St. Mark Church in south St. Louis County is on the move — literally.
The parish church and offices soon will be reunited with its school and rectory about a mile and a half away, at the former Mary Queen of the Universe Parish at 4230 Ripa Ave.
St. Mark Parish was created in 2003 in a merger of three — St. Timothy, Most Precious Blood and Mary Queen of the Universe. The St. Timothy and Most Precious Blood sites were sold, and the parish used the church at Blessed John XXIII Center, 8300 Morganford Road, in the renovated chapel of the former Benedictine convent on Morganford on the northern edge of the parish.
The former Mary Queen of the Universe Church became the chapel for St. Mark School after the merger. The church was recently stripped, refurbished and expanded and will become the home of St. Mark Church. The first Masses at the new St. Mark Church will be the weekend of Aug. 5 and 6. Highlights of the newly redone church include:
• 17 stained-glass windows from the former St. Mark Church, five sets of three windows and two in the sanctuary.
• 99-year-old refurbished pews from the closed Visitation-St. Ann Shrine Church in north St. Louis (plus a few new pews made in Wisconsin to match them).
• Stations of the Cross, crucifix, pulpit, baptismal font, altar and tabernacle from the former St. Mark Church, plus statues of Mary and Joseph that were in the hall.
• An added entrance leading to an expanded vestibule close to the cafeteria kitchen.
"You won't even recognize it when you walk in," said Msgr. Patrick Hambrough, parish pastor. "It's close to being a new church."
The parish wanted to build a new church closer to Union Road. "It would have been great for us to be right there on the street, making a statement," he said.
Financial considerations, however, led the parish to renovate the church being used as a school chapel. The archdiocese provided $2 million, the amount St. Mark parishioners invested in the renovation of the former Benedictine convent, and the parish plans to raise the remainder from the sale of the former Grasso Field, once used by the St. Mark Athletic Association.
"It's a pretty church," Msgr. Hambrough said. "When people come into this church, they'll say, 'This is a Catholic church.'"
The central locale "is a great plus," he said, as is having all the parish buildings in one location. The school hallway adjacent to the church, with displays of the students' projects, pulls the church and school communities together, too. "It's a stronger connection" than when the church and school are on separate campuses, the parish pastor said.
Many of the decisions about the newly renovated church on items such as the flooring, stain for the pews, etc. were made by parish committees. Choir and altar chairs are being refurbished by parishioner Ed Schneider, and one of the floor layers was a parishioner, Joe Evers, who works for Zickel Flooring.
Dan Clarke, maintenance supervisor for the parish, was involved in all facets of the project with Chiodini Architects and Musick Construction. "The end product looks nice," he said, noting that his favorite parts are the stained glass and the historic pews. He and other parishioners mention the features tied to former churches, including the churches that were merged to form St. Mark.
Vicky Askew, a parish council member and parishioner since 2004, said separate sites for the church and school was less than ideal. Reuniting them on the same campus "is invaluable," especially since the schoolchildren's presence will be more prominent, Askew said. The parish office will be in the renovated former convent.
Planning sought to give the renovated church "a St. Mark's feel," Askew said, with the parish community's input sought and valued throughout the process. "It was a community decision, not just a parish council or a building committee's decision," she said.
The archdiocese will sell the Blessed John XXIII property, which formerly housed a number of archdiocesan offices. RELATED ARTICLE(S):Chapel renovation is final phase of seminary work