History of St. Ambrose Parish, Godfrey, Illinois
St. Ambrose Parish, Godfrey, Illinois, was established in August of 1947 while the Most Rev. James A. Griffin, D.D. was the Bishop of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois. The founding Pastor was Father Andrew Robinson. The first Mass in the new parish was celebrated at the Catholic Children’s Home in Alton, Illinois, with about 80 families participating. The School was begun the first week of September of that year with classes in the home of Mr. John Springman and the others at the Ursuline Convent in Alton, Illinois. 105 children attended class the first day.
Plans for the construction of a new Church, School and Rectory began almost immediately. On February 8, 1948 they were complete and became home for the parishioners of St. Ambrose Parish for almost thirty years. The total initial cost of the Church and rectory was a $150,000. School enrollment had grown to 185 students.
1949 witnessed the advent of the first assistant pastor at St. Ambrose in the person of Father Thomas Gorman. He was succeeded by Father Charles Zipprich in 1953 and by Father James Hill in 1957. In 1959, a new four-room addition to the school was completed north of the Belt Line. An additional four rooms addition were completed in 1964. By this time, the school enrollment had swelled to 353 children. Of course, the Church needed to be expanded at the same time for the growing parish. Young priests continued to assist Father Robinson with the growing demands of the parish.
On June 11, 1967, the parish witnessed the death by stroke of its founding Pastor, Father Andrew Robinson. He was succeeded by Msgr. Henry Knoedler, who shepherded the parish until 1977. Father Terrence Shea was then appointed to the pastorate of St. Ambrose, whose stated reason was to build a new Church for the parish. On February 8, 1978, thirtieth anniversary of the first Mass in the original Church, the first Mass was celebrated in the new Church, built on the same campus as the eight room school. The Church was dedicated by Bishop Joseph McNicholas on April 29, 1979.
Beginning on July 2, 1979, Father James Hill succeeded Father Shea as Pastor. During his pastorate, fire greatly damaged the original Church plant, including the classrooms. Additional classrooms were then constructed to complete the “new” school with two classes for each grade in the same building.
Father Hill’s replacement, Father Donald Blickhan, arrived in March of 1986. During his pastorate, the original fire-damaged parish plant was sold to another Christian denomination. The parish continued to grow and needs continued to change.
When Father Virgil Mank arrived to be Pastor in June of 1988, his work as shepherd was waiting for him. While the school continued to flourish, Father Mank set out to provide the staff and the space to address the needs of the adult members of the parish as well.
The former rectory was converted into office and meeting space as well as a parish library. The Pastoral Center continues to be the hub of much pastoral activity to this day.
The need was evident for a long time for a new gymnasium for the parish school and a new Community Center to accommodate the social and community-building activities of St. Ambrose’ parishioners. After a very successful capital campaign, groundbreaking took place in February of 1995. With the enthusiastic support of the people, these two new facilities were happily dedicated by Bishop Daniel L. Ryan, D.D. on April 22, 1996.
On December 8, 2002, on the occasion of the opening of the sesquicentennial celebration of the diocese of Springfield in Illinois, our pastor was named to the title of Chaplain to the Holy Father with the title of Monsignor. Msgr. Mank served as pastor at St. Ambrose for 16 years.
July 1, 2004 St. Ambrose Parish hails the arrival of its current pastor, Father Stephen J. Pohlman. Fr. Steve comes to St. Ambrose with much experience, having served at his last parish for 13 years and ordained for over 20 years. On August 1, 2004 Sr. Linda Noe, O.P., a Springfield Dominican sister, joined us as our Pastoral Associate.
The pilgrimage to God through personal enlightenment and growth continues in the parish of St. Ambrose. We strive to answer the Lord’s call to holiness, to create an environment where people may find God and to extend ourselves to others in outreach, justice, and evangelization for God’s People in Godfrey, Illinois.
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