by Michael R. Allen
LOCATION: 5050 Rhodes; Princeton Heights; Saint Louis, Missouri
DATE OF CONSTRUCTION: 1927
OWNER: Archdiocese of Saint Louis
Today we woke up to find a light covering of snow on the ground on Swan Avenue in St. Louis — nothing troublesome compared to the 12 inches that bogged us down one week earlier when we were packing up to move out of Chicago. I thus continued with out plans to attend a public sale of fixtures and furniture at the convent of the Our Lady of Sorrows parish on Kingshighway in Princeton Heights. I had received an announcement one week earlier in my email and was intrigued to learn that the 1927 convent building — with which I was admittedly not familiar — adjacent to the landmark parish church would be demolished to make way for a new school building, and that the parish was selling as much of the building as possible to raise money for a construction fund. After all, this announcement came at a time when the Archdiocese of St. Louis is planning to close 37% of the city’s remaining parishes.
How does Our Lady of Sorrows manage to do so well — well enough to build a new school?
As we discovered, the parish is a friendly and dedicated group of Catholics who are committed to their neighborhood, their community and recycling their resources. At the sale, we spoke with many parishioners who said that they wanted to make sure none of the building’s fixtures ended up in the landfill and who spoke of concern at the alarming number of parishes closing this year. Even though they are pursuing demolition of the historic Italian Revival convent for their school expansion project, they are trying to avoid the wastefulness that seems endemic to the archdiocesan plans.
The sale encompassed door frames, doors, cabinets, windows, light fixtures, sink basins and many parts of the convent, which seemed to be in fairly good shape, not to mention a wonderfully complimentary building in the parish complex. Yet there was more: modern furniture, kitchen gadgets, suitcases, typewriters, lamps and curtains. Needless to say that I have now completed the furnishing of a new flat with items that tell a story, all for under $40.
May the parish thrive for years to come. They have placed banners on many light posts around their block proclaiming their forthcoming centennial: “1907 – 2007.” They should make it longer than that, if the archdiocese puts faith in the efforts of parishioners to keep traditions alive. The loss of the convent is unfortunate and one with which I do not agree, but it is small compared to the potential devastation that may come from the current round of parish closings.