Grand Chain Catholic Church Closes


By Hilary LeHew

GRAND CHAIN -- The last Catholic church in Pulaski County shut its doors Saturday.  St. Catherine of Alexandria in Grand Chain is merging with another church in Cairo. Church members are hopeful it's not a permanent closure.

Saturday afternoon was full of lasts for the tiny church at the top of a hill in Grand Chain.
"We'll share a lot of good memories and, you know, have one last joyous celebration," says life-long member Lisa Miller..
It's the last time Miller will make music for mass at  the church. She's been playing the piano here since she was 14.
"I've layed for happy events and sad events, so just lots of emotions with it," she insists.
The pews haven't been full in a while, so the Catholic diocese of Belleville has decided Saturday will be the last service.
"Our church and the church at St. Mary's in Mound City will be merged with St. Patrick's in Cairo," explains Miller.
But members like Miller are hoping the bishop will let a preservation society step in.
"We will be responsible for raising the funds to pay for the insurance, the maintenance, any general upkeep, the utilities," explains Miller.
The group would like to keep the church a sacred place so life-long members like Ila Ulrich, whose 10 children were baptized here, can continue to use it for special events.
"I guess it's very selfish, but I still would like to be buried from this church," says Ulrich.
On the outside, it may be just a building, but Ulrich says a lot of heart and soul went into this church.
"My daughter-in-law Lisa Ulrich painted those to keep the sun from shining in and blinding people."
Even if the 116-year-old building is demolished, Ulrich believes there will always be a holy place at the top of this hill.
"I think it will be missed."
St. Catherine is one of five southern Illinois parishes to consolidate in recent years. Catholic leaders have not yet decided on the fate of the building.
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