Next St. Louis Mass Mob comes to St. Nicholas

Jennifer Brinker
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The sound of the organ, the smell of the incense and the sight of the priests' vestments prompted a young Lucinda Kaid to ask her parents to join the Catholic Church.

"The church was at the end of the alley," she recalled. "As children, we would run down when we heard the organ playing and saw all of them walking in. To us, it was pretty. I wanted to go in and do what these folks were doing."

In the 1940s, Kaid and her family lived in the Carr Square neighborhood just north of Downtown, close to St. Nicholas Parish. Her parents received instruction in the Catholic faith so their children could be baptized at St. Nicholas.

Even as Kaid moved away from the neighborhood, her heart has stayed with St. Nicholas, and she remains a member of the parish, which is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.

St. Nicholas will host the next St. Louis Mass Mob with a 10:30 a.m. Mass Sunday, Oct. 9. A reception will follow Mass. The St. Louis Mass Mob is a series of Masses that has brought people together for worship and to raise awareness and appreciation for some of the city's most historic churches. Churches in the archdiocese have been hosting Mass Mobs since 2015, drawing about 400-500 people on average.

The parish was founded in 1866 at the close of the Civil War to serve German-speaking Catholics. The church was built at the corner of 19th Street and Lucas Avenue, and Archbishop Peter Kenrick laid the cornerstone. A school was opened one year later, staffed by the Sisters of St. Joseph and later the Sisters of Christian Charity.

By the turn of the century, German-Americans began leaving the area, and African-Americans moved into the neighborhood. In 1926, Archbishop John Glennon entrusted the parish to the Divine Word Missionaries (Society of the Divine Word), to serve the African-American population. In 1938, the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood of O'Fallon arrived and opened a high school. The Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament also taught St. Nicholas students.

St. Nicholas High School closed in 1989. St. Nicholas continued to operate, eventually becoming part of Central Catholic School, which closed at the end of the 2011-12 school year. A preschool/daycare continued to operate on the grounds of St. Nicholas until earlier this year.

In the 1940s, Cardinal Joseph E. Ritter desegregated schools in the archdiocese. In 1960, he gave permission to build a new parish compound, including a church building, rectory, school and convent and recreation center. The compound was dedicated in 1962. The parish center served the community and featured basketball, roller skating and other educational and social activities. The parish continues to host weekly roller skating events.

In 2012, Archbishop Robert Carlson expanded St. Nicholas' boundaries when St. Patrick Parish in Downtown closed. Two years later, pastor Father Urey Mark, a priest of the Society of the Divine Word, was reassigned, thus ending 88 years of service by the priests of the society at the parish. Father Art Cavitt, an archdiocesan priest and director of the St. Charles Lwanga Center, became St. Nicholas' pastor in November 2014.

Retired Deacon Stanley Peterson has been a parishioner since childhood. He was baptized in the fourth grade and attended St. Nicholas School. Recalling the confectionery across the street from church and the row houses of the Carr Square neighborhood, he said, "I loved every brick of this place. It was a wonderful parish to grow up in." He continues to attend Mass at St. Nicholas on Sundays, even though he no longer lives in the neighborhood.

While the number of parishioners has dwindled over the years, Deacon Peterson said he's looking forward to the Mass Mob. "I want to see for myself the feeling of having so many people around," he said. "I am proud this parish has lasted 150 years." 

>>Mass Mob IX

WHEN: 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 9; A reception will be held after Mass

WHERE: St. Nicholas, 701 N. 18th St., Downtown

>>Mini Mob Event

WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 15; Mass will be celebrated at 4 p.m., followed by a Rosary prayer walk. Refreshments will be served afterward

WHERE: Most Holy Trinity, 3519 N. 14th St. in north St. Louis

MORE INFO: St. Louis Mass Mob has a page on Facebook 

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