Holy Rosary Parish in Fairmont City, Illinois has been great for the Suarez family. In fact, it has been great, great, great, great, great.
Five generations of Suarezs have worshipped at Holy Rosary. In March, current family members gathered at the church to celebrate the parish’s 100th Anniversary. For the Suarezs, the celebration was a family affair.
Manuel and Carmen Suarez, along with their four children, were some of the first parishioners at the parish after immigrating from Spain. Dozens of Suarezs since have worshipped at the parish church and attended the parish school. For 100 years, they have always felt welcomed at Holy Rosary.
“Holy Rosary has always been a welcoming environment for all people,” said Fr. Harold Fisher, O.M.I. the current Pastor. “I am eager to see what the Lord has in store for us over the next century.”
Fairmont City, located near St. Louis, had a rough reputation in the 1920s. There were 17 saloons in the city and not a single church. Many of the residents were Catholic immigrants and most spoke Spanish as their primary language.
Bishop Henry Althoff established the parish and selected Fr. Joseph Pico to be the first Pastor. Father Pico was born in Spain and had ministered in Mexico before coming to the St. Louis area. The first Mass celebrated at Holy Rosary was on March 19, 1922 in the living room of the rectory. A total of 26 parishioners were in attendance.
The parish had a humble beginning that included a six-room frame building that served as a combination church and rectory. A two-room school opened in 1924 with over 100 students. The Ursuline Sisters arrived in 1929 to teach at the expanding school which was now serving over 250 students.
In 1932 the parish purchased a two-room portable building from the East St. Louis School District for $15.
The parish religious and educational programs continued to expand over the years. The current church was built in 1951 to serve as many as 500 worshippers at one time. The school building also expanded, with a new school opening in 1971. For 41 years, Shirley Kurre served as the school Principal, a truly jack-ofall- trades Principal, Kurre at times even drove the school bus.
Always an ethnically diverse parish, Holy Rosary began to serve a growing Hispanic population in the 1990s. New programs were added to the Hispanic Ministry to help immigrants assimilate to their new environment. The new Hispanic programs included a men’s group, youth group and a couples ministry.
In 2019, the local bishop asked Missionary Oblates to consider taking over the parish because of the Oblates’ extensive work with Hispanic communities throughout the United States. The Oblates accepted the challenge and Fr. Fisher was named Pastor. Today he is assisted at Holy Rosary by another Oblate, Fr. Jim Fee, O.M.I. who also ministers at the nearby National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows.
“I am very proud that the Missionary Oblates are the priests who serve this parish,” said Fr. Louis Studer, O.M.I. Provincial of the Oblates’ U.S. Province as he attended the 100th Anniversary of Holy Rosary. “Each time I have visited here, I have been edified by your love for your parish community and for the Oblate priests who serve you. You should be very proud of what has been accomplished by the parishioners of Holy Rosary these past 100 years, and I offer prayers that this celebration will be an occasion to re-dedicate yourselves so that this ministry will continue for many years into the future.”