LAKE VILLA – Prince of Peace Catholic Church had one more upgrade to make after 17 years of planning, renovating and building.
But this improvement had nothing to do with church grounds.
Recently, the parish surprised the Rev. Rich Yanos by replacing his 31-year-old Toyota Camry. Its odometer read 333,000 miles.
“It was wonderful,” Yanos said. “Not a word leaked out in six months. I find that incredibly impressive. There are 9,000 parishioners in this parish and not a word. Not even a child leaking it and usually the kids are always gabbing.”
In January, the staff and parishioners at Prince of Peace began secretly planning their last major improvement. Yanos was transferred to St. Edna Catholic Church in Arlington Heights on Tuesday after he led Prince of Peace through all 17 years of seemingly endless construction.
“When a family member goes away to college, or a family member dies, or moves away, the bond you had with that member is very tight and so breaking that bond is a very painful thing,” Yanos said. “It’s very difficult for me to have to say goodbye and walk away. The reality of leaving this place was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life.”
The parish held open house meals after each Mass June 21 and 22 to celebrate Yanos’ service at Prince of Prince.
Huge growth in membership
The 56-year-old Chicago native started at Prince of Peace in April 1997. Yanos and the parish began creating a master plan for improvements that included upgrading the grounds, revamping the school and improving the parish’s low morale, Yanos said.
“I’m most proud of helping to create a spirit of welcome and an atmosphere of engagement and involvement,” Yanos said. “People come here now and they feel welcome when they walk into our doors, and they are encouraged to get involved in the life of our community.”
The parish spent $12 to $13 million renovating at the church, 135 S. Milwaukee Ave. The church has a $859,000 loan from the archdiocese to repay. The rest of the money came from donations.
“Our community is not an affluent parish. We’re not North Shore, we’re not Barrington, and that’s the amazing thing about how people have pulled together here to support what they believe in and that’s the most exciting thing,” he said. “We don’t have large donors with the exception of one or two people. It’s the small contributions of many people who have made this happen.”
The master plan started with paying off the $700,000 to $800,000 of debt that Yanos inherited. Then the church built a new rectory, renovated and expanded the church, built new office space, built a gathering space and parish life center, restructured the parish’s social aspects and revitalized the school.
The construction, Yanos said, met the needs of a growing community. Since he started, the number of parishioners grew from 6,500 to 9,000.
He started building a community of faith by “rubbing shoulders with people,” he said.
“One of the greatest things that happened over these years was when a pastor loves his people and his people learn to trust him and he in turn trusts them,” Yanos said. “You can work miracles. I can ask my people for anything today and they would do it because they know that I’m looking after the best interest of them and their community of faith.”
Priest likes parish life center
Catholic priests spend a maximum dozen years at a single parish. Yanos received an extra five from the bishop to finish the building.
“There were many days when I wanted to throw the towel in because the pressures of ministry can be overburdening, but it’s the goodwill and the faith of this community that keep me going,” he said.
Yanos attended Niles College of Loyola University in Chicago as an undergraduate and University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein as a graduate.
After graduating from Quigley North High School in Chicago, Yanos originally decided to attend DePaul University as a pharmacological or accounting major. He switched to Niles at the last minute to give priesthood another look. It was while attending undergraduate school that Yanos cemented his decision to become a priest.
“I always admired the life of the priests in the parish that I grew up in,” Yanos said. “Even 31 years later, I’m happier today then I was when I was ordained.”
Yanos said his favorite scripture passage from the Bible is in the Gospel of John.
“I have given you life that you may have it to the full,” he said, quoting the passage.
“I believe that strongly, that God gave us life and that he wants us to live it as fully as we possibly can and that’s what I try to do with my life every day,” he said.
Yanos said his favorite building is the parish life center because it will be used by many generations to come.
“It will enhance the social and educational life of our parish,” he said.
The life center is two floors and the largest building at the parish with 44,000 square feet of usable space. The building is not visible from Route 132 or 83. It has a gymnasium with a full stage, bleachers, six basketball hoops, volleyball, two courts, a full-sized banquet kitchen to accommodate 600 people for meals, five meeting rooms, fine arts room, preschool and kindergarten. The center was completed this year.
“We had focused on the spiritual aspect of our parish, we had focused on the administrative aspect of our parish, and now we were focusing on the social, athletic and educational portion of our needs for the parish,” he said.
A self-sufficient Catholic school
In addition to construction and improving parish morale, Yanos also increased tuition at the school and made it self-sufficient. He said this is uncommon with Catholic schools, and when he started, the parish was supporting the school with a $150,000 subsidy.
“When you are committed to your parish and your people, you give your whole self to it, and for that reason, this has been for me, my home, my family.
“I will miss just the routine that has been a part of my life ever since I moved here,” he said. “I really helped to build this place up from nothing to what it is today. I know every inch of this place, every building that has been built, every stone that was put up, every roof single, I had a hand in picking all of that stuff, so I’m really tied into this place, but I will miss the people the most.”