Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Kaskaskia Island Loses a Church to 1993 Flood Catholic Diocese Closes Parish

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Kaskaskia Island Loses a Church to 1993 Flood Catholic Diocese Closes Parish

Article excerpt

With her son Alex on her lap, Kathy Lankford wept quietly in the front row of the Church of the Immaculate Conception Saturday as she heard the final word.

Bishop Wilton D. Gregory of the Catholic Diocese of Belleville had come here to celebrate Mass and confirm that the parish will close at summer's end. Its brick church and parishioners had suffered heavily as a result of the flood last year.

Despite many warning signs, parishioners had hoped the church might stay open. Lankford, a third-generation islander, was married in the church and had her two children baptized there.

"We just never thought they'd do it," she said. "Hopefully, it's not the end of it."

Gregory gave the sad news from the pulpit and met with parishioners afterward. "There will be no residential pastor here and no weekly liturgy," Gregory said outside the church.

So ends the oldest Catholic parish west of the Alleghenies, a parish began in 1675 by the Jesuit Father Jacques Marquette as a mission to American Indians and white settlers. Its church bell was a gift of the King of France.

The existing church was built in 1843 with bricks from Pittsburgh. In 1881, one of the many floods changed the course of the Mississippi River. Residents moved their church, brick by brick, to where it stands today.

The island, a nub of Illinois that sits just west of the Mississippi about 70 miles south of St. Louis, was devastated again last summer when the swelling river broke through a 50-foot levee July 22. Since then, its 50 families have lived with friends, family members or in federal trailers in St. Mary's, Mo. …

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