churches will close in south city.
By Tim O'Neil
Of the Post-Dispatch
The St. Louis Archdiocese has begun a major redrawing of parish lines
in the southern half of St. Louis that will close seven churches
outright and redefine 10 others for special or occasional use.
Archbishop Raymond Burke announced the changes in a detailed column he
wrote for Friday's St. Louis Review, the archdiocesan weekly newspaper.
Changes will begin this summer and are scheduled for completion next
The plan is a patchwork of mergers, closings and other changes that
will affect all but six parishes on the south side, even though there
is no liturgical future for only seven of the 35 Catholic churches in
the South St. Louis Deanery, which includes downtown.
An example is St. Francis de Sales, southwest of downtown and known as
the "cathedral of the south side" because of its 300-foot spire. It
will lose its status as a geographical parish but become permanent home
to Latin Masses.
Burke's final plan makes some changes in proposals that have been hot
topics among parishioners since the fall.
big news is his assignment of St. Agatha's, next to Anheuser-Busch Cos.
Inc., as the parish for Polish Catholics - a move that will be
permanent without a resolution in the lengthy fight over the control of
the St. Stanislaus church northwest of downtown, said archdiocesan
spokesman Jamie Allman.
Special roles, chapels.
The plan preserves five other churches by giving them similar specialty
roles and will keep three alive as "chapels" without assigned pastors
or regular Masses. One future chapel is St. John Nepomuk just south of
downtown, which was founded in 1854 as the first Czech parish in the
"The archbishop is convinced of the hopes for a revival of the city
that will some day restore these churches as full replenished
parishes," Allman said Friday. "Take St. Francis de Sales. There was no
way he was going to close such a beautiful and historic church."
Allman said Burke hoped that a permanent Latin-Mass congregation there
can begin making the $2 million in repairs that the landmark church
The plan also will close four parish grade schools at the end of this
school year. The archdiocese hopes that most of the 600 students at
those schools will move to the remaining 13 grade schools, which now
serve 3,500 children.
The plan puts into motion the second of three archdiocesan studies of
regions in the Missouri portion of the metropolitan area that have lost
many of their Catholic residents to progressively newer suburbs since
World War II. On Feb. 11, Burke announced mergers in north St. Louis
County north of Interstate 270 that will reduce the number of operating
churches to 11 from 25. Still under way is a review of parishes in
north St. Louis, the number of which has fallen greatly in the postwar
On Friday, Burke said the archdiocese will close permanently the
churches and parishes of Holy Family, Holy Innocents, Immaculate
Conception/St. Henry, Resurrection of Our Lord, St. Hedwig, St.
Aloysius Gonzaga and St. Boniface. They will merge into neighboring
Even though most parishioners suspected what was coming, Friday's news
hit hard. "It's as though your mother is dying and a loving aunt is
willing to take you in," said Phyllis Bilger, Resurrection's parish
council president. "We still don't want it to happen. Of course we can
go to the next parish over, but this is a loss of city living - the
ability to walk to church, to have everything close by."
At Holy Family, which survived the first cut last fall only to get the
first hint of bad news before Christmas, the mood is harsher. The
parish is south of Tower Grove Park.
"Everybody here feels like we got the shaft," said Cecilia Dooley, who
organized protests after tentative plans changed. "It's unfair to pit
one parish against another. We don't have a debt, we love this parish.
It makes no sense."
Allman said Burke reviewed Holy Family's fate one more time this week
after he met with Mayor Francis Slay, who pleaded to spare more
parishes. "But the people who crunched the numbers said (Holy Family)
just can't sustain itself," Allman said.
Holy Family and Resurrection will be merged into St. John the Baptist,
near the Bevo Mill.
Mayor Francis Slay, who is Catholic, expressed "mixed feelings" about
the overall plan and said he was particularly disappointed by the fate
of Holy Family.
"It could have been worse," said Slay. "The archbishop obviously
listened. I know this isn't unique to St. Louis. But these parishes
have been anchors for their neighborhoods."
Seven churches, including St. Agatha and St. Francis de Sales, no
longer will have traditional geographical boundaries but will serve
The plan formalizes what several of them had already become.
St. Cronan, for example, will be defined by its social-justice
ministry. St. Cecilia will become the Spanish-Mass church, St. Thomas
of Aquin will keep its role as the Vietnamese church, Sts. Peter and
Paul in Soulard will retain its homeless center and youth-music
programs, and St. Wenceslaus becomes home to the order of the
Missionaries of the Holy Family.
St. Mary of Victories, just south of the Arch grounds, and Sts. Mary
and Joseph in the Carondelet area, will become the other two part-time
Parishes that will be preserved as they are, or become enlarged to
include closed parishes nearby, are St. John the Apostle and Evangelist
downtown; St. Vincent de Paul south of downtown; St. Joseph (Croatian)
in Soulard; St. Margaret of Scotland in the Shaw neighborhood; St. Pius
V; St. Anthony of Padua; St. John the Baptist; St. Ambrose on the Hill;
St. James the Greater in Dogtown; and St. Stephen Protomartyr,
Immaculate Heart of Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, St. Mary Magdalen, St.
Joan of Arc, St. Raphael, St. Gabriel and Epiphany in far south and
southwest St. Louis.
The Old Cathedral downtown also
will be preserved.
Schools to be closed.
Schools to be closed are at Holy Family, St. Mary Magdalen,
Resurrection and St. Anthony.
Terry Edelman, a Catholic schools' spokeswoman, said the school office
is holding job fairs for the 100 teachers who will lose their jobs
because of closings in North County and south St. Louis.
Reporter Tim O'Neil
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