|Monsignor Matthias Butala|
In addition to his spiritual leadership of his parish. Monsignor Butala retained his life-long love of sports and worked to provide sports opportunities for youngsters. In 1940, he built St. Joseph's Park, bringing recreational and sports facilities to the surrounding community and the parishioners.
When St. Joe's Park opened, Msgr. Butala arranged for the legendary Babe Ruth to throw out the first pitch!
Monsignor Butala will be especially remembered for his creation of the Little League of St. Joseph's Park, which grew from a handful of young boys in 1940 to more than 450 boys--and girls--today.
In gratitude, the Joliet community dedicated the baseball field, which he founded, and named it Msgr. Matthias Butala Field.
He founded numerous other organizations, including American Legion Post 1080, Catholic Clergy Council of Will County, the Slovenian Catholic League and St. Joseph's Senior Parishioners. He was also instrumental in founding the Catholic Youth Organization of Joliet.
He was also involved with other community activities, including the Diocese Thanksgiving clothing drive which he directed for 40 years.
He was honored with the Bishop Baraga Association Award in 1976 and was inducted in the Joliet/Will County Hall of Pride in 1990.
On his retirement in 1973, Monsignor Butala remained at St. Joseph's as pastor emeritus until 1988, when he took up residence at Our Lady of Angels Retirement Home. Monsignor Butala passed away in 1992 at the age of 94.
In addition to being remembered as the spiritual leader of St. Joseph's Church, Monsignor Butala is also credited with building St. Joseph's Park in Joliet to share his love of baseball with the city's youth.
Monsignor Matthias Joseph Butala was born in Joliet on June 14,1898. He was educated in Joliet grade schools and upon completing his freshman year at Joliet Township High School, he transferred to St. Francis Minor Seminary in Milwaukee. Young Matthias Butala was a very good student and also an adept baseball catcher and infielder. Baseball organizations such as the then Milwaukee Braves tried to recruit him. But instead of pursuing a career in baseball, the promising young Butala followed his priestly call to teach kids how to play baseball besides religion.
After completing his theological studies at St. Francis Major Seminary in Milwaukee, he was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Chicago by Cardinal George Mundelein on May 21, 1921, at Holy Name Cathedral.
In 1938, he was named pastor of St. Joseph's Church in Joliet, where he served until 1973. St. Joseph's is the largest Slovenian parish in the Chicagoland area.