The history of St. Paul’s begins with the organization of the parish at its first location in July of 1863. The group didn’t even have a church building yet, but met on the third floor of the Exchange Block Building at the Northeast Corner of East Avenue and Station Street, known later as the Commercial Hotel. St. Paul’s first church was built at the corner of Schuyler and Merchant between the years 1864 and 1865, at the cost of $8,000.
The second building, however – and the same beautiful church used by the parish today – was purchased by the parish in March of 1899. Construction was completed by early 1900, after which the Kankakee Gazette devoted half a page to praising the new building.
The church has had a tumultuous history, rising and falling with the economic climate of the city itself. The mid-1900s brought St. Paul’s immense growth and spiritual renewal, with a booming parish and increased mission work. The church building itself enjoyed revisions during this time; a new pipe organ and wooden ceiling were installed in 1952 and are still enjoyed by our congregation today.
During this time, St. Paul’s flourished under the tenure of several beloved ministers. Father James Parker served as rector of St. Paul’s for twenty-eight years, and became well-known all throughout the Diocese of Chicago as a vigorous and energetic priest who had a strong vision for the mission of the church. The young Reverend Robert L’Homme came to the church in the late 1960s, and was quickly commended for his devotion to building the parish’s strong youth program.
However, shifting demographics of the community had a great impact on the parish during the 1980s, and the church saw not only a gradual decrease in overall numbers, but had many members touched by the closing of local firms and the rising unemployment rate. The youth group fell into a slump when fewer young people remained to replace those growing up. This downturn would continue to hit St. Paul’s well into the 1990s and beyond.
Thankfully, the future looks brighter than ever for the one-hundred-fifty-year-old parish. Under the leadership of energetic minister Israel Anchan of Chicago and an exceptionally energetic Vestry, St. Paul’s has quickly re-established itself as a pillar of the downtown Kankakee area. Through major community outreach projects, vigorous door-to-door visitations throughout the neighborhood, and a constant commitment to growing the ministries of St. Paul’s, the parish has quickly reinvented itself and continues to touch the outside community.