St. Stephen Church in Streator hosts final Mass

Monsignor says accomplishments should not be forgotten

The Rev. Monsignor Philip Halfacre greets parishioners as they exit St. Stephen Church for the last time Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023. The church is closing.

The Rev. Monsignor Philip Halfacre acknowledged Sunday was a historic day.

St. Stephen Church in Streator conducted its final Mass.

Speaking in his homily Sunday to an almost full St. Stephen Church, Halfacre said it is OK to shed tears, comparing the closure to a death in the family or with family members moving out of the house.

St. Stephen has served as the St. Michael the Archangel Parish church since September 2010. At that time, Streator’s four Catholic parishes, St. Stephen, St. Anthony, Immaculate Conception and St. Casimir, consolidated into one.

An announcement was made Sept. 20 that all Masses will move to St. Anthony Church, which has hosted regular Masses on Fridays for the St. Michael Catholic School for the past 12 years. Masses will be livestreamed from the church, Halfacre said.

The move was because St. Stephen had been deemed unsafe. In the Sept. 20 announcement, the pastor said St. Stephen needs to be tuckpointed from top to bottom and its foundation is in bad shape.

Although Halfacre said the 10:30 a.m. Sunday Mass was historic, it was business as usual. Aside from Halfacre’s homily and an announcement reminding parishioners of the move to St. Anthony beginning Monday, Oct. 2, the Mass was like any other with a reading of the Gospel and Holy Communion.

Some churchgoers declined the opportunity to comment after the Mass.

Halfacre told those in attendance Sunday that they should remember all that was accomplished in the church, highlighting the thousands of baptisms, communions, confirmations, weddings and funerals, even adding some of his accomplishments have occurred at St. Stephen.

“Closing a church doesn’t take away what has been accomplished,” Halfacre said.

St. Stephen Parish, in particular, is the first Catholic parish established by Slovak Americans in the U.S. It was formed in 1883, and the church was built in 1906.

Halfacre encouraged parishioners to move forward, especially in their spiritual lives, as the parish moves to St. Anthony Church, just a few blocks down the road.

As of Monday, St. Anthony will be the new parish church. In the Sept. 20 announcement, Halfacre said moving to St. Anthony is a temporary solution. Healy-Bender-Patton & Been, an architectural firm, estimates the cost of repairing St. Anthony Church to be about $4 million, not including repairs that may need to be made to the twin steeples.

Church goers exit St. Stephen Church in Streator on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023, after the final Mass was held. St. Anthony Church now will serve as the parish church of St. Michael the Archangel's Parish.