Perfect attendance: 40 years of Midnight Mass

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Sunday, December 19, 2010

When Holy Name Cathedral opened its doors for Midnight Mass in 1969 after a nearly twoyear renovation, Bill and Maxine Callaghan were there, in the first pew, with their five children who ranged in age from 19 to 6.

This year, the Orland Park couple will be back, sitting somewhere up front for the 41st straight year.

Bill Callaghan, 89, was co-owner of Henry Bros. Construction, the general contractor on the renovation project that started the day after Easter in 1968. He worked closely with then-monsignor, now Bishop Timothy Lyne, who was the cathedral’s rector and it sparked a friendship that has lasted through the decades.

“It was kind of nice for us to be there, because during the project, this was where Saturdays and Sundays were always spent, coming down to look at what had been done and figuring out what they were going to do come Monday morning,” said Maxine Callaghan, 83.

Henry Bros. — named for two of Bill Callaghan’s maternal uncles — was and is a family-owned company that developed a specialty in church- and school-related projects, starting with Our Lady of Grace Church in 1934. Among other projects, the company built Notre Dame High School for Girls, Carmel High School in Mundelein and Marist High School. It built the gymnasium at St. Ignatius College Prep, Bill Callaghan’s alma mater.

Callaghan did not go to college. Rather, he served in the Army Air Corps during World War II, a flight engineer on a C-109 tanker, flying over the Himalayas from India to fuel bombers on their way to Japan. He flew 43 missions in the planes known as “flying coffins.”

He ended up getting out of the Army on Jan. 6, 1946 and starting work at Henry Bros. four days later. When the cathedral project — one of the company’s biggest to that point in time — started, he had just taken over control of the company the year before.

So the family attended Easter Sunday Mass there in 1968, the day before bulldozers came in the front doors to gut the building and excavate the basement.

Over the coming months, the company reinforced the building’s footings and foundations, built the new concrete floor, added the sacristy and chapel and installed the marble sanctuary.

The crucifix, created by artist Ivo Demetz, arrived just in time from Italy. Indeed, the crucifix and the sanctuary are among Bill and Maxine Callaghan’s favorite features.

Callaghan retired from the company in 1987, the same year Henry Bros. helped with the installation of the cathedral’s Flenthrop organ, which meant reinforcing the choir loft.

The whole family no longer makes the trip to the cathedral for Midnight Mass — there are 13 grandchildren, and two greatgrandchildren on the way — but Bill and Maxine and at least one or two of their children come.

“We’ll keep doing it as long as we can,” Bill Callaghan said.