Events to mark 250th anniversary of St. Louis

In 1762, a partnership headed by Pierre Laclede obtained permission to found a trading post near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.

According to "Catholic Beginnings in St. Louis," by Peter J. Rahall, one look at the bottomlands at the confluence convinced Laclede that he needed to push on to find a more suitable site. Laclede was attracted to a spot to the south, above a protecting limestone shelf along the bank. He notched several trees on the stretch of wooded land, then returned to Fort de Cartres in Illinois.

In February of 1764, an advance party led by young Auguste Chouteau left the fort and arrived at the site. In April, Laclede platted and assigned the lots, then chose to call the post in honor of the patron saint of the reigning king of France. He set aside one of the lots for a church -- the site of what is now the Basilica of St. Louis, King of France (Old Cathedral).

As the name of the city implies, St. Louis and Catholicism have been intertwined since the beginning. A Holy Hour and midnight Mass on New Year's Eve at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis will inaugurate the archdiocese's celebration of St. Louis' 250th anniversary. The Holy Hour will begin at 11 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 31, at the cathedral basilica, Lindell Boulevard and Newstead Avenue in the Central West End of St. Louis. Auxiliary Bishop Edward Rice will celebrate the Mass.

The St. Louis community is marking the milestone with events throughout the year, ranging from small neighborhood gatherings to festivals. A civic organization, stl250, serves as the master of ceremonies for the 2014 celebration, having invited the region's citizens, businesses and institutions to share their stories and commemoration plans

The archdiocese has established Catholicstl250, with a committee leading efforts to commemorate the contributions of the Church and Catholics in St. Louis over the past 250 years.

In addition to the Mass, events being planned include:

- "Let us Remember: A Brief Reacquaintance with the Founders of St. Louis," a lecture from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19, at the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park by Msgr. Michael Witt, professor of Church history at Kenrick-Glennon Seminary in Shrewsbury. In addition to Laclede and Chouteau, he will discuss those who married into the family and became "The River Barons of Early St. Louis."

- "Philippine Duchesne and Women Religious in St. Louis," a lecture from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 11, at the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park by Jennifer Popiel, associate professor of history at St. Louis University. St. Rose Philippine Duchesne and the Religious of the Sacred Heart were among the first to respond to Bishop William DuBourg's call for European priests and religious in the American mission field. They were soon joined by other orders of women religious intending to educate, heal the sick and engage in charitable works. Popiel will address how they created, financed and administered institutions that shaped St. Louis as it changed from a wild frontier town to a bustling commercial center.

- A Mass at noon Friday, April 25, at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis marking the 800th anniversary of the birth of St. Louis the King. Bishop Rice will be the celebrant.

- "King, Crusader, Saint: Exploring the Life of St. Louis of France," a lecture from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 29, at the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park by Thomas Madden, professor of medieval history and director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at St. Louis University. The lecture will look at Louis IX as a man of virtue, courage and devotion.

- A Mass for religious in the archdiocese celebrated by Bishop Rice at 2 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 24, at the Old Cathedral.

- A Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis at 5 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 24. Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson, Archbishop Jordan Theirry of Rheims and Prince Louis de Bourbon are among those who are expected to take part.

- The St. Louis/Lyon Sister Cities and French Society Mass at St. Vincent dePaul Church, 1408 S. 10th St. in south St Louis at 6 p.m. Monday, Aug. 25.

Prayer cards are being produced and commemorative prints of a statue of St. Louis will be given away to each school representative attending an event in September. Other activities may be added, including a community service project. St. Louis University is planning events as well.

For more information, see www.archstl.org/catholicstl250. Included on the site is a list of places of interest connected with the early settlers' history.

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