Where would we be without them? There's no denying their important role in building the Archdiocese of St. Louis.
Strong-hearted, pioneering religious sisters came from Europe in the 19th century to lay the foundation for Catholic education, health care, social services and more. Then, smart and savvy religious sisters built on that foundation in the 20th century, bringing education to the masses and delivering quality health care while still ministering to the poor and downtrodden on society's fringes.
Human life is sacred. The dignity of the human person is the foundation of a moral vision for society.
But at times, society operates contrary to that foundation.
We continue to see human life under attack through abortion and euthanasia. The value of human life is threatened by embryonic stem-cell research, the death penalty and hybridization — last month scientists announced a successful human/pig chimera: an organism containing cells of two species.
The Church upholds the value of respecting life, from conception to natural death.
The news out of Our Lady School simultaneously heartened and disheartened Father Jeffrey Maassen, pastor at the parish in Festus.
On one hand, the school's eighth-graders wanted to be regulars at Sunday Masses, a precept of Catholicism.
On the other, if they expressed this desire, then it must not be happening on a regular basis.
"When I hear my eighth-graders saying, 'I want to go Mass,' that to me is 'Wow,'" Father Maassen said, adding, "It's awesome that they said that, but it's sad, too, because it indicates parents aren't (taking them), which is heartbreaking."
Much has changed in the 40 years since the calendar clicked over to 1977.
Numerous things have gone by the wayside, including — thankfully — bell-bottoms, disco and gas-guzzling vehicles. Secularly, we're on our seventh president and, in the Catholic world, our fifth pope and our fifth archbishop of St. Louis.
We've also experienced a drop in vocations to the clergy and to consecrated life, with Catholic education transitioning to the laity as a result. But thankfully, we've seen a great increase in the diaconate in the archdiocese, men firmly committed to serving the Church.