Saint Louis, Missouri

During its earliest history Saint Louis belonged to the diocese of Santiago de Cuba, and formed part of a vast territory served by only two priests. Upon the death of the Recollect, Father Collet in 1765 Father P. Gibault was sent by the Bishop of Quebec to assist the Jesuit Father Meurin. The records show two baptisms administered the following year, a tent being used for want of a church; four years later the first church was dedicated. A band of Capuchins who arrived in 1772, supplied the first resident priest, Father Valentine. As a result of the opposition confronting Bishop Du Bourg of Louisiana after his consecration, he moved his residence to Saint Louis in 1818, and took possession of the poor wooden structure which served as pro-cathedral. The same year he founded the Latin Academy, later the University of Saint Louis, and the Religious of the Sacred Heart arrived from France to take up the education of girls, making their first foundation in Saint Charles. However, the poverty of the parish had become so intense by 1822 that the church property, including the parochial residence, had to be sold. The purchaser allowed the bishop the privilege of redeeming it, and an appeal for funds was made in Europe. The city was raised to an episcopal see in 1826, with Right Reverend Joseph Rosati as incumbent, and three years later the Sisters of Charity founded a hospital which did noble work during the cholera epidemic of 1849, caring for 1330 patients, and sacrificing two sisters. From 1843 when there were only three churches, the Catholics made rapid progress and by 1896 the city counted 58 parish churches, among them a cathedral, consecrated in 1834. Various religious orders came to the assistance of the bishop; Sisters of Saint Joseph in 1836; Visitation Nuns in 1844; Ursuline Nuns in 1848, and the Christian Brothers, who, by 1852 had charge of five schools. Upon the accession of Bishop Kenrick in 1843 the city had a Catholic population of 16,000, and in 1847 it was raised to an archiepiscopal see. The cornerstone of a new cathedral was laid in 1908; Byzantine in feeling, it is developed in gray granite, with an interior of pure Byzantine style in which fine light-and-shadow effects have been obtained.

New Catholic Dictionary

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