The History of St. Alexander Parish
St. Alexander’s has a history almost as old as Villa Park. It was the first Catholic church in town, established in 1924 to serve 179 Catholic families in the area. The parish was named for St. Alexander I, Pope and Martyr, and was led by Rev. Henry F. Kennedy, Pastor. The first Mass was celebrated in the Wooden Ark (so nicknamed because it leaked in many places whenever it rained), the temporary church, on the feast of the Immaculate Conception, 1924. Ground was broken for our present church in 1953 and the first mass was celebrated on August 15, 1954. The hall and Parish Center (then the rectory) were added in 1959.
In 1925, the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur of Cincinnati came to teach here. They arrived in September and taught 56 children in grades 1 through 6. Classes were held in the Wooden Ark until the new school was completed in December of that year. The twelve-room building had six classrooms, an auditorium, and living quarters with a chapel for the sisters. The sisters lived on the second floor of the school until 1951 when they moved to a nearby home so that both floors could be used as classrooms. The new convent was occupied in 1957.
St. Alexander’s has always been a dynamic and progressive community with a history of active parishioners and a vibrant organization. The Council of Catholic Women was established two years before we officially had a parish. Holy Name followed six years later in 1928. Girl Scouts began in 1929 and Boy Scouts in 1936, while Brownies and Cub Scouts were added in 1949. School sports programs were formalized in 1956. The Religious Education Program was re-structured in 1969. The School Board was formed in 1967, and the Parents’ Association in 1970. Later a Youth Ministry program was initiated and a Golden Agers group began. The Parish Council was instituted in 1972. Later, Ministry of Care programs were initiated to serve the needs of parishioners from bereavement to healing and wellness. Today parishioners may be involved in any of the over 50 organizations and ministries active at St. A’s. In 2004, the parish celebrated its 80th anniversary with various celebrations throughout the year. Our website came online in June 2005.
After a decade and a half of fund-raising, the construction of a Gathering Space connecting the Church and the Parish Center was completed in 2007; the project include major utility updates and extensive – and beautiful – remodeling of the Church.
The History of Our Lady of Ardvilla
In 1924, when St. Alexander’s was founded, the Klu Klux Klan was active in the area and was reported to have been involved in several church burnings. The founding pastor, Fr. Kennedy. secured a statue ‘that couldn’t be burnt’ – a cement statue of Our Lady. It was originally in a grotto built by the men of the parish near the entrance to the Wooden Ark. Over time, the grotto crumbled and was rebuilt, and the statue itself was moved several times. Before 2007 it was moved to its current location in front of the Parish Center, and a beautiful tile surround (reminiscent of the church’s stained glass windows) was created for it; parishioners maintain a lovely “Mary’s Garden” around it, and – weather permitting – it is the site of the parish’s annual Crowning of the Blessed Virgin.