TAMPICO, Ill. (KWQC) — It is an icon in tiny Tampico, Illinois. A connection to Irish heritage. Saint Mary Catholic Church resonates reverence.
The bells from the tower send out a calming sound throughout the countryside. The church cornerstone is from Ireland. The first cornerstone imported in the state of Illinois.
Irish immigrants built the church. They came to the Midwest seeking religious freedom. The beautiful windows are original, as are the pews. Every window was donated by a family in the church. The stations of the cross are hand painted.
The church also has a connection to former President Ronald Reagan's family. His father attended Saint Mary and his brother Neil was baptized there. Parish member Corrine Francis feels a sense of peace whenever she visits the church. Deacon Bill Lemmer is the first, and only deacon, the parish has. Mass is held on Sunday morning.
Not far from the church is Saint Mary Cemetery. Several of the Irish immigrants are buried there. Also buried at the cemetery are the parents of former New York Yankee Manager Joe Girardi.
The candle still burns brightly at a church many people consider to be one of the most beautiful between Des Moines and Chicago. Ann Ufkin plays the original organ. A local landmark in a small town on the prairie. Saint Mary and its Irish Connection.