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St. Joseph Stringtown
St. Joseph - Stringtown History Timeline

The following is a brief timeline of the Catholic Community in the Stringtown, Illinois area from 1841-Present......

St. Joseph Catholic Church at Stringtown was organized in 1841. The first Mass was offered on November 5, 1841, at Casimier Kloepher's residence which is located near the present home of Lawrence Ginder. Father M. Mullins offered the first Mass and organized the parish.

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The first church, a log building, was finished on February 15, 1842, and was dedicated in honor of St. Joseph, on March 19, 1848. The people of Stringtown worshipped in this church for 59 years. This church was located approximately eight miles northeast of Olney.
Bishop John Janssen of Belleville decided that a new church should be built in a better location for the parishioners. There was also a need for more cemetery lots. In 1899, the new church, a frame building in Gothic Style with a brick foundation, was started and was dedicated in 1901. The new church was a mile east and a little north of the location of the old church.

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William and Catherine Blank sold 14 acres to St. Joseph Stringtown Parish for $360.00 which now consists of a parish hall, school, rectory, church, a pump house, cemetery, baseball field, basketball, and volleyball courts.

The first building constructed on the present parish grounds was a small horse barn for the priest to stable his horse and buggy. It was built in the autumn of 1897. The following winter rough lumber was cut from the Embarras bottom for the rectory which was constructed in the fall of 1898.

In October 1902, two bells, 500 pounds and 700 pounds respectively, were blessed and lifted into position in the steeple.

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The East portion of the church, which includes the present sanctuary and two sacristies, was built in the fall of 1910. The first major interior painting of the church was completed in 1915 and the exterior in 1921. The second painting of the interior was finished in the spring of 1958 and floor tile was also laid during this same year. Parts of the ceiling were also repainted in 1970 in shades of purple. As part of the Sesquicentennial Celebration in 1991, the interior of the church was re-decorated.

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Just before Christmas in 1939 the church was wired for electricity. In 1910 the wood stoves were replaced by a coal furnace. In 1956 an L.P. gas furnace was installed and another furnace was installed and air conditioning was added in 1973. A baby room on the south side of the main entry and a confessional room on the north side of the main entry under the stairwell were added in 1966.

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Since 1841, 50 priests have served the parish. 

The Stringtown Parish community had its first native sons ordained as priests on June 4, 2005. These two young men are Fr. Robert Zwilling and Fr. Matthew Elie.

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Fr. Robert, son of Herman and Ethel Zwilling, graduated from Olney Central College in 1998 and St. Joseph College Seminary of Loyola University in 2001, with a Bachelor of Arts Degree. He received a Bachelor of Theology and a Master of Divinity in 2005 from the University of St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois.

His first assignment was as a Parochial Vicar at St. Mary Parish, Mt. Vernon, Illinois.

Father Robert's Assignments:

2005 St. Mary The Immaculate Conception Parish - Mt. Vernon

2006-2010 St. Michael the Archangel Parish-Radom

2006-2010 St. Barbara Parish - Scheller

2010-2014 St. Theresa of Avila Parish - Salem

2010-2014 St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish - Kinmundy

2014-Present St. Mary Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Parish - Mt. Carmel

2014-Present St. Sebastian - St. Sebastian

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Fr. Matthew, son of Pat Elie and Karen Elie, attended Loyola University of Chicago, There he received his Bachelor of Science Degree, Magna Cum Laude, in clinical psychology. From 2000 to 2004, he attended graduate school at the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois. There he received his Master of Divinity Degree. His first assignment was as an Associate Pastor at St. Peter Cathedral, Belleville, Illinois.

Father Matthew's Assignments:

2005-2007 Associate Pastor Cathedral of St. Peter - Belleville

2007-2023 Pastor Blessed Sacrament Parish - Belleville

2015-2023 Pastor Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish - Belleville

2023-Present Administrator St. Damian Parish - Damiansville

2023-Present Administrator St. Bernard Parish - Albers

The first St. Joseph school was built in 1879 about one-half mile south of the present church. On January 27, 1908, the old school was moved about 150 feet east near the sisters' house. It was torn down in 1952. The second school was built in 1906 and in use in 1908. The school was used for instructions for a few years, then used as a one-room school until the third school was built in 1950-51. The third school was built with a basement and four classrooms. In early 1950 Stringtown became part of the East Richland School District. In 1960, two restrooms, a music room, and an entry room were added on the east side of the school.

During the winter of 1976, the East Richland School District decided to terminate operations at the Stringtown School. In the fall of 1976 the school became a parochial school, owned and operated by the parish. The school closed at the end of the school year of 1987. 

The school was used as a place of education and fellowship for the parish. Public School and High School Religion classes were held regularly. Several organizations met, parish celebrations were held, picnic dinners served, and family reunions gathered to make use of the building.

Sisters, especially the Adorers of the Blood of Christ from Ruma, Illinois, taught in the school from 1908 until 1967. A shortage of teaching Sisters forced their departure from Stringtown. Only lay teachers taught in the school from the fall of 1967 until 1987.

Numerous young women from the Stringtown Parish community have entered religious life.  The last one was Sister Janice Schneider, OSF, daughter of Joseph and Ethel Schneider.  She entered the Hospital Sisters of the Third Order of St. Francis (Springfield, Illinois) on June 11, 1989, and she professed final vows on August 1, 1998.  She currently serves as Assistant Superior of her congregation.  She completed a Master of Arts in Health Care Mission at Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis, Missouri, May of 2008. She also completed a Master of Business Administration from Lakeland College, Sheboygan, Wisconsin, in December 2004.

Parish Hall
The old parish hall was constructed in 1936. The basement was utilized for parish picnics from 1937 until 1951. After that, picnic dinners were served in the new school basement.

The hall was used for youth sports activities, such as basketball and volleyball, and sometimes the hall was the home of the SCY's haunted house. In 1997 the hall housed bingo at the annual picnic.  On June 7th and 8th, 2005, the hall was torn down and buried.

Parish Center
The old school served as a Parish Center until the new Parish Center was built in 2010.  The old school was torn down in 2010 and the new Parish Center was erected.


The parish pavilion was constructed in 2005. The pavilion is being utilized for parish picnics.

The rectory for priests was built in the autumn of 1898 and torn down on August 20, 1968. The sisters' house then became the rectory. This building was finished in 1907. In 1952 an addition was added to the east side of the present rectory.


In 1958 the crucifixion group was installed to replace the cross in the parish cemetery. In 1966 the cemetery was extended to the edge of the woods. On August 7, 1968, a perpetual trust fund was organized for the maintenance and care of the cemetery. Father Charles G. Frankovich, who died on June 9, 1959, is the only priest buried in the parish cemetery at Stringtown.


Adapted from the St. Joseph Church, Stringtown, Illinois, Church Directory, 1980; St. Joseph Church, Stringtown, Illinois, Church Directory, 1990; St. Joseph Church, Stringtown, Illinois, Sesquicentennial Booklet, 1841-1991; and, St. Joseph Parish, Stringtown Handbook, Fall 1997.

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