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updated: 7/17/2012 2:53 PM

Sacred Heart German Fest celebrates church's rich history

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  • Sacred Heart volunteer Jim Leahy says that though German Fest is the Lombard church's largest fundraiser, what makes it special is seeing parishioners together. "It really became a fun thing to see the whole parish come together," he said.

      Sacred Heart volunteer Jim Leahy says that though German Fest is the Lombard church's largest fundraiser, what makes it special is seeing parishioners together. "It really became a fun thing to see the whole parish come together," he said.
    Daily Herald File Photo

  • German Fest organizers have tried to build on German traditions as the festival has grown. The biggest tradition is food, says event spokeswoman Paula Dillon. "We really tried to make the food and beverage offerings authentic going into German Fest," she said.

      German Fest organizers have tried to build on German traditions as the festival has grown. The biggest tradition is food, says event spokeswoman Paula Dillon. "We really tried to make the food and beverage offerings authentic going into German Fest," she said.
    Daily Herald File Photo

  • Sacred Heart German Fest attendees can purchase a carnival megapass for $50, which offers unlimited rides all four days of the festival, as well as single-day wristbands for $20. Both can be purchased on-site.

      Sacred Heart German Fest attendees can purchase a carnival megapass for $50, which offers unlimited rides all four days of the festival, as well as single-day wristbands for $20. Both can be purchased on-site.
    Daily Herald File Photo

 
By Annalisa Rodriguez
arodriguez@dailyherald.com

In July 1912, 54 families banded together to form Sacred Heart Parish in Lombard. The first Mass was at the Lincoln Schoolhouse on Lake Street, which is now St. Charles Road, and the first school classes taught 30 students in a local resident's barn.

"The first school structure was an old red barn," said Jim Leahy, who is on the parish's publicity committee. "That was converted into the first Catholic school of Lombard."

A month later, ground was broken for the church, and the first Mass in the new church was on Palm Sunday in 1913.

A year later, a rectory was built and, in 1925, so was a convent. As the number of parishioners grew, the original church became too small. In 1958, construction began to build a new church on the site and in 1959 it was dedicated.

"By 1959, you have the campus as you see it today," Leahy said. "It grew up in several stages."

This rich history makes the 100th anniversary of Sacred Heart Parish that much more special. Celebrations of the church's anniversary have been taking place all year, and they coincide with German Fest, which takes place at the Lombard church from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Thursday, July 19; 5:30 to 11 p.m. Friday, July 20; 1 to 11 p.m. Saturday, July 21; and 1 to 7:30 p.m. Sunday, July 22.

The festival is now the church's largest fundraiser, but it had humble beginnings.

"Originally it was a one-day event, kind of like a parish picnic," Leahy said. "It grew to become a significant fundraising event. It's helped establish a lot of programs we run as a parish."

As the celebration has grown, organizers have tried to build on German traditions, said Paula Dillon, co-chairwoman of publicity.

The largest tradition revolves around food, she said.

"We really tried to make the food and beverage offerings authentic going into German Fest," Dillon said.

The free event also will feature a carnival, bingo, a casino, bags tournaments and entertainment, which will include the bands Sixteen Candles and 7th Heaven.

"The biggest thing outside of food is we have a full set of bands," Dillon said. "When bands are here, it's jammed."

Festival attendees can purchase a carnival megapass for $50, which gives them access to unlimited rides all four days of the festival. For those attending only one day, daily wristband specials also are available for $20. Both are purchased on-site.

Ann Freiburg grew up as a member of Sacred Heart Parish and attended school there as a child.

"It was a very important place for my growing up because not only did I go to church there, but I went to school there, so I really made a lot of friends there and received a good education," she said.

Freiburg said she delighted in filling the chalkboard with basic sentence diagrams while in school. After teaching in California for some time, she said it was interesting comparing those schools' progressive methods with the more conventional methods at Sacred Heart.

But the bottom line, she says, is that she left the school with a quality education.

"It was a parochial, or religious, school, so that was a very important part of our development at the school as well," Freiburg said. "We certainly had a lot of faith development there."

It's seeing parishioners with stories like Freiburg's come together that makes German Fest truly special, Leahy said.

"The thing that really got us volunteers excited is that it really became a fun thing to see the whole parish come together," he said. "Even in the lean years when we weren't making that much money, we never thought about canceling it."

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