“The members of Saints Peter and Paul parish are part of the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Church founded by Jesus Christ for the salvation of the world. We are a community of believers united in the Christian faith with Peter’s successor, the Bishop of Rome, and all those in communion with him including our bishop, the Bishop of Joliet. As such, the mission of our parish, like the mission of every Catholic parish, is to help people grow in holiness by living lives that reflect the love of the Most Holy Trinity. We do this by studying and proclaiming the Word of God, and by celebrating the Sacraments of the Church, including, preeminently, the Eucharist in which Christ feeds the faithful with His very Body and Blood. By following the call of the Holy Spirit, by imitating Jesus Christ and seeking to do the Father’s will, we share the truth of the Gospel with others by our testimony and example. Through acts of charity and social justice we seek to build a culture of life in the world today as we long for the Kingdom of God in the world to come.
St. Peter, originally known as Simon, was the son of a man named John, and his brother’s name was Andrew. We also know that he was married, since Jesus cured his mother-in-law at the family home at Bethsaida in Gallilee (Mark 11:30). A fisherman by trade, Jesus was to call Peter, along with his brother and James and John, to leave everything behind to become His followers and to catch people’s souls in their nets (Matthew 4:19).
It is because of Peter’s confession of faith in Jesus as Messiah that Jesus gave him the nickname of “rock” and stated that it was upon the rock of Peter’s faith that the Church would rise (Matthew 16:18). All the Gospel writers list Peter first when naming the apostles of Jesus, and there is no doubt that Peter was the “first among equals” in the minds of the earliest Christians. Time and again in the Gospels, however, Peter demonstrates that his faith is imperfect, but growing. He says things that make Jesus react strongly: he denies that Jesus’ coming death should ever be allowed to happen (Matthew 16:22), tells Jesus at the last supper that He will never wash his feet (John 13:8), and denies association with Jesus three times, even after Jesus predicted that he would do so (Luke 22:61) . St. Peter can show us how difficult discipleship can truly be, but is also an example of the Lord choosing the weak and making them strong in bearing witness to Him.
Peter was martyred (crucified upside down on a cross) for the Faith in the year 64 in Rome, the city he served as its first bishop. His successors in that office, who exercise the ministry of Bishop of Rome to this day, are given a primacy of honor and jurisdiction among all the world’s bishops and are known by the familiar title of “Pope.” St. Peter’s feasts are June 29th (Saints Peter and Paul, our parish’s patronal feast), and February 22nd ( the feast of the primacy of St. Peter).
St. Paul’s background and journey of faith is somewhat different from St. Peter’s. Paul, who was originally known as Saul, was an educated Jew and a member of the Pharisee party, as well as being a Roman citizen. He first appears in the pages of Scripture in Acts 7:58, as being present at the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the first of Jesus’ followers to be put to death because of his faith in Jesus. Saul persecuted the Christians savagely, but was dramatically converted to the very One he had been persecuting after seeing Jesus in a vision (Acts 9:4). From that time on, Saul, who was now known as Paul, poured the same energy with which he persecuted Christ’s followers into bringing the Gospel of Jesus to as many people as he could.
Paul traveled around most of what was the Roman Empire, establishing Christian communities and witnessing to the Risen Jesus, while asserting that he, too, was one of the Apostles, although “one born out of the normal course” (1 Corintheans 15:8). In his many letters to the various Christian communities he established (or those written by others with his approval), today, form the bulk of the writings of the New Testament. Paul was also martyred at Rome, three years after St. Peter, in the year 67 AD, by being beheaded (his Roman citizenship would not permit his being crucified). The feast commemorating his conversion is kept on January 25.
Saints Peter & Paul was founded in 1846 and is the oldest established parish in DuPage County. The parish was originally established as St. Raphael’s, after the given name of its pastor, Rev. Raphael Rainaldi. The first church served 25 families, and was a small frame structure with a lean-to attached to the south side, which served as both sacristy and priest’s residence. This church was built on the west side of Front Street (Ellsworth) and faced east.
The school was started with a lay person as a teacher in 1853. In 1852 the church was enlarged by a frame addition and the lean-to was moved to the west side of Ellsworth Street and was used as the parish school.
In 1862, Rev. Peter Fischer became pastor of the parish and changed its name from St. Raphael to Saints Peter & Paul. During his time as pastor, work was begun on a stone church to serve the needs of the parish which had grown to 230 families. This new church, located on the same site as the present church, was dedicated in March, 1866. The original frame church was converted into a two room school with 100 children attending.
In 1892 a new school was built to accommodate an enrollment of 180 children. Work also began on the rectory located at the site of the present parish office building.
In 1911, the school was destroyed by fire. A new school was built and at its opening in 1912, the enrollment was 250.
Fire was to strike Saints Peter & Paul again. On Pentecost Sunday, June 4, 1922, the church was completely destroyed by a fire that still remains the worst in Naperville’s history. Out of the ashes, the 350 families that comprised Saints Peter & Paul parish at that time, built the magnificent church we have today.
The new rectory was completed in the fall of 1996. Because of the growing needs of Saints Peter and Paul, the new parish Ministry Center was dedicated in 1999. This building houses all the parish offices, the religious education offices, space for meetings and the parish auditorium/chapel. The parish now serves over 4,000 families.