St. Mary Church History
The present St. Mary Church was dedicated on January 19, 1910. According to the "History of the Joliet Diocese," records from St. Mary date back as far as 1860 when it was an adjunct of St. Mary, Champaign. Father Louis Heideman, pastor of Loda from 1883 to 1889, built a brick church on the eastern outskirts of Paxton. Old residents state that the erection of the church was completed in 1883. Here the faithful few gathered every third Sunday to celebrate Mass. It was then a mission of Loda, but after many years, the old St. Mary was torn down brick by brick by volunteer laborers of the parish. The bricks were cleaned and hauled to the present site on the northwest corner of Pells and Maple Streets. It was now a mission of St. Malachy, Rantoul. The lot had been purchased from the Atwood family and Father P.R. Durkin, pastor of St. Malachy, ventured into the building project for the small congregation of 17 families. The new church was to be built at a cost of $11,000. In 1921, Paxton became a canonical parish. Father Bernard J. Sheedy was appointed the first pastor and the mission was Ludlow. While Father Sheedy supervised the building of the rectory, he lived at the Middlecoff Hotel.
The new Joliet diocese was formed in 1948 under Bishop Martin D. McNamara. At that time St. Joseph, Loda became the mission church of St. Mary.
Under the leadership of Father Stanley Orlikiewicz, pastor from 1958 to 1964, the present parish center was built in 1962. St. Mary has continued to grow and give witness in our 100 year old edifice and 150 year old faith community.
St. Joseph Church History
As early as 1850, Mass was being celebrated in the town of Loda, Illinois, but it was not until 1870 that the parish was founded by Fr. Fanning, who was pastor at the church in Fairbury. In 1879, Fr. Cahill became the first resident pastor at St. Joseph taking up residence in the country and then renting a house in town. Until that time, priests would travel to and from Loda to celebrate Mass. Fr. Cahill became the first priest in residence and he would soon be followed by Fr. Kelly who, in 1880, built a rectory.
In 1883, Fr. Louis Heideman became pastor of St. Joseph and would stay for 17 years. During his time the neighboring towns of Paxton, Rankin, and Gibson City all became missionary communities to the parish. By 1914, only Rankin remained as a mission to St. Joseph parish. Through the years the people of St. Joseph would witness tragedies, such as the rectory fire in 1911. They would see parish growth, such as the continuous remodeling and expansions of the church and also growth in the new parishioners and families that became members of St. Joseph.
There would be changes in pastors as leaders, and through all of the changes our parish grew spiritually and in our ministry. In 1948, the Diocese of Joliet was created, and it was at this time that the parish of St. Joseph in Loda became a Mission church of St. Mary in Paxton. Today, our parish remains strong both in spirit and in numbers. We have come a long way since 1870 and we will continue to etch our history into the greater story of Christ's Church.