In 1949, a new diocese was created in Illinois – the Diocese of Joliet – with the Most Reverend Martin D. McNamara being installed as its first bishop. As he assessed the territory under his jurisdiction, it became evident that in order to better serve the needs of his people, new parishes would need to be formed. After extensive research, it was determined that a new parish should be established in the southwest area of Kankakee. In April 1950, the proposition concerning the founding of a new parish was presented to Reverend Basil J. Doyle who enthusiastically accepted the challenge. By fall of the same year, plans began to formally materialize.
St. Martin of Tours, the first parish in the new Diocese of Joliet, was officially established on September 8, 1950. On the first Sunday of October, 1950, the first Mass was offered for the new parishioners of St. Martin of Tours Parish at the Civic Auditorium in Governor Small Memorial Park. Weekday masses were offered in the chapel of the parish rectory which was located at 905 South Eighth Avenue. The first baptism was on November 12, 1950, in the rectory chapel.
A groundbreaking ceremony for a combined church and school took place on Sunday, March 4, 1951 in a simple ceremony attended by the pastor and a small group of parishioners. On July 22, 1951 Bishop McNamara presided at the laying of the cornerstone. The first mass in the new church was offered on Sunday, December 2, 1951 with the dedication of the combination church-school complex on June 15, 1952.
The following pastors have faithfully served St. Martin of Tours Parish since its founding and official dedication.
Reverend Basil Doyle - April, 1950 to June, 1956
Reverend Eugene Doherty - June, 1956 to March, 1961
Reverend Edward Hughes - March, 1961 to March, 1965
Reverend Thomas Fleming, Adm. - March, 1965 to June, 1965
Reverend Richard Kostelz, - June 1965 to June 1974
Reverend Simon Razmus - June, 1974 to December, 1974
Reverend John Patrick Day, C.P. Admin - December 1974 to February, 1975
Reverend Edward J. O'Malley - February, 1975 to June, 1988
Reverend Myles P. White - June, 1988 to July, 1992
Reverend Joseph Butters and Reverend Joseph Shimanek - July, 1992 to September, 1992
Reverend Dennis Settles - September, 1992 to June, 2010
Reverend Mario Quejadas - June, 2010 to present
September, 1951 marked the beginning of the school year for St. Martin of Tours School. Despite unexpected building delays, classes began in neighboring family homes of Paul Brule, Joseph Knaga and Joseph Boudreau. The first week of December marked the beginning of classes in the new school building.
A number of improvements and additions have been made to the original school building. In 1968 offices were designed and built in the foyer of the original building. A science room, library, and multi-purpose room, also serving as a church hall, were added in 1969. In February, 1995, plans were submitted to add two new classrooms, handicapped accessible restrooms, and a new rectory with parish offices. The rectory was completed the week after Easter, 1997 with the school addition ready for the 1997-1998 school year. In 1998 plans were approved for the parish multi-purpose center. The Parish Center was completed and dedicated by Bishop Joseph Imesch on March 3, 2002.
In 1963, Rev. Thomas Fleming organized the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine program for parish school children attending public school. Today our Religious Education program has an enrollment of 201 children.
On March 1, 1964, Miss Antonia Fritz, a faithful member of the parish, passed away. In her Will she bequeathed to St. Martins her 140-acre farm located south of Jeffery Street at Curtis Avenue from which the parish yields an annual income. Six acres of unimproved land situated immediately west of St. Martins Church and school were purchased in 1967 to allow for the future expansion of the parish.
In the fall of 2005, St. Martin of Tours Catholic School and Sts. Patrick and St. Teresa Catholic School merged to become Aquinas Catholic Academy.
St. Martin of Tours Parish is proud of its history of providing a place of worship, friendship, and community for parishioners to gather as a family to praise and serve Our Lord.