Saint George, in New Baden.
Saint Bernard, in Albers.
Saint Boniface, in Germantown.
Saint Cecilia, in Bartelso.
ST. LOUIS, MO - Over 1.000 faithful gathered in the church of St. Francis de Sales Oratory, to assist at the Solemn Pontifical Mass celebrated by His Excellency, the Most Reverend Robert J. Hermann, Administrator of the Archdiocese of St. Louis. From the powerful beginning of the “Premiere Symphonie” of Guilmant to the sweeping phrases of the Credo of the “Messe Solemnelle” of Charles Gounod to the soaring lines of the closing hymn of “To Jesus Christ Our Sovereign King,” sixty musicians filled the magnificent Gothic edifice of the St. Francis de Sales church. The splendor of the sacred liturgy was adorned fittingly by the majesty and richness of the music, directed by Mr. Nick Botkins, director of sacred music and master of the choirs at the Oratory.
His Excellency, Bishop Hermann gave a moving sermon. He invited all faithful of good will to reclaim the fullness of the sacraments. He impressed upon all present the “verticality of the architecture of the church” which corresponds so visibly with the theocentricity of the Mass.
The Holy Mass was then followed by a festive gathering in the Oratory Hall, celebrating St. Francis de Sales church’s German immigrant heritage. Complete with traditional German food and beer and even a German band, the afternoon was enjoyed by hundreds of families with children of all ages who crowded the church hall. This overwhelming turnout was a testament to the thriving youthful community of faithful at the Oratory.
On this 100th Anniversary, it was also announced that St. Francis de Sales is beginning a capital campaign called “Tradition for Tomorrow.” This campaign will raise the necessary funds to restore the church of St. Francis de Sales to its former glory and ensure that it remains a true landmark of South St. Louis. More information can be found at www.traditionfortomorrow.com .
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
“For one hundred years, the silhouette of St. Francis de Sales has been a distinctive mark on the skyline of South St. Louis. While the surroundings of the church have been refashioned over this time span, the 300-foot tower has remained a steadfast symbol of tradition and of hope, pointing skyward, as if conveying the noble aspirations of generations of St. Louis inhabitants.”— from the new Tradition for Tomorrow website, for the restoration of Saint Francis de Sales Oratory, in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA.
Since Saint Louis’s beginning as a French village in 1764, the land which is now Lafayette Square had been a common pasture for village livestock and had never been privately owned. These commons became encampments for bands of criminals who would attack and rob area travelers. In 1835, now under American rule, Mayor Darby gained permission from the state legislature to begin selling the commons to drive the criminals out. When the city began to sell the common pasture, the Board of Aldermen set aside about thirty acres for community recreation. The square park was bordered by a street on each side, with the southern street called Lafayette in honor of General Marie-Joseph-Paul-Roch-Yves-Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de La Fayette, who had visited Saint Louis a few years previous.
In 1837 a real estate panic forced many who had bought land surrounding the Square to cease their payments causing the land to revert to the City. In the early 1850s, after courts had adjudicated the ownership of these properties, several prominent Saint Louisans bought most of the land bordering the southern end of the Park. These families built expensive homes along on Lafayette Avenue and secured state legislation preventing “any nuisance within a distance of 600 feet from the Park.” On November 12, 1851, the park was dedicated as “Lafayette Square” by City Ordinance 2741. By 1856, real estate developers had begun to sell lots on the western edge of the park—along Missouri Avenue—and by 1858 lots on the east side—Mississippi Avenue—were being sold. On Park Avenue—running along the north edge of the Square—the lots were developed by the 1870s.Natural disaster began this neighborhood's period of decline:
On May 27, 1896, Lafayette Square was largely destroyed by a tornado. The tornado did millions of dollars worth of damage, and killed many. The tornado uprooted nearly all of the trees in the Park as well as the trees on Benton Place, damaged the fence, destroyed the bandstand, destroyed the Union Club and the Methodist church at Jefferson and Lafayette Avenues, crippled the Presbyterian and Methodist churches, tore the roof off the Unitarian church, and crippled or destroyed many homes on the Square. Although some residents gave up on the neighborhood and moved away, others began to rebuild and by 1904 the Square had improved enough “to earn special commendation from foreign landscape architects who were visiting the World’s Fair.”
In 1923, the Missouri Supreme Court declared the 1918 residential zoning ordinance unconstitutional (see City of St. Louis v. Evraiff, 256 S.W. 489 (Mo. 1923)) and businesses began to purchase lots in the area. What the tornado of 1896 had begun, and the encroachment of gas stations and grocery stores continued, the Great Depression accelerated. By the end of World War II, the Square’s half-century of decline was complete. At this time, the neighborhood that was once the jewel of St. Louis had reached the low point in its history by becoming “a pocket ghetto of the unfortunate and poor,” known as “Slum D.”