History of St. Patrick Parish, Tolono
A community of faith for more than 150 years
Before there was a church in Tolono, a priest came from Urbana to say Mass in a section house for the men who were building the Illinois Central Railroad and their families. In 1859, St. Patrick Parish was established and a 20 x 40 foot frame church was constructed. People came from what is now the Philo and Pesotum areas. That church served the greater part of Southeastern Champaign County.
In 1869 construction began on a new, larger church. It was completed and dedicated in 1871 and served the parish until August 2, 1929. Lightning struck the belfry of the church during a thunderstorm, and both the church and rectory were destroyed.
Photo to right: St. Patrick Church and rectory in 1912. Photo from
The Methodists offered their church for use, and Mass was said there until a temporary location could be prepared. A former grocery store on Daggy St. served as a gathering place for St. Patrick until a new church was built.
The present St. Patrick Church of Gothic design was dedicated on May 27, 1937. Twenty years later a basement was excavated and finished using much volunteer labor. In 1969 the church was re-dedicated following extensive remodeling, done with a legacy from Peter and Elizabeth Wilhelm. The choir loft was removed and a beautiful floor to ceiling stained glass window was installed. New weather protected entryways were built along with a new sacristy. The old sacristy became an air conditioned chapel and a soundproof "cry room."
The side stained glass windows and those in the chapel were designed by Fr. George Wuellner, brother of former pastor Fr. Frank Wuellner. Jerry Harden made and installed them around 1991. The seven sacraments are depicted on seven of the windows. Former pastor Fr. O'Riley helped with the installation, and he was also responsible for the carving of St. Patrick located at the rear of the church.
A new parish hall was completed in 1999, again using much volunteer parish labor. Fr. O'RiIey was instrumental in this project. Religious education classes are held there, along with parish activities and dinners. It can be rented by both parishioners and non-parishioners for receptions and meetings.
Those early settlers who celebrated Mass in a section house began our 150-year faith journey. We remember them and all the others who have gone before us at St. Patrick Parish in Tolono and thank them for laying a foundation for our faith community.
Please use the links at the top left of this page to view a history of priests of the parish and for details on our recent 150th Anniversary celebration.