When the first Mass was celebrated at Our Lady of the Presentation more than 100 years ago, the community made do with what it had — a temporary altar made of two boards, a soap box for a tabernacle, a pew and a simple crucifix.
The parish has come a long way, becoming a beacon for the Catholic faithful in the north St. Louis County community of Overland. The parish will celebrate its history at the next St. Louis Mass Mob on Sunday, July 9.
For the past two years, St. Louis Mass Mobs have brought people together for worship and to raise awareness and appreciation for some of the archdiocese's most historic churches. The parishes draw an average of 400-500 people at the Masses.
Our Lady of the Presentation was founded in 1915. The first Mass was celebrated in a cottage. The cornerstone of the first church building was laid in November 1916, and the first Mass was offered on Christmas morning. In 1920, a frame church was built, and the old brick church was converted into a school, under the tutelage of the Sisters of St. Joseph. The current church building was dedicated in 1948.
The parish has experienced a new surge in energy, especially since the school closed in 2009, said longtime parishioner Lisa Ridolfi. Examples include missionary efforts such as Food for the Poor, funding homes in Haiti and Jamaica. Locally, parishioners volunteer with Room and the Inn, which provides emergency shelter for homeless women and their children; St. Patrick Center, St. Vincent de Paul and Missouri Veterans Home.
Additionally, the old convent has been transformed into the Presentation Arts Center, which offers free music lessons and art classes to the greater community. The effort is led by Sister Brenda Fritz of the Daughters of Charity.
"What I see right now, is a parish that was starting to slow down, and all of a sudden a group of young people in the parish started getting involved and the parish is coming back to life," Ridolfi said. "Things are taking off in a new direction, and there's more involvement, more community spirit. Everybody is cognizant about reaching out to the larger community and living out the Gospel like Pope Francis said."