Corpus Christi Parish

Corpus Christi is a parish in Galesburg IL, which was founded by Father Joseph Costa, a member of the Institute of Charity, the Rosminians. The church cornerstone dates to August 4, 1884 and dedicated by Bishop Spaulding. At that time the church was under the diocese of Alton, which is now repressed (no longer a diocese.)

What makes the church unique is the special relic it holds. It holds the body of St. Crescent. To see pictures of St. Crescent in Google Earth click here. Many of us do not know St. Crescent and there is very little to know. St. Crescent is not a saint recognized in the liturgical calendar of the universal church. The only place that you can find a celebration of the feast of St. Crescent (August 27) is here. St. Crescent wasn't even born here. St. Crescent lived in Rome and died at the age of 9 or 10 under the persecutions begun by the Roman Emperor Diocletian. August 27 is the day that St. Crescent's body arrived in Galesburg.

To be buried in those days was a luxury of the rich. So when Christianity furthered the belief that a body should be buried, they resorted to the catacombs of Rome. When the catacombs began to be explored after centuries of being forgotten, a marble slab was found over a tomb which read "Cresces". It also marked the tomb as that of a martyr and gave the dates of St. Crescent's death.

When the body was taken out of the catacombs, it was presented to Fr. Rosmini by the Pope Gregory XVI. The Rosminians were entrusted with the care of the saint's body since that day. When the Rosminians began to do missionary work in the Americas, Fr. Joseph Costa came to Galesburg and founded the parish of Corpus Christi. To see pictures of Corpus Christi parish using Google Earth, click here.

Galesburg is fascinating small town in the heartland. It is surrounded my farming communities, but is not a manufacturing and railroad town. It was a town started around the Presbyterian seminary, Knox college. It is the birthplace of Carl Sandburg, a famous writer. When Galesburg began to boom in population, it was with considerable influence the Irish railroad workers who were shipped in to do work. This led to the need for Catholic church's in Galesburg of which there are now 3.

To promote the welfare of these Catholics, Fr. Costa petitioned that St. Crescent would be moved to Corpus Christi Church. Literature in the church holds the legend that there are only 10 saints whose bodies are laid in churches in the United States. There is no way of verifying this, especially since knowledge of this treasure in the Church is hardly known by many who live in the same state. The important point to be made is that the body of a saint is a rarity in churches in North America. It makes this a wonderful shrine to pilgrim to.

When you visit Galesburg, it is clear why towns like it emerged on the frontier of Western expansion, and how it developed over time with laborers of all kinds. There is a constancy to life here and to the life of the faith. Most of the parish is working class people and talking with Fr. Joseph Presley, and assistant pastor, they share the same challenges of any Church… fixing leaking roofs, fallen plaster, broken windows. They keep the Church beautiful.

The one thing that stands out in the parish's history is the uniqueness of Galesburg since the arrival of St. Crescent. In the heartland, tornadoes are a very common occurrence. But since St. Crescent has arrived, which is the story of journey steeped in providence, Galesburg has not been struck by a single tornado. Some say this is superstitious, some say coincidence. I work in a parish where Peruvians carry an image of Jesus around the streets every October. A tradition which started in Peru as the image was saved from the damaging effects of earthquakes.

For me, a tornado in Galesburg, or an earthquake in Peru would neither lead me to believe in or doubt the providence of God. But if the presence of a saint's body, of someone who laid down their life for their faith, or the picture or statue of note leads us to transcend our thoughts and lead us to God, then it has served well as a vehicle for God's grace.

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