Book tells history of Old St. Vincent's, Catholicism in Southeast Missouri

Saturday, February 7, 2009

In 1999, Old St. Vincent's Church parishioner Dorothy Herbst, now deceased, had an idea. She suggested writing a history of Old St. Vincent's Church.

Church members joined in the fervor to get the job done. Ron Kirby, LaFern Striver, Grace Sullivan and Mark Evans have been the main contributors to writing the book. After almost 10 years the book, "Old St. Vincent's Church: A Historical and Pictorial Sketch of Catholicism in Cape Girardeau," is almost ready to be published.

But some of the pieces needed to complete the story are missing.

The writers have acquired two pictures they want included in the book that show some unidentified altar boys. One portrait was taken in 1953 at the centennial celebration of Old St. Vincent. Despite much research, the altar boys flanking the priests remain anonymous. The writers also can't identify two altar boys in another picture taken in 1956 at the groundbreaking ceremony for St. Vincent's Grade School on Ritter Drive.

The book isn't being published to commemorate any special occasion, Kirby said.

If you recognize one of these St. Vincent's altar boys from 1956, call Ron Kirby at 334-4047.

"We have the information now," Kirby said. "but 25 years from now it won't be available. People will be gone."

The book shows the love and dedication the people of Old St. Vincent Church had and continue to have toward their parish. It details the fight to save the historical church in the 1970s, when many parishioners believed it had outlived its time. A new church -- St. Vincent de Paul Church -- had been built to accommodate the growing parish and the diocese had plans to tear down Old St. Vincent's.

The writers include historical background like the coming of Catholicism to Southeast Missouri. The book talks about St. Vincent's educational institutions and about St. Vincent's during the Civil War, World War I and World War II.

The creation of the diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau is discussed, mentioning the priests who played a part. The book includes historical timelines, beginning with Old St. Vincent's Church from 1975 to 2008. Timelines detail the restoration of Old St Vincent's, the Knights of Columbus, Saint Francis Medical Center, Catholic Campus Ministry and Notre Dame Regional High School.

The contents of "Old St. Vincent's Church: A Historical and Pictorial Sketch of Catholicism in Cape Girardeau" tell not only about Old St. Vincent's Church, but about what the early leaders of Catholicism in the Mississippi Valley had to overcome and what they accomplished.

If you recognize one of these St. Vincent's altar boys from 1953, call Ron Kirby at 334-4047.

The book's foreword states, "There is no doubt that we have come far in Cape Girardeau -- from a few families who had to hide their faith to such obvious positive signs as two vibrant parishes, an outstanding hospital, an excellent high school and two thriving grade schools."

The book chronicles the church and parish journey and touches on history and emotions of joy and sadness, fortitude and despair. Kirby said they hope to publish it this fall.

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