Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Parish Picks Up the Pieces St. Anthony's Parishioners to Celebrate a Special Mass

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Parish Picks Up the Pieces St. Anthony's Parishioners to Celebrate a Special Mass

Article excerpt

Back for a sneak preview by parishioner demand, St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church will celebrate Mass Sunday morning on the rough plywood floor of its half-rebuilt interior.

It will be the first service inside the towering, 85-year-old St. Louis landmark since April 28, 1993, when lightning sparked a smoldering fire in the cupola. The blaze finally burst through the roof as the 8 a.m. Mass was ending.

Firefighters saved almost everything except the stout wooden roof by blasting the roaring fire with their high-ladder snorkels. The work to rebuild St. Anthony's, at 3140 Meramec Street, began within days.

Since then, the parish has been celebrating Mass in the parish hall in the basement of the old St. Anthony's High School next door. The hall once was a bowling alley.

In a city filled with many fine, old churches, St. Anthony's is distinguished by its twin, 175-foot-tall spires, its perch on one of the highest points in south St. Louis and the beauty of its interior. About two-thirds of its weddings are of couples who don't live in the parish but who want to be married there.

Most of the rear half of the interior, including part of the vaulted ceiling, has been refinished and painted. Scaffolding still surrounds the main altar, but there's enough room for worship.

Father Frank Coens, pastor of St. Anthony's, said the parish plans to return for regular services by Christmas midnight Mass, and have all the work finished by next June. But he said parishioners were itching to arrange a quick visit to their church.

So they decided on this Sunday, the Catholic feast of Corpus Christi, or body of Christ. After the 7:30 a.m. Mass, Coens will lead the parish's annual Corpus Christi procession through the neighborhood.

The rest of the day's Masses will be in the parish hall.

"It won't be the beautiful church that people are used to," he said. …

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