Saturday, December 01, 2007

Country Church Tour

THREE CATHOLIC CHURCHES are featured in the 2007 Christmas Country Church Tour, according to the Saint Louis Review. The tour is from 3 to 9 p.m., on Monday and Tuesday, December 17th and 18th, and takes place mainly in Perry County, Missouri, the southernmost county in the Archdiocese of Saint Louis.

Included in the tour are the rural parishes of Saint Joseph in Apple Creek, Saint Maurus in Biehle, and Saint James in Crosstown. There is great charm in many of our little rural churches, including these, and they are worthy destinations of pilgrimage. Following is a map of the church locations:

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Perry County, originally the southern part of the Sainte Genevieve district of Upper Louisiana under Spanish colonial rule, has a rich natural, pioneer, and religious history, little known outside of southeastern Missouri.

The area was settled by English Catholics from Maryland via Kentucky, and is also the place of founding of the Missouri Synod Lutherans. It has a long missionary history, and had an early seminary of the Congregation of the Mission (Vincentian Priests). Perry County is the location of the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal.

The county is on the Mississippi River, and its upland area is rich with geologic wonders, including numerous sinkholes, springs, caves, and even a waterfall. The county has 650 caves, a record for the state. An unusual sinkhole, called Ball Mill Resurgence, reverses itself and becomes a spring during heavy rains; the resurgence of water tumbles and rounds the boulders inside of it with a loud roar. On the river is Tower Rock, an early landmark, first recorded by Father Marquette in 1673, and site of a dangerous whirlpool in the river. Saint Joseph of Apple Creek features an underground stream that pops up briefly, before going underground again, and is the site of an outdoor chapel.

Nearby attractions include Kaskaskia, Illinois, which due to a massive shift in the river, is now located west of the Misssissippi River, and is the site of Immaculate Conception Parish, founded as a mission in 1703. Also close by is Sainte Genevieve, which features numerous surviving French colonial buildings. The remains of two French colonial forts are nearby in Illinois.

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