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Bishop Mark S. Rivituso spoke with 94-year-old Bridget Griffard, known as the “Energizer Bunny” of the Immaculate Conception in St. Mary, as she exited the church after Mass April 15. Griffard received all her first sacraments at the parish and has until recently cooked the parish’s chicken and dumpling meals and belonged to the quilt club.
Bishop Mark S. Rivituso spoke with 94-year-old Bridget Griffard, known as the “Energizer Bunny” of the Immaculate Conception in St. Mary, as she exited the church after Mass April 15. Griffard received all her first sacraments at the parish and has until recently cooked the parish’s chicken and dumpling meals and belonged to the quilt club.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston

Final Sunday Mass at Immaculate Conception in St. Mary's honors parish’s rich history

Bp. Rivituso offers prayers of thanksgiving as Immaculate Conception in St. Mary closes after 144 years

In his Jubilarian profile in 2015, Father Richard C. Kasznel described the blessing of spending nearly three decades as pastor at Immaculate Conception Parish in St. Mary — population 360, about 75 miles south of St. Louis and just west of the old Mississippi River channel and Illinois’ Kaskaskia Island.

Father Kasznel called it “a marvelous thing to be a pastor in a place almost 30 years and see children that I’ve baptized become adults and get married. I’ve seen them from the beginning of life and along as they’ve matured. It’s been a privilege to be here in a great, wonderful community.”

Father Kasznel’s assessment pretty much sums up the history of the parish, which was founded in 1874. Over 144 years, generation upon generation worshipped at Immaculate Conception and celebrated countless sacramental events — Masses, baptisms, confessions, First Communions, confirmations, weddings and funerals — at the small parish of 295 members in 105 households.

Bishop Mark Rivituso placed his hand in the holy water font at Immaculate Conception Church in St. Mary's. Immaculate Conception Parish celebrated its final Sunday Mass April 15. Bishop Rivituso walked around to different parts of the church, saying a brief prayer of thanksgiving for the blessing received in the church.
Photo Credits: Lisa Johnston
Auxiliary Bishop Mark S. Rivituso honored these sacramental moments, as well as parishioners past and present, at the parish’s final Sunday Mass April 15. With Father Kasznel’s retirement after 53 years as a priest and 31 years as pastor, Immaculate Conception Parish has closed.

However, its story is woven inextricably into the fabric of the community’s history. Just before the conclusion of the final Sunday Mass, Bishop Rivituso paid tribute to that rich history, visiting significant locations within the 1889 vintage church building and saying a brief prayer of thanksgiving for the blessings received in these places:

Holy Water • At the fonts, donated by “Parochial School Children” and “Married Ladies,” congregants were reminded of baptism — the waters of baptism — upon entering and exiting the sacred space, dipping their fingers in holy water preceding the Sign of the Cross.

Confessional • Father Kasznel and parish priests before him heard the faithful’s confessions and, most importantly, offered absolution to wipe away the stain of sin.

Blessed Mother • A statue of the Virgin Mary and the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Help honored Mary, whose birth without sin — the Immaculate Conception — was recognized in the naming of the parish.

Ambo • Through Scripture readings and homilies, the Word of God was proclaimed to the faithful.

Tabernacle • Jesus Himself inhabited this space, the True Presence in the form of consecrated hosts placed within a ciborium between Masses.

Altar • The centerpiece of worship, at which every sacrifice of the Mass celebrated the Resurrection.

With the special areas visited and blessed, Bishop Rivituso then offered the final blessing, of thanksgiving for the rich past and promise for future, ending the final Sunday Mass with one last, “Go in peace.”

The hymn, “Alleluia! Alleluia! Let the Holy Anthem Rise,” filled the church one last time as Bishop Rivituso processed out, followed by 110 souls at the final Mass. He stopped just outside the church doors to meet each of them upon exit. With smiles, handshakes and hugs, they briefly shared their special stories and universally gave him the thumbs-up for recognizing the significant places within the church and giving them a sense of closure.

Parishioners at Immaculate Conception in St. Mary received the Eucharist in the church’s final Sunday Mass with Bishop Mark Rivituso on April 15.
Photo Credits: Lisa Johnston
For instance, Bridget Griffard has been present for two-thirds of the parish’s existence, 94 years in all — soon to be 95. Baptized at the church in 1923, a year short of parish’s 50th anniversary, she received First Communion, First Reconciliation and confirmation at the church. She graduated from the parish school, which closed in 1969, and married her husband, John, at the church in 1946. (John died in 2011.)

Similarly, Joan Marie Welker, nee Maloney, spent significant life moments at the parish, including her engagement. Husband Francis presented her engagement ring in front of the Blessed Mother statue, and they were married in the church in 1961. Her parents and brother also were buried from there.

“A lot of memories,” she said, simply. “It’s our life history.”

>> Future worship

Three neighboring parishes are available to serve the parishioners of Immaculate Conception in St. Mary: Sacred Heart Parish in Ozora (7.7 miles from St. Mary), Christ the Savior Parish in Brewer (7.9 miles), and Ste. Genevieve in Ste. Genevieve (9.3 miles).

More information • For a directory of archdiocese parishes, Mass and reconciliation times, visit www.stlouisreview.com/jfE

Stained-glass memorials

The stained-glass windows of Immaculate Conception Church memorialize parishioners:

Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Friedman

Mr. and Mrs. Louis Schaaf Sr.

Louis E. Schaaf Jr. and Wife

Mrs. Rose Tlapek

Mary C. Bartels

Married Ladies Sodality

Mrs. Louise-Grither-Bartels

Mr. and Mrs. John G. Jordan

Rozier Family

John Tlapek

Our Deceased Pastors

Young Ladies Sodality

Mrs. Adelaide-Laville-Lawbaugh

Note: The stained-glass windows and other liturgical furnishings were donated to the parish for use in liturgical and/or sacred spaces, so that original purpose will be honored. If the items don’t find a liturgical home in the immediate future, they will be transferred to the archdiocesan Reclamation Center, which safeguards and houses these types of items and provides them to churches, religious communities, missionaries and seminarians.


Final Sunday Mass at Immaculate Conception in St Marys honors parishs rich history

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