History of St. Bridget Church

On January 30, 1946 Father Raymond P. Gordon was appointed by the Most Reverend Bishop John J. Boylan to be the Pastor of the newly formed Parish of St. Bridget of Ireland. In August of 1946, a large tent was rented and erected on land at the corner of North 2nd St. and Riverside Boulevard, and on August 15 at 8:00 p.m. on the feast of our Blessed Mother, the first Mass was held at St. Bridget Parish in Loves Park with sixty-seven families in attendance. The Mens' and Boys' Choir, under the direction of Bertha McGuire, sang.

On December 8, 1946, Bishop Boylan presided at the ground-breaking ceremonies and blessed the area. A house contiguous to the Parish property was purchased and used for the celebration of Mass until the Parish was able to purchase the Catholic Chapel from Camp Grant in Rockford. A basement was dug and the Chapel was moved on March 21, 1946. On Mothers' Day in 1947, even though the roof was not yet finished, Mass was held in the Chapel building. On June 29, 1947, Bishop Boylan blessed the Chapel and dedicated it to St. Bridget of Ireland.

The first students at St. Bridget School began Kindergarten and 1st grade in the basement of this church. The 2-6 grade students were bused to classes at the Verdi Club in Rockford, which had graciously donated the use of its building. St. Bridget School officially began in October of 1953 when Mrs. Mary Mullin, assisted by Mrs. Mary Ellis, opened Kindergarten with 33 students. The following year first grade opened with 65 pupils.

The property at North Second Street was determined to be not an ideal location for either the Church or School, and so the Parish purchased a nine-acre tract, adding adjacent lots as they became available in the current Clifford Avenue location. Altogether, twenty-five acres were eventually purchased and would form the campus of the current Parish of St. Bridget of Erin. On November 18, 1954, Bishop Raymond P. Hillinger blessed the property and work was begun. On Pentecost Sunday, May 20, 1956 the Church of St. Bridget was blessed and the first Mass was celebrated.

The St. Bridget School building was finished in September of 1956 and an enrollment of 496 students in grades Kindergarten through grade seven began the school year on September 3rd. The school was staffed by the Adrian Dominicans who arrived in August of 1955, and in 1957 an eighth grade was added, bringing enrollment to 580 students. When the Dominican Sisters arrived there was no convent, and so they resided at the Muldoon Convent. A convent was completed in 1961 for the Sisters, and that building currently serves as the Rectory/Parish Offices.

In the fall of 1957 work was completed on the second, northern wing of the school, which added five classrooms, a kitchen and the Social Hall. In 1959 the Social Hall was divided into four classrooms to accomodate enrollment which had grown to over 900 students. The first graduation at St. Bridget School was held in 1958 for 25 eighth grade students.

On August 2, 1987 ground was broken for the building that would become the new St. Bridget Church. Work was completed the following year, and the first Mass was celebrated in the new church at 12:00 p.m. on October 30, 1988. The old church building, which was attached to the school, was converted to a gymnasium and was opened for that use on October 1, 1990.

The current Church of St. Bridget, which seats 1000 parishioners in the main nave and has seating for 80 in the Chapel, was constructed in the round and includes two meditation gardens which house the Stations of the Cross. The circular design of the 25,000 square foot building provides sweeping views of the altar as well as the gardens and grounds.

"The history of any Parish is a history of its people and their genuine dedication to the cause of Christ and our Blessed Lady. As your Parish Priest for thirty-seven happy years, I have begged God in every Mass to bless and reward you for your generous cooperation. No people could have been more loyal and sacrificing. You shared with me the many trials we were subject to in the founding years of our wonderful Parish. Every cross, problem and difficulty only paved the way for greater blessings and made us more determined and prayerful to accomplish the task of building a Church, School, Convent and Rectory in Loves Park."

Father Raymond P. Gordon
July 21, 1983

On June 10, 1933 the Reverend Raymond P. Gordon was ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Edward Hoban at St. James Pro-Cathedral in Rockford, Illinois. He celebrated his first Mass at St. Mel's Parish in Chicago on June 11, 1933. His first assignment was assistant Pastor to Monsignor John P. McGuire at St. James in Rockford where he served for 13 years. He also taught Religion at Muldoon High School. Prior to his ordination, Father Gordon attended St. Ignacius High School and Loyola University in his home town of Chicago. He also attended Kenrick Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri.

"We are a Catholic faith community dedicated to Jesus Christ as we actively live out God's call through the Spirit to worship and serve in both Word and Sacrament. We have come from humble beginnings in a tent in 1946 and 67 families to the dedication of a new church in October of 1988. The faith community of St. Bridget continues to grow and mature. In the days and years ahead, we must strive, as those who preceded us, to become more perfect images of the Lord."

Monsignor John J. Mitchell
June 13, 1996

Ordained in 1963, the Reverend Monsignor John J. Mitchell was associate pastor of St. James and St. Bernadette parishes in Rockford before being appointed pastor of St. Bridget Parish in Loves Park in 1983. Monsignor Mitchell also has a long history of service to education in the Diocese of Rockford, including assignments to the faculties of Muldoon and Boylan High Schools. He has held the post of Principal at both Newman Catholic High School in Sterling and Boylan Central Catholic High School in Rockford. Monsignor Mitchell has studied at St. Charles College in Catonsville MD, St. Mary in Baltmore MD and the University of Notre Dame, as well as Northern Illinois University. He is originally from Elgin, Illinois.