By Celine Klosterman
LOVILIA — St. Peter Church is home, said Rose Self.
She’s belonged to the parish on the western end of the Davenport Diocese since 1948, and her five children were baptized there. Three of them were married there, too, and her husband was buried in St. Peter’s Cemetery. Family members who’ve moved away continue to return for the parish’s annual picnic, she said.
Self and other members of St. Peter’s 93 families will reflect on their parish’s history this weekend. A Mass, historical presentations, lunch, auction and raffle are slated for Sunday, July 25, during a celebration of the 100th anniversary of laying the church’s cornerstone.
That cornerstone was laid Oct. 9, 1910, four decades after the first two Catholics — married couple James and Jane Drury — arrived in the Lovilia area. Railroads and coal business soon drew more families, and in 1902, the local Tri-County Press wrote, “since there are a goodly number of Catholics here now, it is thought to secure a church in the near future.”
Two years later, 29-year-old Irishman Father Thomas Smyth was sent to set up a parish at Lovilia and nearby Weller. After he celebrated Masses in a house for some time, local Catholics celebrated the dedication of St. Peter Church on June 13, 1911.
Beginning in 1930, nine parish women joined the Sisters of the Humility of Mary. Two Lovilia men — Walter Lenger and Allen Simpson — entered the priesthood, according to historical information from St. Peter’s.
A new rectory was built in 1979. Helping complete it was George Slofkosky, brother-in-law of 65-year parishioner Mary Slofkosky. The family of her late husband, Albert, has been in the parish for generations. “I like everything about St. Peter’s,” she said. “It’s a beautiful church.”
Parishioner Louise Golec agrees. “It’s the kind of church I grew up with; it’s not modern. It’s my kind of church.”
She especially appreciates St. Peter’s “beautiful, old” stained-glass windows. “When the sun shines through them, it’s gorgeous.”
Made of antique, imported glass, several windows show moments from Christ’s life and include the names of donors who were the parish’s earliest members. One window depicts a guardian angel and young girl, while a window above the church’s choir stairway illustrates St. Michael the Archangel holding a spear.
Parishioners were told that only two or three sets like these windows exist worldwide, said Susan Beary, who will give a presentation about the stained-glass panes on Sunday.
Today, St. Peter Parish is clustered with St. Patrick parishes in Georgetown and Melrose, all of which Father Patrick Lumsden serves as pastor. As the Lovilia parish prepares to celebrate its past, it’s looking to the future, too.
“We hoping it’ll go on for another 100 years,” Beary said.