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Church in Sugar Grove has first service Thursday

The sanctuary of the new St. Katharine Drexel Church is seen in Sugar Grove. The church will hold its first Mass on Thanksgiving.
The sanctuary of the new St. Katharine Drexel Church is seen in Sugar Grove. The church will hold its first Mass on Thanksgiving.

SUGAR GROVE – The sounds of construction – hammering and sawing – filled the air Monday, and workers were walking in and out of the new home of St. Katharine Drexel Catholic Church.

Preparations are under way, and although there were some important details remaining, the church is ready for opening day. Thanksgiving Mass will be celebrated at 9 a.m. Thursday at the church, which is at 8S055 Dugan Road in Sugar Grove.

On Monday, the altar was being installed, and volunteers were stocking the kitchen. There was a buzz in the air as church workers were hammering out details. The Rev. Bob Jones was moving from room to room in their massive new home, an $8 million project that will move the church from its temporary homes – a small office on Main Street in Sugar Grove where daily Mass has been celebrated, and John Shields Elementary School, which housed the church’s weekend Masses.

Starting Thursday, the new church on Dugan Road is the parish’s home. It’s a little behind the original schedule, but Jones said he was pleased that Thanksgiving will be its opening day. It’s the first of several key dates. There will be a full weekend of Masses set for the weekend, 4:30 p.m. Saturday and 7:30, 9 and 10:30 a.m. Sunday. And then Dec. 1, there will be a dedication ceremony that will be a grand-opening event.

But Thanksgiving, Jones said, was an important date.

“As we got closer, I kept asking, ‘Can we be in by Thanksgiving?’ ” Jones said. “One, because it gives us a little time before December 1. But two, it’s just such an appropriate day. We are all grateful. We are all thankful for where we’re at. It’s a perfect day.”

The church was launched four years ago – in fact, the weekend of Dec. 1 will be exactly four years – Jones said. He credited the Rich family for donating 20 acres, as well as money for the building project. Without the Rich family, he said, there would be no church. Also, parishioners have raised more than $1.5 million for the cause. And, he said, there will be some debt.

Jerry Rich, the owner of Rich Harvest Farms, said his family decided to start the process for the church because there was a need.

“The community didn’t have a Catholic church,” Rich said. He said talks began with the Diocese of Rockford, and the project was under way. It’s about family as well – St. Katharine is in honor of his mother, and the chapel is named for St. Anthony, which is his father’s name.

There is much excitement over the church’s opening. Kathy Salerno was among the church workers busy on Monday, doing her part to prepare. Salerno said she helped set up the school for the church experience, and she said she will miss that part, but she is excited for the future.

“Obviously, it’s a wonderful gift from the Riches,” she said. “Forever, we’ll be thanking them.”

Salerno has watched the new church take shape, and she marvels at the progress that has been made. There is space to seat 370 in the pews, and chairs can be set up just outside to accommodate 200 more. There are offices down a hallway, with plenty of space. And downstairs, there is ample room for religious education classes.

“It’s just so awesome when you walk into that chapel and see it,” she said.

Salerno said there was a need for a church in the community. Another parishioner, Ed O’Connell, talked of how pleased he is that he is able to attend daily Mass, something that wasn’t possible before because people had to travel out of town to attend a Catholic church. That became possible four years ago, and Thursday will bring an even greater change.

O’Connell said people are ready to celebrate.

“I think the house is going to be packed,” he said.

Jones will be prepared for that, as he expects a bigger crowd than usual.

“At Thanksgiving, we usually have around 130,” he said. “I think you can double that.”

Opening day

Thanksgiving Mass will be the first event celebrated by St. Katharine Drexel Catholic Church. It starts at 9 a.m. Thursday at 8S055 Dugan Road, Sugar Grove.

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