Friday, April 22, 2011

Out with the Old In with the New St. James’ Gothic Structure Slated to Become a Memory

By Lisa Palmeno


St. James Church, the only Catholic Church in
Belvidere, is slated to be replaced by a new, larger
facility to accommodate a growing parish. While many
that worship at the 125-year old Gothic have donated
funds and support the move, others are against it.

In March, Robert and Dan Casey, two brothers
who grew up at St. James, submitted letters with
strong language to Bishop Thomas G. Doran of the
Rockford Diocese. In those letters, they addressed
their displeasure with the project Bishop Doran and
Father Brian Geary, who came to St. James in 2008,
deem necessary to meet the growing needs of the

The Casey brothers say they are disappointed that
they and other parishioners were not allowed to vote
on the decision and that the beautiful Gothic “elements”
of the church will be but a memory when the new
Romanesque-style church is completed.

This year marks the 125-year anniversary of the
church, located at Caswell and Church streets, which has
undergone many changes. Those changes have included the
renovation of the sanctuary and basement after a fire in the
1960s, new furnishings and more throughout the years.

However, the congregation has grown right along with
the population in Boone County. The flock has grown from
711 families in 1979 when Father Miller was there to more
than 2,000 families.

The new church will have enough seating to accommodate
1,000 people at each of the eight masses held at the church;
an expanded narthex; a choir/music section for 50; four
confessionals (everyone’s favorite spot); special inside
features; and an expanded parking lot.
The church brochure, “Building On our faith Capital
Campaign St. James Catholic Church,” shares much
information about the project, complete with artist renditions.

The brochure opens with a letter from Father Geary, who
states that “Bishop Doran has directed that we may initiate
a capital campaign to build a new church for St. James in
Belvidere. I enthusiastically support the effort to build a
new church to meet our present and future needs.”

He said that the small church accomplishes quite a bit:
it offers eight masses each week; teaches 180 students at
the school; puts more than 800 members through Catechism
each year; and outreach is growing.

Geary added in the letter, “Everywhere you look there
are signs of growth and vitality. God is doing great things
through us and now God is calling us to do even greater
things in His holy name.”

Plenty is included about the finances, interest rates, and
the Master Site Plan, Phases One and Two, with diagrams
of what it will look like from an artificial aerial view, from
side views, and from the entryway toward the sanctuary.
The brochure ends with a campaign prayer.

While Robert Casey said he knows the lack of space is
“putting pressure on attendance,” he said other options could
be pursued. He offered alternatives, such as lengthening
the church and building a wing to the north, “with similarcolored
bricks and make it really nice. But those ideas
were shot down immediately,” he said. He also brought up
issues about financing, down-payments on the project, and

Dan Casey talked about the “Rainbow Club Raffle,” that
he organized 27 years ago to save the school. Since founding
the event, he has raised $270,000-$300,000 in funding from
the raffle. He and his brother Robert are hoping that others
who are disagree with the new plans will come forward to
express their feelings and that, just maybe, Bishop Doran
and Father Geary will change their minds about tearing St.
James down.

Dan Casey said that, although he will still attend St.
James because it’s where he has always gone, he will not
support the church financially if they continue with their
plans. However, he said his wife will continue to support
the church.

His most memorable event at the church was his wedding
on Dec. 1, 1973. His four siblings were married there, as
were his parents and uncles and aunts; he added that his
98-year-old aunt is also very displeased about the plans to
tear down the existing structure. However, he said some
of the other long-time members are very supportive of the
new church and that he has no doubt they will get the funds
they need to finish the project.

Dan Casey said, that in one of the meetings called to
inform parishioners of the new plans, several members
told dissenters to sit down and be quiet. Dan said all the
meetings were “post design,” and that no one got a chance
to vote on the issue and that he and his brother, and about
40 others with whom they have spoken, feel that they as a
members should have had some input.

Dan Casey also said that some of the neighbors in
the nine or 10 houses that will have to be torn down to
accommodate more parking might have something to say
when they find out the parish wants to buy them.

Most of all, both brothers expressed their feelings
about the beauty of the church that is already there; the
stained-glass windows with the names of the families that
donated them back in the 1880s on them; the Stations of the
Cross, which Father Miller had repainted in the 1980s; and
particularly the depiction of the Last Supper.

Dan Casey said, “I’m not against expansion, I’m for
expansion if it’s done in the right manner.”

Robert Casey said, “I could buy into an addition, I can’t
buy into this destruction.”

Father Geary’s return call was missed by the author of
this piece last week, and he has since been busy with other
obligations when calls were attempted. However, attempts
will be made to speak with him about the plans. Contact
with Bishop Doran is still pending.

St. James Church is located at 535 Caswell Street.

For more information, call the church at 815-547-6397,
or visit

The above is taken from page 4 of April 22, 2011’s Boone County Journal which is available free of cost at merchants across the county or can be viewed on the internet at:

Letter to Editor regarding St. James Church, Belvidere, Il

St. James was the first Catholic parish in Boone and Winnebago counties.  I applaud the Casey Brothers in coming forth and speaking of their concerns.  I share many of their sentiments.


We would like to bring to your attention a significant
event, about to happen in Boone County. There is a
movement within the St James Catholic community to
destroy the historic St James Catholic church in Belvidere.
This Gothic designed building, built in 1886, has stood
steadfast for so many generations as an iconic symbol of
our Catholic faith. It is now targeted for demolition to make
way for a larger building.

As Boone County has grown so has the Catholic
congregation at St James. This has necessitated the expansion
of the Mass schedule. Most masses are not full, but during
special church events an over crowded condition has
occurred. A few argue that the congregation must respond
with an expansion project to accommodate these needs. So,
Father Geary, the Pastor at St James, and an elite team of
core members started a process to convince the parish to
give their treasure and talent toward this end. Unfortunately,
they failed to adequately involve the congregation and
seek out a broad scope of inputs to achieve a go forward
consensus. Consequently there is much disappointment and

An exploratory funding survey was conducted. While
the results were never published to the congregation, the
message from the pulpit was touted as most positive.
Independent research indicated the response was probably
mixed at best. Increased pressure was also sought out and
obtained from the Diocese of Rockford, Bishop Doran.
An architect was hired and a design was defined, mostly
in a vacuum. Little or no input on other alternatives was
discussed with the congregation as a whole. One idea,
quickly shot down, was to build on to the existing structure
with a complimentary design and refurbish the interior
of church. The new Romanesque design, drawn out by
the architect and accepted by Father Geary, is a drastic
departure from the familiar design of St James. As a result
the chosen design will not incorporate the artisan crafted
stained glass windows that were donated in the late 1800’s
in memory of the early families, the stations of the cross, or
many other features, beloved by our parishioners. There was
no attempt to seek a congregational vote on this emotional
and financial decision to abandon the existing structure and
discard our past heritage. In reality any who courageously
offered a dissenting voice or objection were ignored and
quickly dismissed. Father Geary and the elite team dictated
the direction to us.

The new proposed structure is nearly twice the size of
the existing church and is targeted to be built adjacent to
St James School. The intent here is to consolidate the mass
schedule by accommodating up to 1,000 parishioners at a
given mass. The old historic church will be demolished for
a parking lot, what a shame! The local streets are already
overloaded at certain masses and this larger structure will
only exacerbate the parking situation. The tripling of parked
cars will necessitate the purchase and destruction of many
homes in the area as well.

We are disappointed in the lack of transparency
involving this decision!

Letters were sent to the Bishop with no response. It is
doubtful that these letters were given any consideration.

Robert A Casey and Daniel J Casey

The above was published in the April 22, 2011, Boone County Journal, page 2, which is available free of costs at merchants across Boone County and available on the internet at: - Illinois Government News Network (IGNN) - Search the News Results


April 21, 2011

Lt. Governor Simon: State’s ethics form is “weak”
Calls for new standards, requires staff to file financial info

CHICAGO – April 21, 2011. A day after yet another Illinois governor went on trial for corruption charges, Lt. Governor Sheila Simon urged lawmakers to strengthen existing ethics laws, saying current economic disclosures are weak.
Lt. Governor Simon fulfilled her promises to make public her annual tax returns and provide groundbreaking financial information on her senior staff members. Releasing the information empowers taxpayers by revealing any potential conflicts of interest that Simon, or her staff, face in shaping and implementing public policies.
“Government works best in the sunlight, so we’re starting by shining the light on ourselves,” said Simon, who served on the Illinois Reform Commission. “The economic disclosures currently required by law are weak, reveal very little about any potential conflicts of interest and are practically meaningless to the people we serve. By taking this first step, I encourage other public servants to follow our lead and build a foundation for statewide reform.”
Simon plans to ask lawmakers to scrap the current Statements of Economic Interest (SEI) that constitutional officers, elected officials and high-ranking public employees are required to file on an annual basis. The forms are supposed to expose existing or potential conflicts of interest, but the documents use such vague and cumbersome language that the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform has called them “woefully inadequate” and “a waste of paper.”
Simon and her staff’s financial disclosures, released shortly after tax day and available on the lieutenant governor’s website, cover some of the same information in the SEIs, but the Simon staff disclosures do so in plain language and in greater detail. Simon’s staff disclosures are modeled after forms used by federal executive officers and their high-ranking employees that are kept confidential.
“Lt. Governor Simon is reforming the system from within, and we hope her transparency is contagious,” said Cindi Canary, executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform. “She is setting a new standard of accountability and ethical leadership in state government.”
More than 25,000 elected officials and public employees in Chicago and suburban Cook County file annually with Clerk David Orr's office. Orr applauded Simon for tackling this inadequate method for reporting conflicts of interest.
“The SEI questions are virtually incomprehensible, so the vast majority of people return blank forms,” Orr said. “Revising the disclosure requirements will paint a more-detailed portrait of public officials' true conflicts of interest.”
Simon’s 2011 tax returns, and a personal financial statement that she first released in January, show all of her sources of income, assets, liabilities and net worth. Her household reported income of approximately $110,000 last year, donated nearly $2,000 to charity and paid $14,000 in state and federal taxes.
The staff disclosures note all forms of income greater than $200, investment portfolios and sweetheart loans, among other details.
“The current state financial disclosure document is flawed by asking questions in ways that fail to identify people’s true economic interests,” Simon said. “Our disclosures ask useful questions and generate useful answers that will allow us to identify and avoid conflicts to make sure we do what’s right for our constituents


image - Illinois Government News Network (IGNN) - Search the News Results

Paul Ryan booed at his own town hall - Paul Ryan, R-Wis. -


town hall

The Republican legislator's own constituents send him a very simple message: Tax the rich! Video

By Andrew Leonard

Paul Ryan booed at his own town hall

AP/J. Scott Applewhite

Paul Ryan

Every Democratic legislator needs to sit down and watch the video of Paul Ryan appearing at a town hall meeting in Wisconsin on Wednesday. A constituent lays out the problem of growing concentration of wealth in the top 1 percent of the U.S. population, and then questions the wisdom of continuing to give tax breaks to the wealthy.

He is applauded by the audience.

Ryan, in response, attacks the notion that wealth should be redistributed, and says "we do tax the top."

He is booed, heartily.

The message could not be any clearer. The people -- arch-conservative Paul Ryan's people!-- have spoken. Tax. The. Rich.

Paul Ryan booed at his own town hall - Paul Ryan, R-Wis. -

Illinois steps up fight to stop megadairy - Chicago Breaking News


accusing the owners of polluting local waters and requiring stricter environmental safeguards before allowing it to operate.

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a complaint against the owners of the proposed Traditions Dairy near Galena, in northwestern Illinois, alleging a liquid byproduct used on-site had leaked into the South Fork of the Apple River.

The site belongs to California dairyman A.J. Bos, who has proposed a dairy of about 5,500 head of cattle next to the small town of Nora, about 30 miles east of Galena.

dairy has won approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and repeated court rulings to go ahead with construction.

new civil complaint could interfere with those plans. Moreover, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. EPA are seeking more information before giving approval

respond to five counts in the attorney general's complaint, including water pollution and discharging without a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit.

Each count seeks a civil penalty of $50,000 per violation and $10,000 for each day the violation continued.


Click on the following for more details:  Illinois steps up fight to stop megadairy - Chicago Breaking News

A quarter of all car crashes involve cell phone use - Chicago Sun-Times


in Illinois’ Matt’s Law, banning texting while driving, as well as a law banning cell phone use by drivers in school and construction zones.

According to the National Safety Council, a quarter of all car crashes involve cell phone use, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates 9 percent of drivers are on their cell phones at any given moment.

A quarter of all car crashes involve cell phone use - Chicago Sun-Times