Thursday, July 10, 2008

PRESS RELEASE-St. Francis de Sales Oratory

In the presence of Mr. Larry McCarthy, president of the DeSales Community Housing Corporation, Mr. Tom Pickel, Executive Director, presents to Father Karl W. Lenhardt, Rector of the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales, the Golden Brick Award 2008, at a reception on Wednesday, July 9.


This award was given to the Oratory for the restoration work on the North Sacristy of the church.


The Golden Brick Award is the second award given for this project.


On Monday, June 2, 2008 His Grace, The Most Reverend Raymond L. Burke, Archbishop of Saint Louis conferred the Papal Medal “Bene Merenti” on Abbé Alexander Willweber of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest for his restoration work on several historic Catholic churches here in the United States.  This award is given by the Holy Father himself for outstanding good works for the Church.


Abbé Willweber has been the artistic consultant for several restoration projects entrusted to the Institute of Christ the King all over the world and in the USA, like St. Mary’s Oratory in Wasau, Wisconsin, the Shrine of Christ the King Sovereign Priest in Chicago, Illinois, Old St. Patrick’s Oratory in Kansas City, Missouri, and St. Francis de Sales Oratory here in St. Louis, Missouri. While each of these edifices were designed in a different style—St. Mary’s in American Neo-Gothic, the Christ the King Shrine according to early Baroque churches in Rome, and St. Francis de Sales in German Gothic—the work of Abbé Willweber has enabled each of the churches to recapture its original beauty.


A fine example of Abbé Willweber’s work is the newly restored North Sacristy of the Institute’s Oratory here in St. Louis.  The sacristy, which is the vesting area for the priest before he celebrates Mass, has been restored to resemble a chapel built for St. Louis of France, the patron saint of our city.


Archbishop Burke conferred the medal in a short ceremony in St. Francis de Sales’ Rectory at 7:00 p.m., followed by reception for the guest of honor and for Very Rev. Msgr. Gilles Wach, Prior General of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest; Very Rev. Msgr. R. Michael Schmitz, U.S. Provincial of the Institute, Chicago Illinois; Rev. Father Michael Wiener, Episcopal Delegate of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, Oakland California;  Rev. Father Karl W. Lenhardt, Rector of St. Francis de Sales Oratory, Vice Provincial and Episcopal Delegate of the Motu Proprio, Summorum Pontificum for the Archdiocese of St. Louis; Rev. Father William Avis, Vicar of  the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales; and several candidates of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest.


St. Francis de Sales church serves as the anchor of the Fox Park neighborhood. There was even a time when the Neighborhood of de Sales existed. Many organizations exist today because of this church, ie. the DeSales Community Housing Corporation, the St. Francis de Sales Benevolent Society, Knights of Columbus Council etc..  Not only does this church serve as the anchor of the Fox Park community this church has a very long history to the entire community of South Saint Louis. At one time this church boasted over 7,000 families.  Many persons from the city of St Louis graduated from its former High School.


After recommendations to close the church and to tear it down had been made, Archbishop Burke decided in 2005 to transform the church into an oratory for the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite to serve the whole Archdiocese of St. Louis. Today the Oratory of St. Francis de Sales is stronger than ever. With the arrival of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest in 2005 the growth of the church is almost uncontrolled. With more than 75 new families registered just this past year the continued growth is nothing short of a miracle. The total families now are around 500, with two Masses on Sunday, 8am and 10am, and a full Mass and Devotional schedule throughout the entire week.


The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest is a “society of apostolic life” erected by the Roman Catholic Church on September 1, 1990.  Today it maintains Houses and apostolates on several continents including North America.



St. Louis, the “Rome of the West,” has long been known as a focal point of genuine Catholic life in this country.  Steadfast faithfulness to Holy Mother Church and the Roman Pontiff, filial devotion toward Our Lady, and a deep Eucharistic piety are the characteristics of this city.  In January 2005, the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest has become a part of the great Catholic tradition of St. Louis.  The Most Reverend Raymond L. Burke, Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura, former Archbishop of St. Louis 2004-2008 and faithful friend of our Institute, has called our community to serve God with the Roman Rite of 1962 first at St. Agatha, and since July 2005, in the magnificent “Cathedral of South St. Louis” St. Francis de Sales.


St. Francis de Sales “Cathedral” is an imposing Gothic revival building.  The High Altar alone in more than 50 feet high and forms a unique throne for Christ the King, present in the ornate Tabernacle under the species of the consecrated host.  This church is the ideal setting for our solemn liturgy, and its adjacent buildings seem to be made for the needs of our continuously growing community.  With the permission of the Most Reverend Archbishop, we have opened an American house of formation for candidates of the Institute.  Here the candidates become familiar with the charism of the Institute and acquire a starting knowledge of French and Latin. 

Currently the Institute is raising the necessary funds to restore the magnificent church entrusted to our care.  The most immediate need involves the 300-foot-tall steeple, which is gradually pulling away from the building, because of inadequate foundation support.  Repairs to the roof, restoration of the frescos and other renovations are also needed to maintain the church’s grandeur as a place of worship and inspiration.


This is just one of many restoration projects on the campus. Rising more than 310 feet in the air this church is a visual aid to all persons coming toward the entire community of South St. Louis. The restoration here is encouraging to other persons who live in this neighborhood and the surrounding neighborhoods as well.  Not only is this place being transformed, the entire community benefits from the life that continues to spring forth. The crime rate alone has dropped 15% from this time last year. This in part surely has to do with members of the Oratory moving into the surrounding neighborhoods, along with the many services that are offered.


St. Francis de Sales Oratory is the center of the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, (Latin Mass) in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, with the Rector, Father Karl W. Lenhardt serving as the Episcopal Delegate for the Implementation of the Motu Proprio,Summorum Pontificum, in the Archdiocese of St. Louis.


This letter given Motu Proprio by the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI last July confirms in a very encouraging way the decision of Archbishop Burke to make the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite easily accessible for all the faithful of the archdiocese. This form of the Latin Liturgy the entire Roman Catholic Church used for about 1500 years.


St. Francis de Sales has served this community since 1867 and continues to lead today. As November 26, 2008, marks the 100thanniversary of the dedication of St. Francis de Sales church a yearlong celebration of this jubilee will begin with a Pontifical Mass on Sunday, November 23rd at 10:00 am.


A long time member of this church recently stated, “Not only does St. Francis de Sales have a timeless history, today it also has a glorious future.”




Mr. Jon R. T. Rochê

Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest

St. Francis de Sales Oratory

2653 Ohio Avenue

Saint Louis, Missouri 63118

p. 314. 771. 3100

f. 314. 771. 3295

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