Father Joel Phelps,
St. Malachy Catholic Church
311 East Grove Avenue
Rantoul, IL 61866
St. Malachy Church History It has been recorded that Catholics had settled in, or near
Rantoul prior to the Civil War and were served by priests from St. Mary’s Parish in
Champaign, Illinois from 1859 to 1871. In 1872, the original Catholic Church in Rantoul was
built on the corner of Tanner and Champaign Streets.
The present church located at 311 E. Grove Avenue, was under construction, but not
damaged, at the time of the Rantoul fire of 1901. The church was constructed at a cost of
$20,000.00 A dedication ceremony took place on December 6, 1901 when priests throughout
the Diocese joined with the 95 parishioner families in celebration.
Many of the appointments in our present church were made possible through the generosity
of individual donors. The bell in the bell tower was donated by John Joseph Fitton. Patrick
and Mary Markey donated the cross on the steeple. Fifteen original stained glass windows
are still visible in the church. Names such as Francis Walsh, Patrick Murray, Robert and
Henry Lordan, Thomas Christy, Edward Quirk, Michael Quinlan, John Leonard, Patrick
Connor and P. & W. Conlin are visible reminders of those early parishioners. The St. Cecilia
window in the choir loft remains and is inscribed as a gift of Mary Connor.
Major church renovations took place in the 1940’s under the leadership of Rev. Charles J.
Williams when the interior was completely redecorated. Included in the renovations were the
replacement of the original altar that was donated by Peter Murray; The original pews with
the current pews; The wooden floor with a mar-flex flooring, and The original windows over
the crucifix. The original pipe organ was replaced by a Conn Tube Organ. Among many
donations that were made at that time was the black marble main altar donated by the Ferd
and Fiedler Families and a side altar by the E.J. Molloy Family. A marble communion railing
was also installed. In 1962, many of the original stained glass windows were replaced with
our modern impressionist ones. Under Father Williams leadership the original Donovan
Memorial School was razed and replaced with a two story building renamed St. Malachy
School. This included a new gym and stage area and cafeteria. Also, the convent located on
Belle Street was added.
During the 1970’s, under the leadership of Rev. Stanley J. Malinowski, the interior and
exterior of the church was updated. Louis Hollos donated his talents in providing
landscaping design for the church grounds. A shrine to the Blessed Mother was erected on
the lawn of the church and was dedicated in memory of Mary Morgan. The original slate roof
was removed and replaced by an asphalt roof. In 1976, major redecorating took place in
compliance with Vatican II. The sanctuary was enlarged, the main altar was moved forward
and the communion railing was removed. The confessionals were removed and a
reconciliation area was designed. The Baptismal area was move to one side altar and a Holy
Family shrine to the other side altar. In addition, the lighting and sound system was
upgraded, and carpeting was installed. That same year an Allen organ replaced the smaller
Conn organ. In 1980, the parish joined with seventh and eighth grade students from St.
Malachy School in erecting a Veterans Memorial on the lawn at the front entrance of the
church. The interior was repainted to its existing form in 1994, and that same year, through
the generosity of Bob and Bea Edwards and Margaret Fruin, the protective exterior windows
were installed covering the stained glass.
During our centennial year of 2001, under the leadership of Rev. Jeffrey G. Laible, more
recent improvements were completed. A new roof, new carpeting, refinished pews, and
restoration of the Stations of the Cross were completed. A unique and generous challenge
was presented to the parishioners and friends of St. Malachy Church by anonymous donors
to help defray the expense of these improvements. This challenge was entitled the “Century
Campaign.” Under Father Laible's leadership the "Opening New Doors Campaign " was
formed which added need upgrades and space to St. Malachy School. This included a new
gym building, preschool, & expansion and addition of classrooms. The old
rectory/administrative office was torn down and the administrative office was moved to
newly added office space on St. Malachy Campus/School area. The grounds were beautifed
and a drive was named in the honored of Father Malinowski. Father also established the
following committees: Building and Grounds, Finance Council, and Cemetery Commission.
Adornments and Enhancement were added to St. Malachy Cemetery that included additional
statuary and benches. The Hispanic ministry was formed. Also, a home next to the church
was purchased as the new rectory and a paved driveway and three car garage/storage area
was built. Additional parking was added on the East side of the church and a beautiful grass
area where the old rectory/administrative office was. Our web page on the internet was also