St. Louis is a city with a rich history and religion is part of that history. This year, St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, commonly known as “College Church,” is celebrating its 175 year anniversary. One hundred and seventy-five years is a long time to make an impact on a community. Take a moment to find out what makes this church unique and why you need to plan a visit to this St. Louis landmark.
The following video will give you a quick peek at the church and some of its key features as described by the pastor and a few of members of the congregation.
In honor of the anniversary of the church, here are five reasons why College Church is unique and why you should visit.
JESUIT CONNECTION: College Church is one of several Jesuit institutions in the city of St. Louis and one of two Jesuit parishes. This connection to the Jesuits shapes the mission and purpose of the church.
Fr. Dan White, SJ, a Jesuit priest and pastor of St. Francis Xavier Church says that Jesuit mission is reflected in the parish through “the emphasis on Ignatian spirituality and formation, in outreach to the poor and needy, also with the connection to the wider Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) throughout the world.”
There is an abundance of opportunities to interact with Jesuits at St. Francis Xavier given the number of Jesuits who live, work, and/or study at Saint Louis University.
SAINT LOUIS UNIVERSITY: College Church developed out of the university and has always had a deep connection to the school. The church even moved with the school when it moved from its old location at 9th and Washington to its present day location at Grand and Lindell.
While being an independent parish belonging to the Archdiocese of St. Louis, College Church also hosts the liturgies and other spiritual events of SLU. This makes the parish particularly active and often filled with current and former students of the university.
Jolene Grosch and her husband Tim, who are alumni at SLU and attended College Church when they were students, are now active members of the parish community.
SOCIAL OUTREACH: College Church offers many opportunities for community members to work directly with many of the poor and homeless in the St. Louis area. Jolene and Tim both came back to the parish because of a combination of enjoying the Jesuit philosophy of the parish and the opportunity to volunteer.
They are both working at the parish’s Documentation Assistance Program, a program that helps people obtain their birth certificates and state ID cards, and the Winter Inn, an emergency homeless shelter that opens on cold nights in the winter.
When asked how these services relate to the Jesuit mission of the parish, Jolene simply stated, “They are the mission of the parish.”
LITURGY: Many people walk through the doors of College Church to attend one of their beautiful liturgies. Mary McDevitt has had a long history with the parish and it all started with attending services as a young girl. Years later she returned to the parish because of the Mass, as well as the opportunities to volunteer. Mary pointed out two reasons why College Church is the place to come to for Mass:
Homilies/Preaching – Mary speculates that the homilies are so good and thought provoking because of the connection with the university.
Music – This should be no surprise. College Church has had a long history of good music. The church saw the birth of the “St. Louis Jesuits,” a group of Jesuit musicians who wrote many contemporary religious music in the 70’s and 80’s.
BEAUTY: This final reason for visiting College Church is also the most obvious. The church towers on the corner of Lindell and Grand. At night, spotlights illuminate the beautiful church. It is nearly impossible to drive by without looking at it. The church was actually modeled on St. Coleman’s Cathedral at Cobb, Ireland.
The inside of the church is even more spectacular than the outside. Stained glass surrounds every visitor and if you look closely you will see the stories of many famous Jesuits embedded in the glass. As light pours through the beautiful glass and dances on the massive columns of the church, it is easy to see why the parish is witness to over 100 weddings per year.
For all of these reasons, and so many more, St. Francis Xavier “College” Church has and will continue to have a lasting impact on St. Louis. Happy birthday College Church. We look forward to your next 175 years.