Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 1, 2004
Strong parish saves church
Parishioners reverse drain to suburbs with welcoming attitiude
St. Margaret - - November 16
By TED FITZGERALD
Special to the WCR
St. Louis, Mo.
St. Margaret of Scotland Church is an impressive grey stone edifice in the Shaw district of St. Louis, Mo., just three blocks from the extensive grounds of the Missouri Botanical Gardens and the Shaw Arboretum.
More than 100 years ago, Father John O'Brien was directed by his bishop to establish a new parish in the south-central part of the city. And on Christmas day in 1899, 40 families attended the first Mass in a rented storefront. The parish was named to honour the patron saint of the pastor's mother.
St. Margaret lived in the time of the Norman Conquest and was a member of royalty at the English court of Edward the Confessor.
Born in Hungary in about 1045, she and her mother attempted to flee by sea, but were shipwrecked on the coast of the Scottish kingdom of Malcolm III.
Ironically, she was already betrothed to this king, but had delayed her wedding because of a desire to enter the religious life. Now she was unable to avoid becoming his wife and queen of Scotland.
Strengthened ties to Rome
Accepting her lot, Margaret, noted for her piety and prayerfulness, encouraged Malcolm to promote reform of Church irregularities and, in the face of Celtic traditions, to strengthen ties to Rome. Routinely displaying personal austerities and fasting, she became a great benefactress of the poor and needy.
The queen hosted synods and conferences to attempt standardization of Lenten and marital conventions as well as involving herself in matters of state. Eventually, under siege in Edinburgh and devastated by the news of the deaths of Malcolm and her son in battle, she died there on Nov. 16, 1093.
Margaret was canonized by Pope Innocent IV in 1250. She is a patroness of Scotland and of learning because of her establishment of innovative women's scriptural discussion groups.
In St. Louis, a church was up and dedicated by 1907, "the pearl of the diocese" according to Archbishop Glennan, capable of seating 1,000 people. It was soon joined by a grade school, a convent for the teachers and in 1943, by a high school.
Then the post-war years saw a steady decline in the Shaw neighbourhood as people joined the movement to the suburbs. Fortunately, a strong parish base of auxiliary groups was able to gradually reverse the trend and to welcome new residents attracted by proximity to the district's large parks, hospitals and shopping.
Visitors to St. Margaret's will notice the absence of pillars with unobstructed views of the altar from all parts of the airy nave.
Place of honour to the right of the ornate old reredos is given to a statue of St. Margaret. Stained glass windows from the local Emil Frei Art Glass Co. include scenes from the life of the church patron.
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