First African-American parish here founded 100 years ago

Oct. 2, 2021, marked the 100th anniversary of the first Mass at St. Augustine Colored Mission in East St. Louis. This first African-American parish in southern Illinois was located at 14th and Broadway Ave. The school opened in 1922. Part of the heritage of the St. Augustine Mission is the involvement of a saint. Saint Katharine Drexel was an American heiress, philanthropist, religious sister and educator. She was the second person born in what is now the United States to be canonized as a saint and the first one born a U.S. citizen.

Diocesan schools promote centrality of music education

Every student at Sister Thea Bowman Catholic School in East St. Louis learns how to play the violin. Every student. Beginning in kindergarten. Third graders at Blessed Sacrament Catholic School in Belleville learn to play the recorder as part of an arrangement with the St. Louis Symphony. In turn, they are invited to perform with the Symphony. At Mater Dei High School in Breese, various band and vocal classes are offered, along with extracurricular activities, such as marching band. These are just three examples of music education opportunities available at the schools in the Diocese of Belleville.

Students undertake spiritual journey through the culinary arts

Picture a big bowl of tri-colored pasta salad with vegetables, brimming with multi-colors, tastes, shapes and textures. Now read this description: “As different as we are, we are ALL called to be disciples of God. We all have special gifts, talents and charisms that blend so beautifully with our neighbor and help build up the Kingdom of God. When you take a big bite of this pasta salad, be reminded of your calling, the value of your neighbor and mission of the Kingdom.”

Mass celebrated in southern Illinois prisons for first time in 18 months

Due to COVID-19 restrictions in March 2020, the Illinois Department of Corrections closed all prisons, jails and work camp access to clergy and lay volunteers who were providing Catholic service ministry to detainees and those incarcerated. On August 24, 2021, Father Nick Junker, pastor at St. Mary the Immaculate Conception in Mt. Vernon, enthusiastically posted on Facebook that he celebrated Mass at the Big Muddy River Correctional Center in Ina. This was the first time in more than 18 months that the men at Big Muddy could receive the sacraments.