The Rockford Files

The Road to Hell

It’s been a rough three months for St. Mary’s Oratory here in Rockford.  First, over Labor Day weekend, some Republican members of the Winnebago County Board, in collusion with certain Republican county officials, hatched a plan to try to include St. Mary’s in the land-acquisition area for a new, $130-million county jail.  When the plan was exposed, those board members and officials were reduced to claiming that they had no intention of taking the church and only wanted to put a tunnel across St. Mary’s property to connect the new jail to the county’s existing public-safety building.  Seasoned observers of Winnebago County politics, however, suspected that the land grab was likely an attempt to take advantage of the jail construction to free up St. Mary’s property now for use by the county somewhere down the road.

In any case, by the end of October, the county had settled on an alternative route for the tunnel, and life, it seemed, could return to normal for the Latin Mass Community at St. Mary’s—at least, as normal as life could be at the church that some have taken to calling “St. Mary’s in Chains” or “St. Mary’s Between the Jails.”  Nothing in Winnebago County, however, is ever that simple.

Trying to derail the plans of her fellow board members, Mary Ann Aiello, along with local architect Gary Anderson, had filed a...

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