St. Francis of Assisi Church celebrates 100 years with special celebration


Back row: Father Prior Augustine Puchner, O.Praem., Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, Bishop Kevin Vann of the Diocese of Orange, Father Prior Chrysostom A. Baer, O.Praem
Front row: Father Godfrey Bushmaker, O.Praem.; Father Gregory Dick, O.Praem.; Father Stephen Boyle, O.Praem., Sister Anna Phiri, OSF, Assistant Superior, Sister Maureen O’Connor, OSF, Superior, Sister Janice Schneider, OSF, Assistant Superior, Father Anselm Rodriguez, O.Praem., Father Gabriel Stack, O. Praem., Father Quyen Truong, Parochial Vicar at Christ Cathedral in the Diocese of Orange.

It’s one of the most majestic and beautiful churches in the Midwest – St. Francis of Assisi Church, which is tucked away on the peaceful grounds of the St. Francis of Assisi campus on Springfield’s northeast side. On April 27, the Norbertine Fathers of Corpus Christi Priory hosted a celebratory Mass commemorating the 100th anniversary of the dedication of the church. 

“We are thrilled to be here at the priory and using this beautiful and historic church every day for our prayers,” said Father Prior Augustine Puchner, O.Praem. “It’s a bit overwhelming to consider all the prayers, especially the Masses, that have been offered in this church over the past 100 years! For us to now be part of that history and legacy is both humbling and inspiring. The Hospital Sisters of St. Francis have given the diocese and local community a tremendous gift in this beautiful church!”

Special guests at the Mass were Bishop Kevin Vann of the Diocese of Orange, California (who is originally from Springfield); and Father Prior Chrysostom Baer, O.Praem. from St. Michael’s Abbey in Orange County, California, and several Hospital Sisters of St. Francis. Their order originally built the property and church and have lived there for more than 100 years. The Mass, which was invite only due to limited seating, was celebrated by Bishop Thomas John Paprocki.

“I especially love the beautiful tabernacle, the elevated sanctuary, and the full balcony that goes completely around the whole church,” Father Puchner said. “Those are all special features that give the church a unique character and beauty.” 

“Amid the beautiful stained glass, murals, statues, and sacred art in St. Francis of Assisi Church, I am nostalgic as I consider the most basic part of the church – the terrazzo floor,” said Sister Maureen O’Connor, OSF, Superior of the Hospital Sisters of St. Francis. “This is the floor upon which hundreds of Hospital Sisters experienced the presence of God in the celebration of daily Mass along with our community celebrations of Entrance, Investiture, Profession of Vows, Jubilee, and funerals since 1924. Over the years, that same floor was the place upon which countless people from many walks of life and faith traditions experienced the presence of God in ways that can’t be described by words. God was present then and continues to be present now in this magnificent church.”

In July 2023, the Norbertine Fathers of St. Michael’s Abbey of Orange, California, established the new Corpus Christi Priory with seven priests now residing there. Their main apostolate at the priory is the Evermode Institute, which launched last summer and is already serving Catholic teachers, administrators, and formators in our diocese and beyond, offering a complete curriculum in the fundamentals of the Catholic faith that is confident in its Catholicism and clear in its approach. The Evermode Institute is receiving rave reviews.

You can pray with the Norbertine Fathers every day and attend Mass at St. Francis of Assisi Church (4867 Laverna Road in Springfield). Mass is at 7 a.m. Monday-Saturday and 9 a.m. on Sunday. Confessions take place in the church confessionals Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. The church opens at 5:30 a.m. and closes at 9 p.m. All are welcome to join the Norbertine Fathers in the liturgies and prayers offered in St. Francis of Assisi Church during those times.

Photos by Sister M. Consolata Crews, FSGM