Church of St. Mary of Help, Green Creek, Effingham County, Illinois
Established in 1858
Present Pastor: Reverend Frederick Neveling
Green Creek originally laid out in town lots and named Marytown, is situated about one and one-fourth miles west of the Illinois Central Railroad and the new State Road No. 25. (Now present day Illinois Route 45, ed.) It is seven miles north of Effingham and nine miles from Teutopolis.
Its history and early beginnings are interwoven well with that of both towns and parishes. The first settlers of these communities emigrated from Hanover and Oldenburg, Germany, about the year 1838, came to Cincinnati, Ohio and then followed the general trend of that time of "going west" finally settling in Effingham County. The spiritual needs of these sturdy Christians were served by various visiting priests. We must remember that the strictly bounded Dioceses as we have them now were not in existence then, and the Ecclesiastical authorities had to cover a wide territory.
To come closer to the proper beginning of the new Green Creek parish the Right Reverend Bishop, Anthony O'Regan, of Chicago, then also Administrator of the newly formed Diocese of Quincy (later Alton and still later Springfield), sent Reverend Thomas Frauenhofer by a decree of January 9, 1857, to St. Mary (later Green Creek)and Broughton (later Effingham) So our Reverend Missionary set out on horseback for a point 200 miles from Chicago straight south. For a time he seemed well satisfied to serve God and his faithful flocks in the gentleness of the woods and the quietness of the prairie. For six months he attended the different parishes alternately, Green Creek, Broughton and also Teutopolis. At this time the newly consecrated and First Bishop of Alton, Henry Damian Juncker, D.D., came to administer confirmation. After a lengthy discussion Father Frauenhofer restricted his efforts to the Green Creek community.
Soon he laid his plan to build a new brick church. Up to that time an old blockhouse had served as school and church for seventeen years. Forty-five families subscribed at once the sum of $3,685.00, but circumstances prevented the realization of the plans. Herman Henry Koors and Joseph Remme were appointed to collect this sum, while John Osterhaus had as far back as 1846 donated 40 acres for church purposes. Others to be mentioned at this time were: Fred Johann Meyer, N. N. Nuxoll, Johannn Henry Gerdes, Joseph Paul Sangmeister, Johann Henry, Zumbahlen, Herman Kettmann, Joseph Wente, Johann Bernard Knobbe, Wilhelm Kabbes, Herman Henery Strubbers, Bernard Gruenloh, Bernard Iming, Hohann Gerhard Riemann, Clemens August Niemann, Jacob Doedtmann, Bernard Ahrens, Hohann Uhlorn, Herman Henry Mette, Herman Henry Tegekamp, Ferdinand Kaufman, Heinrich Bernard Sur, Gerhard Henry Lohman, Johann Heinrich Koelker, Bernard Henry Sanders, Henry Unkraut and Gerhard Woltes.
As it sometimes happened in those days, the parish was effected by factions. The south side wished to have the new church near them and offered to make a new donation of ground; others held grievances, imaginary or otherwise, against the pastor and when they realized that he would continue to carry out his plans, some of theme went to extremes. It may be mentioned here that the pastor in a spirit of self-sacrifice, taught school himself. However, he found the opposition distasteful and finally resigned his charge. At a later date he died in a hospital in St. Louis.
Father Frauerhofer himself relates that during his pastorate the Right Reverend Bishop entrusted Teutopolis to the new coming Franciscan Gathers. These Fathers began a convent and college there. It was but natural that the same Fathers, in the course of time, attended the surrounding places. Thus Green Creek parish was in their charge between the years 1860 and 1893.
The first pastor of Green Creek under the Franciscans was Reverend Capistran Zwings. He labored there during the years from 1858 to 1862, and zealous as his predecessor, he soon organized the four societies in the parish. These four societies were for the young men, the young ladies, the married men, and the married ladies. Now began a period of holy zeal and the building of the new church progressed rapidly. Its progress was so rapid that the Bishop, coming for Conformation, could lay the Corner stone in 1860. The next pastor, Father Damian Hennewig, who was there from 1862-1864, saw the tower finished. Father Raynerious Dickneite, who succeeded Father Damien as pastor from 1864 to 1865, witnessed the completion and consecration of the new edifice; a grand occasion and one of great solemnity to the whole Diocese. On this occasion Father Commissar Kilian served as archpriest, and Fathers Raynerius and Reinhards as deacon and subdeacon respectively. The seminarians of the college enhanced the pontifical celebration by rendering a beautiful Mass. The year 1865 saw the church frescoed. It was also in this year the celebrated Jesuit missionary, Father Weniger, gave a mission.
To continue the line of pastor: Father Kilian Schlosser served in 1865, Father Eugenius Puers in 1866, and Father Nazarius Kommerscheid, who purchased a second 882 pound bell, which was named Mary of Perpetual Help. From 1869-1873 we see Father Francis Albers acting as pastor of Green Creek parish. He took a great interest in his charge. To him is due the elegant brick schoolhouse. He also had the church roof renewed. Forty Hours' Devotion, which lapsed for a time but was taken up again in the year of 1912, was first introduced by him. After Father Albers the following served in succession: Fathers Hohn Rings, 1873-75; Anselm Puz, 1875-77; Paul Teroerde, 1877-78; Andrew Butzkeuben, 1878-79; Symphorian Fortsmann, 1879-84; Sebastian Cebulla, 1884-85; Mark Thienel, Polycarp Rhode and finally Reverend Aloysius Wiewer, under whom, at the end of November, the parish was given back to the Bishop, who thereupon appointed Father Storp the first resident pastor.
Father Storp at once proceeded with the construction of a splendid commodious two-story brick residence, and the good farmers, equally proud of their new pastor, helped him in every way to accomplish his purpose. He had but to express his wish and they cheerfully complied with its execution, for they soon had learned to love and respect their good pastor, whose demands never exceeded the bounds of reasonable necessity. At the same time he proved to have a wise foresight. As he expressed it himself: "In order to make my successors feel at home in this far off place" - he built a fine vineyard around a little lake. The Franciscan Fathers had, at the same time, relinquished Lillyville, a parish five miles distant, and this place was also attended by Father Storp, not only on Sundays but often during the week. Not wishing to inconvenience the farmers especially when the busy season was on, he would walk the distance. On warm summer mornings when the dewdrops still sparkled on ferns and grasses, he would pull off his boots and sock, sling them over his shoulders an a hickory sapling and make for Lillyville saying his prayers and meditations on the way. In the course of time Lillyville received its own pastor. Father Storp's tasks came to a close. A violent attack of pneumonia, which he had contracted on a visit to St. Marie, ended the life and useful career of this pioneer pastor of Green Creek. He died February 8, 1902, and rests within the shadow of the same cross which he, himself, acquired for the little cemetery adjoining the church.
He was succeeded by the young and enthusiastic Reverend F. J. Ostendorf, who followed in the footsteps of his predecessor and did much to continue his work. He beautified the interior of the church by purchasing new stations, and procured new vestments for the altar. In September 1911 Father Ostendorf was called away by the Bishop and the Revend Neveling, the present incumbent, had to continue the work of the pioneers.
What queer situations a parish priest has to master at times may be learned from this. The writer remembers well how, when he first visited the parish, the people were little inclined to put an adequate heating system into the church. It is true the pioneers of our parish set up a nice large brick structure 100x40 feet, but without any real chimney. For years money was being gathered, and after all preparations were made, work was finally begun. Chimney and boiler-shed were both erected and in due time heating systems were installed in the church, parsonage and even school, according to the new law concerning heat and light. An agreeable surprise came at the same time, in the shape of an electr4ic light system installed for church, house and bowling alley. In spite of all these improvements repairs were also found necessary. So, after the large chimney was in place, a new church roof was provided and then the interior of the church was newly plastered and frescoed in oil.
Let us turn from the external material progress of the parish to the school and then to the spiritual improvement. Mention was mad above that originally a log-house served as church and school; likewise that the pioneer pastor taught school for a time himself. Later, however, laymen were employed in this task to help the community. This parish has the unique distinction of operating a school, which, while being a public school, is at the same time a Catholic one. This system for Catholic parishes has its great blessings, which cannot be denied, but at the same time there are disadvantages, which sometimes far surpass the blessings. Since the organization of the parish the following were employed as teachers: H. Koelker, H.H. Mette, H.H. Nuxoll, John Kroes, Baltenwick, Stilke, Frank Hoene, J. Masquelet, B. Huesmann, Jos. Kaufamann, Henry Weirich, Willliam Duer, Henry Kock, Peter Schneider, Ferdinand Vincke and J. M. Hunkler, who is at present in charge of the school.
Our people themselves know best the teachers who were employed in training of the youth. Some of them acquired prominence as musicians, among them, B. Huesmann, Jos. Kaufman and especially Henry Schlemmer who composed and acquired a patent on an instrument made of violins. One feature, a boon for coming generations, is the training of the boys in reading the Latin Psalms. This knowledge is due to the efforts of the teachers and the Reverend Pastor. Since the growing generation can now read Latin fluently, a good choir enhances the solemnities by many fine selections.
When we consider the spiritual side of the parish, there is no doubt but that Green Creek had special blessings in having priest who were an inspiration to their flock and a flock that loved and obeyed their priests. Again the Record shows that the Franciscan Fathers were not less zealous in upbuilding the parish and the spiritual life of the same. In fact some of the good customs and habits of the people can be traced directly back to them.
The following ladies from the parish have consecrated their lives to God, in various religious orders: Anna Kaufman, Helene Grimming, Cecelia Grimming, Therese Grimming, Catherine Niemann, Mary Aulenbrock, Anna Ruholl, Magdalen Nieman, Bertha Grimming , Edith Powers.
Reverend Joseph A. Jansen, the only priest from this parish, was ordained in 1924, and now labors in the mission field in China.
Joseph J. Thompson, editor, Diocese of Springfield in Illinois Diamond Jubilee 1853-1928 (Hartman Printing Company, Springfield, Illinois 1928), pp. 302-303