A description of our church
As one approaches Jerseyville all roads seem to converge at St. Francis Xavier. For over 150 years the majestic steeple of the Gothic-styled, brick church has been the focal point for all coming to Jerseyville from the North, South, East, or West. The pristine spire towers 140 feet and can easily be seen for at least 5 miles in all directions. The style of the church has been preserved and remains as beautiful today as it was many years ago.
St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church is a place of deep reverence and awe for all. As one enters the church, the eyes focus on the ornate high altar where the tabernacle containing the precious Body of Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament is centrally located. This high altar is painted, carved wood accented in gold. Statues of the Blessed Mother and St. John are at the foot of the beautiful crucifix in the center. Above the crucifix can be found a rare Divine Child statue of the Christ Child (El Divino Nino). On the altar are four statues of angels in prayer worshiping Our Lord, Jesus Christ, on the cross. Painted beneath the tabernacle is a scene depicting the Last Supper. A beautifully ornate gold tabernacle lamp with a deep red candle insert hanging above the main altar reminds all of Jesus’ personal presence in the Blessed Sacrament.
The beautiful statues are exquisitely painted in their original colors. Two murals anchor the front walls of the church. One depicts Jesus Christ standing at the door knocking as in Rev 3:20 - “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” The other mural depicts the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is shown standing on the earth with twelve stars crowning her head as is found in Rev. 12:1 – “A woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; she was with child.” At one time there were also murals on the front walls depicting the Instruments of Jesus’ Passion on one wall and the other mural depicting a chalice, hosts, grapes and wheat. Unfortunately these were painted over many times and were unable to be uncovered.
The dome directly over the altar has been painted depicting the Holy Spirit descending on its church with the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit emanating from its mouth. From this the four Gospels are depicted as points, unified by chevrons (v-shapes). The chevrons seem to depict the bishops (miters or hats) and the priests under their guidance who, by virtue of their ordination, proclaim the Gospel truth to us faithfully passing it down from one generation to the next. These points appear to radiate out to 5 fish tails shown with ancient fish scales (which were used for protection) signifying God’s people, who then take the Word of God to the streets, which are depicted as cobblestones in the archways supporting the dome.
Two side altars that are ornately done in a smaller scale than the high altar are adorned with statues of the Blessed Mother and the Sacred Heart of Jesus on the left and St. Joseph and St. Anthony on the right. The cast iron baptismal font is thought to date back to 1866. In 1968 it was believed that approximately 3500 baptisms had been performed in that baptismal font.
Down the side walls of the church are the spectacular life-like Stations of the Cross painted in their original colors. Also adorning the side walls of the church are beautifully done, bold-colored stained glass windows. The various windows portrayed are: St. Teresa of Avila, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Margaret Mary Alacoque kneeling before the Sacred Heart of Jesus, St. Patrick, and St. Catherine of Sienna on the left. On the right from the front are depictions of St. Louis (king of France), The Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary, St. Martin de Tours, St. Scholastica, and St. Rose of Lima.
In the back of the church over the doors are stained glass windows of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, The Holy Spirit, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. In the foyer is a stained glass window over the door depicting Ecce Homo, the scourged Jesus with the crown of thorns. The original crucifix has been repaired and is currently hanging in the foyer. One can also find a copy of the Pieta statue.
In the choir loft our parish is blessed to have our magnificent Wicks organ out of Highland, IL. The organ contains 244 pipes. The organ was donated by Mary Witt Heitzig with introductory performances by Mrs. Heitzig’s daughter, Mary Ann (Sug) Heitzig Rydzeski and by Doug Updike of Jerseyville. Our liturgies are celebrated true to Catholic Church teachings and enhanced by our wonderful choir. Behind the organ pipes are stained glass windows of David with his harp and St. Cecelia at the organ. The acoustics in the church are believed to excel any other structure in the area.
At one time at least from 1907-1966, the archways in the nave of the church had murals depicting scenes from Jesus’ life, which are also found in the Rosary, including: the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Nativity, the Transfiguration, Ecce Homo, the Resurrection, the Ascension, and the Descent of the Holy Spirit.
The church structure is 55 feet by 100 feet. The seating capacity in the main body of the church is 650 and an additional 100 persons can be accommodated in the choir loft. The bell tower is 140 feet high. The inside height of the ceiling in the center of the nave is 43 feet and the side aisles’ ceiling reaches 25 feet.
The St. Francis Xavier complex today includes the church, the school which houses grades 5-8 and has a kitchen and a gymnasium, the rectory office, a tenant house that had served as the convent, and the “white house” rectory where our priest lives. There is also a large grassy play/overflow parking area and a large black topped parking lot. The school today is staffed by lay teachers.