By Dan McEleney
For The Catholic Messenger
In 1985 not many people in Clinton, if any, thought that 30 years into the future the Catholic community of Clinton would be celebrating the 25th anniversary of a new parish, let alone the only parish in the city. For nearly 100 years the city of Clinton was home to five parishes.
A lot of things were changing in the mid-1980s. Clinton’s population was getting smaller. Inflation was higher. Age was getting the best of 100-year-old parish churches. Some areas saw a four times duplication of services and staffing. Most importantly, the population of priests was getting older and smaller.
I remember spending a weekend at Sacred Heart school gymnasium about that time with a large contingent of leaders from all five parishes. It was a weekend-long brainstorming session to start the long process of consolidating all five parishes into one. Father Thomas Doyle was the bishop’s messenger, having been assigned the unwanted task of pulling this community together to form one physical body of spiritual celebration.
The worst thing about change is when the kind of change you’re trying to make is uncommon. Consolidation at the time was relatively new for the Diocese of Davenport. It was not the kind of notoriety anyone wanted to be first at. But once again, as had happened so many times before in this river city, members of this community made the most of the hand it had been dealt.
On July 1, 1990, Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace Parish of Clinton was formed. Father Ronald Young was the first pastor of our new parish. We were one parish, but still living out of five homes.
Every Catholic who had lived here before the consolidation had their own house of worship where they had celebrated birth, baptism, marriage and death. Giving up one’s home is a hard thing to ask anyone to do. For the new parish to not only survive, but to grow, it needed a new home. That meant asking nearly every Catholic in town to give up their house of worship. Once again, the community fulfilled what was asked of it. Realizing that one’s faith is celebrated through the mind, heart and soul, we closed our churches, one at a time. First St. Patrick’s — my home — then St. Boniface, St. Irenaeus and St. Mary’s.
Father Anthony Herold was our pastor while this was going on. Through his leadership we raised nearly $8 million to buy the land and build our new home of faith celebration. Our church is a modern, beautiful sanctuary of spirituality that pays tribute through select artifacts and antiquities to the five churches that once served the community.
Father Kenneth Kuntz is our present pastor. Through his spiritual leadership we have grown as a faith community. There are a lot of services offered for and performed by many of members of our parish. At present, we are in the middle of another capitol campaign to build a new parish hall that will be a physical part of our campus, of our home on the prairie. While St. Boniface Hall has served the parish well, its distance from the church has been a hindrance in many ways to the growth of our community.
Father Robert Cloos, our new parochial vicar, assists Fr. Kuntz with the spiritual leadership of our parish. The strength of any community rests on the shoulders of its leaders. Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace Parish has been fortunate to have lay leaders who care about the future of the parish, its growth and sustainability, and spiritual leaders who help every member to “Celebrate the Faith, Live the Faith, and Pass the Faith On to Others” (our Parish Mission). We are truly a blessed community!