The old Immaculate Conception Church building in Morris was demolished from Wednesday to Friday in the first week of October, closing a 153-year chapter in the history of the local Catholic community.
The decision to demolish the landmark was made by the Diocese of Joliet over the summer. Diocese Executive Assistant Alex Rechenmacher said that although it was sad the building would be demolished because substantial water and fire damage to the church over the years made renovation untenable.
“The church will live on. The people are the church more than any building,” Rechenmacher said.
A group of around 40 parishioners and curious community members watched the beginning of the demolition Tuesday afternoon.
They stood near the playground across the street as the teeth of the demolition crane bit into the red brick exterior near the chimney. Some observers had tears in their eyes, whereas many others recorded the event on their smartphones.
"This is a melancholy moment for a lot of people. It's sad that we're saying goodbye, but it's happy when we think of how well the building served us over the years," said Kim Deslauriers, who retired as principal of Immaculate Conception School in 2018. "My belief is that the building is just a vehicle for the people. One good thing
I can think of in this situation is that there's a beautiful ginko tree in the garden behind the church. It's probably older than any of our parish members. When the church comes down, people will be able to see it from the road."
Mina Green of Morris had tears in her eyes as she watched the demolition. She said she didn’t grow up with the building, but said that because she’s Catholic, she understands how much a church can mean to a parish.
"I grew up Catholic and went to a Catholic school in Los Angles," Green said.
"I can't imagine how I'd feel if my church over there was demolished. So many years and generations have touched this church, and it's so sad it's going away."
Sister M. Debrah Funfsinn teaches at ICS and lives near the church. She said that although it’s sad the building is coming down, it was a good decision because the building was falling apart.
“Everyone’s been talking about all the memories they’ve made in this church. Marriages, first communions, confirmations,” Funfsinn said. “We’ll always have those memories. A church is nothing without the sacraments that we practice and the people who live in it. The blessings we received here are still in our hearts.”
The first Immaculate
Conception Church of Morris was built in 1866 by the
Rev. Thomas Ryan.
The building underwent renovations in 1905 after a fire tore through it – as well as more renovations after another fire in 1990 erupted after the church was struck by lightning. A pipe organ had even been installed in 1974.
ICC began raising money for a larger building in 2002, and it dedicated a new parish building Sept. 25, 2011.
The Rev. Ed Howe of ICC had said in 2011 that the congregation was open to the switch because the old building would live on in the new.
“What made the difference is what I call items of religious heritage,” Howe said. “The stained-glass windows, the Stations of the Cross, the organ and other items [that were in the old church] are in this church now.