Vincentian house warming

Saturday, July 22, 2006

PERRYVILLE, Mo. -- The Vincentian Fathers and Brothers at St. Mary of the Barrens are moving into their new home -- a 65,000-square-foot residence capable of sheltering as many as 35 priests, both active and retired, including about a half-dozen who need skilled nursing care.

About 25 men will be among the first inhabitants of the new home that has been under construction for abut a year and a half, said the Rev. Ray Van Dorpe, assistant provincial of the Vincentians in St. Louis.

This weekend, the Vincentians will celebrate the blessing of the new residence and the dedication of the chapel, named in honor of Mary, mother of God. The Most Rev. Raymond Burke, the archbishop of St. Louis, will celebrate the Mass of dedication.

Between 2 and 5 p.m. Sunday, an open house will be held for the public.

"A group of contractors still working on it will be going out the back door as the visitors are coming in the front door," Van Dorpe quipped.

The Vincentians decided to build the facility in 2003 because some of the buildings on the grounds were in need of repair and not suitable for the care of the elderly. Some of the old buildings will be torn down.

"About 30 or 35 years ago, we rehabbed some of the buildings," Van Dorpe said. "They're not quite state-of-the-art any more. The infrastructure all gave out."

The order was sinking a lot of money into maintenance and repair of buildings with antiquated plumbing, electricity and heating. There was a need for more modern facilities to provide nursing home care for elderly priests.

"We're keeping some of the more historical buildings that are part of our heritage," Van Dorpe said.

Among the remaining buildings is the church of the Assumption, which houses the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, a place of religious pilgrimage which draws several thousand visitors each year.

The new residence hall building features a chapel, some community rooms, kitchen and dining room, and each priest will have his own small suite consisting of a sitting room, bedroom and bath.

"This is another chapter in our long history there, Van Dorpe said.

The Vincentians have been in Perryville continuously since 1818. A small group of priests, brothers and seminarians came from Italy to start a frontier seminary. Among them was the Rev. Joseph Rosati, who would later become the first bishop of St. Louis. Since its founding, St. Mary of the Barrens has served as a high school, lay college, major seminary for both diocesan and Vincentian priests, province headquarters and community residence.

"Part of our religious order is that we live in a community," Van Dorpe said.

Today the Vincentians at St. Mary's work at parishes in the surrounding area, the Association of the Miraculous Medal, and the Catholic Home Study Service.

lredeffer@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 160

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