Parish History

 

 



 

In the summer of 1917, 41 Catholics gathered at Hale H. Cook School to ask Bishop Thomas Lillis to start a parish in Waldo. On September 9th of the same year, Father Edward J. Hayes celebrated the first Mass for the newly formed St. Elizabeth Parish in a rented storefront. Fr. Hayes began preparations for building a church in 1919, and the exterior of the first church was completed in 1922. The interior of the church remained unfurnished for thirteen years, however. During the next several years, several finishing elements were added to the interior of the church, including plaster on the walls, pews, woodwork, altars, Stations of the Cross, confessionals, an organ, and stained glass windows. By the time the church was dedicated on April 22, 1935, the exterior also had two stone towers (one with bells) added, and the faith community had grown to 265 families. It was a vibrant part of the Waldo community.

The need for Catholic education prompted two sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet to begin elementary instruction in two small rooms at the back of the original church. When the school opened in 1922, it had an enrollment of 52. The first graduating class consisted of a mere seven young Catholics. Construction on the main school building, built of stone, began in April 1927, and included only the first floor and a basement recreation hall. The two classrooms were removed from the church in 1930 when the new school opened. In 1934, a second floor was added to the school, and the building was finally blessed and dedicated in April 1935.

The sisters who taught at the school lived at St. Teresa Academy until 1937, when they moved their convent to a house near the church. In 1952, a drive for a new convent began, when the number of sisters outgrew this house. Construction began in 1956, and the convent opened in 1957. The sisters vacated the convent in 1977, and it is now the Parish Ministry Center.

Construction on the rectory began in 1945, but because of the shortage of building materials and labor unrest after World War II, the rectory was not completed until 1948. The construction of Memorial Hall began in 1948, and the hall opened in 1949, serving as a parish social center in the post-war era. When Memorial Hall was renovated in the mid-1980s, the basement was designated Heritage Hall, used as a gathering place for parishioners.

Over the years, the Waldo community and the parish continued to grow. By 1960, the old church had become too small and could no longer meet the growing demands of the parish. The master facilities plan called for the original structure to be torn down and a larger church erected in its place. For nineteen months, Masses, weddings, and other celebrations were moved to Memorial Hall while the current church was under construction. The present church was dedicated on September 21, 1961.

A Capital Campaign that began in 1999 has enabled the parish to refurbish the church and add a Baptismal pool and Eucharistic Chapel. In addition the capital project included an eleven-room addition to the school, meaning that the classrooms could be removed from the church basement, which is now Seton Hall, the church gathering space. Heritage Hall is now the school cafeteria.