St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church began in the year 1846 in a place known as North Barrens,
about 4 miles west of Crystal Lake along Illinois 176. The actual site of the first church was on the grounds of
Mt. Thabor cemetery. The structure was called the Little Church in the Bush by the Algonquin Township
residents around Crystal Lake and the Little Church in the Woods by the Grafton Township residents of Huntley. Both areas attached themselves to the church, with Catholics in Huntley also attending a church in South Barrens, near Gilberts.

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In 1881, the first Mass was said in the new frame church, built on Pierson Street. St. Thomas became an independent parish of the Rockford Diocese in 1913. In 1922, Mrs. Libby Duffy Reynolds donated four city lots to the parish. Construction on the rectory began that year under the direction of the Parish's first permanent Pastor, Fr. E.A. McCormick, with it's completion in 1923. Ground was broken for the church in 1924 and the building was dedicated by Bishop Muldoon on July 12, 1925.

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The school was next to be built, with work beginning in June of 1927.  In September of that year 60 students began instruction under the supervision of the Springfield Dominican Sisters. Finally, a house was purchased to serve as a convent.  An addition to the convent was completed in 1952.


As the parish continued to grow, the decision was made in December 1957 to build a new school building, a new rectory and to convert the old rectory into a larger convent. Construction began in 1958 with the laying of the cornerstone.  The new school building was dedicated by Bishop Loras T. Lane on May 10, 1959.

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As the parish membership swelled to over 6,000 members, the decision was made to build a new church building and utilize both buildings for the Parish.  The new church was located at Oak St. and Illinois 176.  The parish celebrated the completion of the new building on Easter Sunday, April 14, 1968.

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Because of continued growth, a new parish, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, was established by Bishop Arthur J. O'Neill in 1978.  The church building for St. Elizabeth Ann Seton was located at McHenry Ave. and Dartmoor Dr., where a new rectory had already been built.

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St. Thomas, during the pastorate of Fr. Geoffrey D. Wirth, began to expand and renovate in 1987.  A renovated Parish Center was blessed on September 17, 1989 and ground was broken in October 1994 for a addition to the school and a new community center at the Oak. St. Church. Both buildings were blessed by Bishop Thomas G. Doran on December 17, 1995.

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In 2008, we opened Our Little Saints Preschool.  Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton generously offered to house our preschool program. We started then with 2 classes for three and four year old children. Since then, Little Saints Preschool has grown in the number of families wanting a faith filled early education for their children.  A stand alone preschool was build next to St. Thomas School in 2016.

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Under the pastorate of Monsignor Daniel J. Hermes, St. Thomas continues to grow. Ground was broken for the Holy Hearts Perpetual Adoration Chapel in May of 2013 and the chapel was dedicated by Bishop David Malloy on December 8, 2013.

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Over the years, the physical plant has changed.  As Crystal Lake has grown, so too has the Parish and school.  More land was obtained for the school and a second building was added in 1958.  

The two school buildings were connected in 1994 adding a new gymnasium, music room, and lecture room.  This was accomplished through the City of Crystal Lake's willingness to dedicate that portion of King Street that separated both buildings and agreeing with our plan to build on this space.  This created a beautiful courtyard as home to the original concrete St. Thomas statue that was once part of Old St. Thomas the Apostle Church's exterior.

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The school has a library and technology lab.  We are continually upgrading the facilities.  Recent improvements include a new wood gym floor, a new roof on the King Street building, new ceiling and lighting in the cafeteria, as well as a remodeled main entry that allows for more safety of the school.  Each classroom in our school is named after a Catholic saint.

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Today, St. Thomas the Apostle Catholic School is a school of approximately 225 students in preschool through eighth grade.  Our state-accredited programs and our community service have been an important part of the Crystal Lake community for over ninety years.