WASHINGTON — The Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington — the largest Catholic church in North America and one of the 10 largest churches in the world — is a familiar place to U.S. Catholics who regard the immense structure as their own.
The basilica, which marked the 50th anniversary of its dedication Nov. 20, is not a parish or a cathedral. Instead, it was designated by the U.S. bishops as a national place of prayer and pilgrimage, something the basilica's 1 million annual visitors know well.
Before the establishment of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, or the City of St. Louis, or the United States of America, Ste. Genevieve Parish was serving Catholics in Ste. Genevieve. Located about 45 miles south of St. Louis, Ste. Genevieve is believed to be the oldest parish in the St. Louis Archdiocese and the first in the Upper Mississippi territory. It began under French and then Spanish rule before the area became part of the United States. This year, Ste. Genevieve Parish is celebrating its 250th anniversary.
· Father Henri Pratte, believed to be the first native born priest in the St. Louis Archdiocese, is buried under the church. Father Pratte died at age 34 during a yellow fever epidemic while ministering to sick parishioners.
Also buried under the church are Francois Valle, commandant of Ste. Genevieve from 1776 to 1804, and his wife, Marie Carpenter Valle; Father James (also known as Jacques) Maxwell, an Irishman who was pastor from 1795 to 1814, and longtime cantor Francois Corset, who died in 1798.
Archbishop Robert J. Carlson will be the principal celebrant at the 250th anniversary Mass at 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 22. Auxiliary Bishop Robert J. Hermann also will attend, along with more than 20 priests, including former pastors and associate pastors and priests who were originally from the parish. Hundreds of parishioners, former parishioners and friends are expected as well. A celebration dinner will be held after Mass at the nearby Knights of Columbus Hall. A musical prelude will be held at 2:30 p.m. preceding the Mass.
Catholic education has been important in Ste. Genevieve. Historical records indicate a school in the village in the 1790s. Soon after, Father James Maxwell, parish pastor, began Ste. Genevieve Academy for boys and young men, incorporated as a school in 1808 by the governor of the Louisiana Territory. According to parish records, the first Christian Brothers in the United States taught there. The school served students for some years, closed and then reopened, closing for good in 1862 because of the Civil War.
Faithful should ask what the Church teaches and how one can have wishes carried out
For many Catholics, the idea of making end-of-life decisions well in advance can be a daunting experience.
What is a power of attorney? Should I keep my loved ones on life support when they’re gravely ill?
Catholics should approach the issue with two questions in mind: “What should I do in light of what the Church teaches about the value of human life?” and “How do I get others to carry out my wishes?”
For many years, Father Edward Richard, MS, a moral theologian, dean of students and vice-rector Kenrick-Glennon Seminary, has educated Catholics about how to approach the questions related to making end-of-life decisions. In addition to teaching the subject at the seminary, he often gives presentations to Catholic parishes and other groups.
As Catholics, “we have a duty to conserve our life, but we don’t have a duty to conserve it under every circumstance,” said the priest. But that doesn’t mean that the pain and suffering that may come with an illness or injury, for example, can alone be a reason to end one’s life.