showed eighty-six pupils. However, Father Leo immediately made arrangements for CCD classes for the children with volunteer lay persons of the parish teaching the children at Sunday morning classes.
In 1976, the altar railing was removed from the church and red carpeting was installed in the sanctuary, aisles and vestibule of the church. This work was done during the pastorate of Father Francis Keene who also had a large, two-car garage added as an addition to the north of the rectory. Also a number of air conditioning window units were installed for the comfort of the pastor and those using the rectory at various times.
Father Frank Frey became pastor of St. Patrick's in 1976 and under his leadership many other changes took place. Two wooden confessionals located in the front of the church to the east and west of the side altars, were removed early in 1977. The room located off the vestibule used as a Baptismal Room, was remodeled and became a Reconciliation Room for the new Rite of Penance. The sanctuary flor was extended over the area from which the confessionals were removed, and the side walls remodeled to match the remainder of the sanctuary. A statue of St. Patrick, believed to be one of the original statues of the church, was installed on the east extension. The statue was renovated in 1976 as a gift to the parish from the CCD children and other interested persons of the parish. A walnut baptismal font, graciously donated by the Louis family, was installed on the west extension. Both extensions were accented with black wrought iron posts and chains, and chandeliers to match the main light fixtures of the church. Late in 1977, in anticipation of celebrating the one hundredth year Jubilee, the church was entirely redecorated in tones of tan to gold, with gold leaf trim added to the pillar caps. Also a gold vinyl accent paper was placed in the arch where the crucifix hangs above the Altar of Repose. The side altars, upon the recommendation of the bishops liturgical committee, were reduced in size and are now used as stands for decorating the sanctuary at various times. Furniture in the sanctuary was also redone, and a new pulpit and readers' stand installed. A solid gold chalice and paten and new linen altar cloths were purchased by the Altar and Rosary Society of the parish in anticipation of the Jubilee and the automatic church bells and chimes in the tower were also repaired for the celebration. Numerous other projects were undertaken, including the redecorating of the rectory living room. This project was also initiated by the Altar and Rosary Society, aided financially by other church societies. Storm windows and insulation were added to the rectory, new outside security lights were erected, and the parking lot enlarged to encourage off-street parking during services and parish events.
The later 1980's brought the end of the Franciscan Ministry to Minonk. In 1988 Father Robert Gilles became pastor of St. Patrick's. He had the church remodeled for the hundredth anniversary of the church. During the time that the church was being remodeled, the parishioners attended masses in the school hall. Father Gilles had the entire church revamped. Painted in shades of blues, wall to wall carpeting, new lighting, air conditioning, and a new sound system were all parts of the renovations. The Altar of Repose was also moved from under the crucifix to the east side of the altar. A new altar was built to match the oak paneling and the tabernacle was placed in the new Altar of Repose. During Father Gilles' time in Minonk, he was avid with photography and always had a bulletin board in the vestibule full of activities that were happening throughout the parish. He also had the classrooms in the school carpeted and repainted, as well as the hall, kitchen and hallways laid with new vinyl tiles. During this time, St. Joseph Flanagan became a mission parish to St. Patrick's and Father Gilles was pastor to the people of Flanagan as well as Minonk. Father Gilles stayed with us until his retirement in 2001.
In the new millenium, brought more changes to St. Patrick's. Father Gilles became Pastor Emeritus and Father Donald Henderson had become pastor of St. Patrick's. The Diocese had removed St. Joseph as a mission of Minonk and had assigned Father Don to St. Patrick's of Minonk and St. Mary's El Paso. He split his time staying in both rectories. Father Don only stayed with us for a year and was moved to St. Matthew's in Champaign. Our next pastor was Father Daniel Wilder. During Father Dan's time, the rectory living room, dining room and offices were remodeled and re-carpeted. Father Dan left and our next big change was another move with other parishes. We became a cluster parish with St. Mary Wenona and St. John the Baptist in Lostant with Father Stanley Deptula. Father Deptula was our administrator for a year and then Father Ray Guthrie was brought in as our next administrator. Father Ray brought our parish back to life and was the first priest to not preach from the pulpit. Not only was he involved in our parish but also helped coach the Fieldcrest basketball team. In Father Ray's time, he put in a new boiler for the church and took us back to black with our finances. Father Ray became our pastor and stayed with us until 2004. In 2005, the Franciscans returned bringing Father Luke Poczworowski. Father Luke was from the Province of St. Boneventure where our other Franciscan Friars were from the Province of St. John the Baptist in Cincinnati Ohio. Along with Father Luke, the Lord brought along with him, his right hand man. Brother Fran McGann. Both Father and Brother brought a bubbly, and spiritual atmosphere to St. Patrick's. In the 2010's the Diocese made some more changes and we became again another cluster parish this time adding St. Ann's in Toluca and Sacred Heart in Rutland. Father Luke was assisted with Father Hanz Flondor splitting their time between each of the parishes. Brother Fran was sent back out east and Brother Juniper Kriss arrived. With our cluster parishes, changes had to be made. Father Luke had decided that one mass in Minonk would best fit so St. Patrick's was dropped down to Saturday evenings and Tuesday mornings as the only times Mass were held. Father Luke did his best to keep up on the parish involving the children especially during the Christmas Eve masses and having a birthday cake each year for Jesus' birthday for our parishioners. In 2013 Father Luke made the decision to close Sacred Heart. Father Luke retired in 2013 and Father Stephen McKinley was assigned as our pastor. In addition to Father Steve, we had Father David Huebner join us from down under. Father David is from Australia. In 2017 we had one more addition to our parish as Pastor. Father Patrick Greenough has taken on all of our cluster parishes as pastor. In 2019 Father Pat, had all of our hall and church lighting revamped to LED technology, and is making changes as he sees fit. Banners added to our front light posts, new sacrasty and hall doors and many other things to come in the near future.
Please, contact us if you happen to have more to add or correct part of our history. If you happen to have any old photos, etc. we gladly will post them to our website.