On Christmas Day in 1858, the first Mass was celebrated in the newly created St. Anthony of Padua Church in Effingham, IL. Prior to that date, Catholics in the Effingham area attended Mass in Teutopolis or Green Creek, or in a small log cabin in Broughton which served as a school during the week. St. Anthony was a mission parish, served by priests from the neighboring villages until 1871. In the beginning, St. Anthony Parish consisted of 40 families.
Ten years later, the parish registry listed 120 families, and by 1875, it had grown to 225. In that time, land had been donated for a cemetery, a two-room brick school building had been built, and a six-room frame rectory had been erected. On March 1, 1870, the congregation was officially incorporated as St. Anthony's Roman Catholic Church of Effingham.
In 1871, the first resident pastor, Rev. Michael Weis, arrived. During his administration, the present church was built. Shortly, the School Sisters of Notre Dame arrived to minister to the children.
During the term of pastor Rev. H.J.F. Jungmann, which began in 1877, a new main altar was built. Other improvements included the construction of a new brick rectory, and a new six-room school.
On January 1, 1896, St. Anthony's received a new pastor, Rev. Louis W. Lammert. Fr. Lammert made many improvements to the parish buildings, including an addition to the parish hall which included a stage, and the installation of the stained glass windows which grace the church today. He had a new convent built, which the Notre Dame Sisters occupied in 1918. The new convent housed a Repository for the Blessed Sacrament in its chapel. Fr. Lammert installed a new organ in the church, and saw the first high school class graduate from the St. Anthony School system.
June 8, 1929, marked the arrival of Rev. John H. Gramke as pastor. Fr. Gramke's administration showed considerable interest in improving the school system. He built a four-room addition to the school, saw the installation of the hot lunch program, received full recognition of the high school by the state authorities and accreditation from the University of Illinois, and received a superior rating for the grade school from the state. He also had a public address system installed in the church and a new tile roof laid. Fr. Gramke served as pastor until his death in 1945.
Rev. John J. Goff succeeded Fr. Gramke. He, too, made many additions and improvements to the church and school. During his administration, new Stations of the Cross were erected, as well as new statues of St. Anthony, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, and St. Anne. Fr. Goff added fourteen new classrooms, a library, and a new gymnasium to the school. In the last year of his term, he built a new high school building. He also introduced C.C.D. classes in the parish, raised the old rectory, and built the present one. He remodeled and added a wing to the convent. Fr. Goff also had the difficult task of offering a Requiem Mass for the victims of the St. Anthony's Hospital fire in 1949.
Fr. Goff was succeeded by Monsignor John McGrath in 1968. Msgr. McGrath served the parish as pastor until 1972, when a team ministry took over the administration. The team ministry consisted of Rev. William Peters, Rev. Robert Spriggs, and Rev. Donald Meehling.
In 1976, a new pastor was appointed, Rev. Robert Heintz. Fr. Heintz joyfully retired the parish debt in 1983. He served as pastor for one more year, until Rev. Michael Kuse arrived.
Fr. Kuse was called by the Bishop to serve the Springfield Diocese as the director of the Ministry to Priests Program. He was succeeded at St. Anthony's by Rev. William Overmann. Fr. Overmann began serving the 1500 families of the parish in 1988.
In June of 1989, Very Rev. Leo Enlow became St. Anthony's pastor. Fr. Leo Enlow, together with Fr. Mark Lewis and the church renovation committee designed and oversaw the renovation that will brought the traditional beauty of the church in line with the revised liturgical rites of the Second Vatican Council. Soon to follow, especially with the support of Sr. Justine Henley, a new, accessible, senior-friendly parish center was constructed next to the church. The building was occupied in March 2001 and also houses the parish office and a kitchen.
During this timeframe another need was resurfacing- a gymnasium for the high school. Another successful parishoner-led capital campaign, in conjunction with Diocesan support, allowed the students entering school in August 2003 the use of the new gym, multi-purpose room (lunch, meeting and stage performances), new classrooms, remodeled classrooms, and school and administrative offices. On June 13, 2008, while celebrating the 150th anniversary of St. Anthony Parish, it was announced that the debt for the addition had been retired.
In December 2006, Msgr. Enlow learned of a tremendous gift to the parish - a new grade school. This project was completed in time for the 2009-2010 school year and included kindergarten classes for the first time. The new 2-floor school building has classrooms equipped with SMART Boards, projectors and computers and the project also included a remodeled gymnasium and a new school kitchen. During the summer of 2010, new bleachers were installed in the grade school gym.
The 2010-2011 school year, in an attempt to help fill the preschool void in the area, introduced classes for 3 and 4 year- old children.
After twenty-one and a half successful, faithful, and spiritual years of leadership, Msgr. Leo Enlow was transferred from St. Anthony of Padua Parish on January 11, 2011. Fr. David Peters returned as Parochial Administrator. He had been at St. Anthony Parish during the early 70's and served for almost six months until June 30, 2011. In May 2011, Fr. Sunder Ery, a Diocesan priest from India, moved to St. Anthony to assist the parish.
In July 2011, a new team of priests were assigned to St. Anthony Parish, as well as Sacred Heart, Effingham; and Annunciation, Shumway. Our Pastor Rev. Fr. David Hoefler led our new team as pastor of all three parishes. He was joined by Parochial Vicars Fr. Sunder Ery, newly ordained Fr. Brian Alford, and Fr. Dominique Rimaz. Fr. Dominique was with us only a few short months in the fall of 2011 before returning to Switzerland for family reasons. Deacon Joe Emmerich was also assigned to all three parishes in 2011.
In July 2012, we welcomed newly ordained Fr. Albert Allen to our pastoral team. Fr. Allen was assigned as parochial vicar for all three parishes. In addition, Fr. Brian Alford was assigned as chaplain of St. Anthony High School in addition to his duties as parochial vicar.
In addition to our pastoral changes, St. Anthony Schools welcomed new principals for the 2012-2013 school year. Brandi Borries replaced Mary Lynn Byers as grade school principal, and Greg Fearday replaced Ron Niebrugge as high school principal.
2013 welcomed more changes for St. Anthony Parish. Fr. Brian Alford was reassigned to the Diocese of Springfield as Director of Vocations and secretary to Bishop Paprocki. In October 2013, Fr. Sunder Ery moved to Greencreek, Lillyville, Sigel, and Neoga to cover those four parishes while Fr. Bud DeGrand was on leave.
Besides pastoral changes, St. Anthony parish launched the Rise to the Challenge campaign in March 2013 to raise money for much needed roof and steeple repairs. The $2.5 million project began in August 2013 and was completed in March 2014. The scope of the project included exterior repairs of new copper and a new cross on the steeple, masonry repairs to the steeple and church building, replacement of the shingle roof with a slate roof, removal of the external gutter system, reinstatement of the internal gutter system, and replacement of the white buttresses and coins of the exterior architecture with painted stainless steel caps. Interior repairs included drywall and plaster repairs in the bell tower, vestibule, existing cry rooms, and bathrooms. A new cry room was installed under the west aisle of the balcony, allowing for more room for young families. Acoustic panels were also installed to handle the sound reverberation issues within the church. New front doors were also installed at the main entrance in addition to the two cry room entrances replacing doors that had been in place since 1970.
Along with the church repairs, part of the campaign was to help alleviate unpaid bills to the diocese in the amount of $800,000. In a matter of four short months, the parishioners of St. Anthony pledged in excess of $2.5 million to hand all needs of the project.
In the spring of 2014, Rev. Carl Kemme, of whom at that time was Vicar General for the Springfield, IL Diocese, was appointed Bishop of the Wichita, KS Diocese. With his appointment in May 2014, Rev. David J. Hoefler was assigned by Bishop Thomas J. Paprocki as Vicar General of the Springfield Diocese. Rev. Christopher J. Brey replaced Rev. Hoefler as Pastor of St. Anthony of Padua, Sacred Heart, and St. Mary's in Shumway. Fr. Chris affectionately called the three parishes of Effingham and Shumway "Sheffingway." In July 2014, Rev. Zachary Edgar, Rev. Ronald Hilt, Rev. Michal Rosa (of Poland) were assigned as parochial vicars to "Sheffingway." Fr. Edgar was also appointed chaplain of St. Anthony High School.