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Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church
Posen, Bolo Township, Washington County, Illinois
 
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St. Louis Post-Dispatch, St. Louis, Missouri, December 24, 1960
Courtesy of Cathy Luczaj Combs
Posen (Ill.) Church Decorated
Exterior of the Catholic church at Posen
 
Exterior of the Catholic church at Posen
Interior of the Catholic church at Posen
 
        Altar of Our Lady of Perpetual Hope Church at Posen Ill., which has been decorated for the Christmas season by members of the parish. Hundreds visit the church during the holidays to see the decorations.
Many To See Posen Church's Display
Special to the Post-Dispatch
      POSEN, Ill., Dec. 23 -- Hundreds of visitors will stream through this small Polish community in southern Washington county during the Christmas season to view the Nativity display and decorations in the altars of Our Lady of Perpetual Hope Church here.
      The crib and "thousand lights" that decorate the interior of the Catholic church attract the same pilgrims year after year. They have named it the "Bethlehem of Southern Illinois."
      For many years Rev. John Putas, the pastor, along with the young men and women of the parish, spent the last weeks of Advent in gathering cedars from the surrounding woods, setting lights and tinzel and constructing an altar that tells the Christmas story in detail.
      Since Father Putas died, his parishioners have been carrying on the work he started, in fitting tribute to the little rural priest that was everyone's friend.
      Posen is seven miles off a paved road, but somehow visitors find it during the holiday season. It is 60 miles southeast of St. Louis, off Highway 127, southeast of Nashville.
      This year more than 20 of the church members have arranged the entire sanctuary, the main altar and side altars into a huge canopy of freshly cut cedar, illuminated by 1000 red, blue and white twinkling lights.
      The church is open to the public during the Christmas holidays. Last year the stream of visitors was so great that the display was kept intact until about Jan. 15.
      The farmers cut and hauled in loads of cedars for the decoration, while the young people of the parish worked long hours "building" the display, in memory of their late priest.
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The Nashville News, Nashville, Illinois, December 10, 1980
Courtesy of Cathy Luczaj Combs
Holiday Memories
SOUTHERN ILLINOIS' FIRST CHRISTMAS TREE GOES BACK TO 1833
Christmas Interior of the Catholic church at Posen
 
      How many readers recognize this photo? Until it was torn down and replaced with a modern building, the huge frame church at Posen was a shrine for Southern Illinois residents at Christmastime, Father John J. Putas, with the help of school children, annually mounted more than a thousand lights inside the edifice, all entwined with cedar boughs and other greenery. The altar scene and manager scene was work of art that drew hundreds of people to the church. Visitors tagged the scene, "The Bethlehem of Southern Illinois." Now it is nostalgia, but many folks remember the outstanding work of these devoted Polish parishioners.
      Which brings up a question: who had the first Christmas tree in Southern Illinois? Evidently the first decorated tree ever recorded in the state was one that the daughters of Gustave Koerner decorated near Belleville in 1833. They took the top of a young sassafras which still had some leaves on it, dressed it with ribbons and bits of colored paper; hung small red apples and other fruit in its branches. Waxed candles were also attached to the limbs. Evidently this was the first Christmas tree in Egypt.
      It was much later, about 1900, when Christmas trees grew popular in both urban and rural homes. Country schools erected them for holiday parties, and the decorated trees moved also in the churches. Decorations in those days were popcorn, bits of tinsel, strings of red cranberries and red haws. There were also instances of tragedy when the burning candles ignited the resinous trees and an inferno of fire resulted.
-- Grover Brinkman
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See also :
Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church
  • Baptisms 1901 - 1906
  • Marriages 1901 - 1931
  • Burials 1901 - 1956
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