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Shepherding the Flock

How many eggs does it take to build a church?

That was a question posed to Fr. John Jamnicky of the newly formed St. Raphael Catholic Church in Antioch, IL while he tended his gaggle of African geese and flock of 50 chickens.

“I just scratched my head and said, ‘I don’t know-but that is a good question,” laughed the jovial priest, who is giving new meaning to the term ‘Shepherding the flock.’

While farm animals may not adorn the average Catholic Church, St. Raphael is anything but average. In fact, the newly formed parish is not a church at all, but a barn located on a ten acre parcel along Highway 173, a half-mile east of Highway 45.

“I just figured, I am here and what better way than to begin raising funds for a new church than to sell eggs and raise chickens and geese?” he said. “Besides, I am quite at home on a farm as I used to spend my summers on my uncle’s farm in central Wisconsin when I was a kid.”

The newly formed parish is the Chicago Archdiocese first in nearly a decade and will temporarily operate out of a barn leased from Antioch’s Dean and Linda Pederson.

“The Archdiocese gave us an operational loan to get this started,” Jamnicky said. “We will be here until we can raise enough funds to build our permanent Church building on our 40 acre parcel along Highway 45.”

The 3600 square foot wooden barn that will house the church is undergoing major reconstruction to create an entrance area, accommodate the pews, altars, confessional, and stain glass windows. Once completed, the church will seat approximately 200 members. The worship area will be in the center portion of the barn, while the southern portion of the barn will be utilized as meeting space.

To maintain the traditional historical Catholic presence, while keeping renovation costs down, the archdiocese is equipping St. Raphael with pews, statuary, tabernacle, furnishings and sacramentals removed from closed churches in Chicago, including many items from Blessed Sacrament Church on the city’s south side.

“We are blessed with so many artifacts from churches in Chicago that have been closed, and it is wonderful that we can gather them and incorporate them into our temporary church,” Jamnicky said. “This is much more beautiful than many of the contemporary churches they are building now.”

Adorning the same property is a six-bedroom 1930s brick farmhouse that has been converted into church office space and a rectory. In 1939 and 1940, the farm place was awarded the most attractive in Lake County during former Governor Henry Homer’s farm floral contests.

The new parish is an answer to the overcrowding at nearby St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Antioch, and a welcome challenge to Jamnicky, who spent the past six years working in Washington DC for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.

While the diocese first considered renting worship space from an existing Catholic Church or utilizing a school, the availability of the Pederson property allows the faith community to develop independent of other established organizations.

“This is a great way to begin, it is ours 24 hours a day and it gives us the chance to build a community of faith,” Jamnicky affirmed, adding, “This is a great opportunity and it doesn’t happen too often. Historically there aren’t a lot of new Catholic Parishes opening up—it is all a new experience for me; there aren’t any books written about this.”

To honor the patron Saint of the parish, Jamnicky plans to spend one Sunday each month blessing the parishioners’ vehicles and boats to remain faithful to St. Raphael as the patron saint for travelers.

“We also want to begin a ministry at the truck stop on Russell Road where we can minister to the truckers and travelers,” he said. “We intend to have member presence to assist with the spiritual needs of the travelers, such as transporting visitors to Mass and reaching out in any way we can.”

The celebration of the Mass will begin the first weekend in September. Mass times will be scheduled for 4 and 6 pm. Saturdays and 7, 9 and 11 a.m. Sundays. Weekday Masses will be at 8:30 a.m.

On September 9, Bishop George Rassas, vicar of priests in the Antioch region will install Jamnicky as pastor of St. Raphael, and on September 29, Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago will visit the bless the parish and preside over Saturday evening Mass.

“People are getting very excited for the church to be completed,” admitted Jamnicky. “We have six or eight families registered and a baptism scheduled already!”

If you go
St. Raphael the Archangel Catholic Church
2101 E IL Route 173
Antioch, IL 60002
Mass times
Saturday: Vigils 4 and 6 p.m.
Sundays: 7, 9 and 1 a.m.
Weekdays 8:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday
For More Information
Contact Fr. John A Jamnicky

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