By Zachary Daum
Holy Childhood of Jesus Catholic Church in Mascoutah, Illinois, is preparing to welcome its 13th priest since its founding in 1857, as Father Mark Stec takes on the role of pastor, effective July 1, 2023. With over three decades of experience as a Catholic priest, Father Stec is no stranger to leadership and spiritual guidance.
Born on August 26, 1961, in Chicago to Christiana and Daniel Stec, Father Mark Stec pursued his education with dedication, earning his B.S. and M.A. from Loyola University in Chicago and his M.Div. from the University of Saint Mary of the Lake Seminary School in Mundelein, Illinois. He was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois, on June 4, 1988, by the Most Rev. James P. Keleher.
Father Mark’s journey into priesthood was influenced by his experiences at Camp Ondessonk in Ozark, Illinois, where he spent his summers during high school and college. “I would come down every summer as soon as school would let out until school started in high school and college and I fell in love with Southern, Illinois,” He reminisced.
“When I was considering or praying about becoming a priest, Chicago wasn’t the place I wanted to go. I petitioned the Bishop then, which was Bishop John Worm, who said, ‘We’d love to take you but we want to send you back to Chicago for Seminary School,’” which was when he attended University of Saint Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois.
Having served in various parishes over the years, Father Mark Stec was assigned to Holy Cross in Wendelin and St. Joseph in Stringtown in 2010. Later, on August 16, 2016, he was appointed Pastor of Holy Cross Parish, Wendelin; Pastor of St. Joseph Parish, Stringtown; and Pastor of St. Joseph Parish Olney, with residence at St. Joseph Rectory in Olney.
With an long pastoral background, Father Mark brings a wealth of experience and a compassionate heart to the Holy Childhood of Jesus Catholic Church. He shared his sentiments on his new assignment, expressing both excitement and reflection on moving to Mascoutah. “When I left my previous assignment, I had become part of the family. You’ve laughed with them, you’ve cried with them, you grew up with them. You feel comfortable. I would have been perfectly fine staying where I was at,” Father Mark said. “But I think we need to move a bit because then there’s new life and invigoration. We’ve got to grow, and that’s what it’s all about; Growth. Together as a community and, more importantly, our relationship with God. It’s good to be here.”
As Father Mark settles into his role as Pastor of Holy Childhood of Jesus, he has been impressed with the warmth and hospitality of the parishioners. “From what I’ve experienced, everyone has been very welcoming and hospitable. It’s been a situation in which I was made to feel that this is my home. Being their leader now as their pastor helps a little bit. It’s been great,” he shared.
With an open mind and a commitment to fostering growth within the parish, Father Mark Stec looks forward to creating a vibrant spiritual community in Mascoutah. “I don’t have all the answers and the ideas. Do we keep it the same, which is great? We don’t like change. For me, being where I was at and coming here, it just breathes new life. I don’t operate the way my predecessors do. Do I have the answers? No. Am I better than them? No. We’ve got to grow, and that’s what it’s all about,” he emphasized.