St. Paul’s Parish Mission Statement
St. Paul Church members will reflect God’s saving love by living Catholic teachings and traditions. We as parishioners will support each other by active participation in Sacramental and Liturgical celebrations. We will live out our Catholic faith, and as Christians we will serve our community.
History of Our Parish
Our parish was established in 1895 under Bishop John Janssen, the first bishop of Belleville. Catholics in southernmost Illinois were sparse at the time, and the teaching of the faith was primarily done in the home. Priests from elsewhere in the diocese would offer Mass when possible – this could sometime be months or years apart.
By the 1880s, Vienna was visited monthly for Mass by priests who also served New Burnside, Stonefort, and Metropolis.
In 1895, St. Paul’s was finally established as a parish, but it remained a mission parish (with the pastor residing at a neighboring parish) until 1986. The first pastors, from 1895 to 1922, were resident at New Burnside, and later pastors were resident at Carbondale, Equality, and Metropolis. It remained a small parish, with between 10 and 20 families.
The first church building was built in 1896 at the corner of 4th and Lewis. The church was much in keeping with its status as a small, rural mission parish on the distant outskirts of the diocese. It was heated by a coal-fired stove and there were no restroom facilities – not even an outhouse.
Throughout the twentieth century, the parish slowly and steadily grew in numbers. Economic growth and the opening of the Vienna and Shawnee Correctional Centers fuelled this growth, in part. By the 1980s, the facilities were beginning to show their inadequacy. After a new church was constructed on the east edge of Vienna, the last mass at 4th and Lewis was celebrated on 5 June 1988. During this time, adult conversions contributed more to parish growth than infant baptisms!
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the parish, a “Centennial Tree” was planted in 1995.
In 2010, a new church building was opened with the old building next door serving as a parish hall. We are ready to serve Christ and grow his kingdom for the future!
Our Patron: Saint Paul the Apostle
Saint Paul, born in Tarsus (modern Turkey) was a tentmaker by trade. He is considered one of the greatest evangelists of the early church period. As a devout Jew and a speaker of Greek (a widespread language of government and commerce), he was able to travel throughout the northern Mediterranean basin bringing the gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles. His background gave him the experience and knowledge to put the faith into words intelligently and succinctly.
He started out as a persecutor of Christians; present at the stoning of the first Christian martyr, Saint Stephen. He converted to Christianity on the road to Damascus, struck blind by the appearance of the resurrected Christ.
After this experience, he poured all of his energy into spreading the gospel throughout the Greek-speaking world; traveling and leaving a flurry of letters to various local churches that were later recognized and compiled into the New Testament as Scripture.
While Scripture does not directly record his death, it is believed that he was martyred in Rome, probably by beheading.
Saint Paul believed that the good news of Christ was for all people in all places, and he approached his ministry with a conviction that cultural and geographical barriers should not stand in the way of the work of the Lord. We hope to emulate his tireless energy and sharp mind in our role as the bearer of Christ to our community.