History of a Pilgrim People
We at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in Peoria Heights, Illinois, are a pilgrim people, formed and led by the goodness of God.
God has been with us, “making all things new” since 1937 . . . from a makeshift church in a roadhouse to a sacred space where worship has helped us form as a people eager to serve God in one another.
Fr. M.P. Sammon, pastor of St. Bernard Parish, founded a mission church eventually to become St. Thomas Parish. He purchased Herbstrith’s cafe in 1924 for $8,500. It served as the first place of worship. The old bar became a sacristy to store altar supplies, and the dance hall served as the church.
In 1927, Fr. Sammon purchased the land where the present church is located. Fr. Bernard Rank became the assistant.
In 1937, Bishop Joseph Schlarman decreed St. Thomas a parish. Fr. Rank, eventually to become Msgr. Rank, served as the first pastor and continued until his retirement in 1981. In 1940, the first church was erected. The present church was completed in 2002, using part of the original church.
From that beginning to today, St. Thomas Parish is the rock upon which the spiritual life of the families of this parish was anchored. As a family of believers we have grown from 300 people who were the foundation of this parish community to the present 2,081 families.
St. Thomas has a myriad of examples of God’s gentle guidance giving life to and serving as inspiration to follow in the footsteps of those who have walked before us.