My husband and I worshiped there for about 28 years. We raised our children a mile from the church, sent all our children to the parish school for at least a time and the three oldest graduated from eighth grade there. We were active in the PTO for years and I was one of the "hot dog and playground ladies" for more seasons than I can remember. Our children received all their sacraments there and I even taught fourth grade for a year before I began homeschooling the two youngest. I served as the pro-life chairman for six or seven years and Larry and I opened the church for Monday night novena. We also prayed at the Poor Clare Monastery within our parish boundaries and I often went there for morning Mass.
We lived in a dead-ended neighborhood three houses from the entrance to the community pool. Our two oldest girls loved the swim team and participated until they aged out at 18, and all five kids played community soccer. How many weekends we went from game to game cheering them on as they graduated from the "herd formation" to a real understanding of the game.
We had many favorite spots. Many times we stood at the window outside Krispy Kreme and watched the donuts as they rode up and down the racks before falling into the oil "river," passed through the flipper, then reached the conveyor belt that took them under the icing falls and up the ramp to the employee who boxed them. How we loved to see that "hot doughnuts" sign lit up. During the last few years we were there I often took our oldest grandchild to Mass with the whispered admonition, "If you are doughnut good we'll go to Krispy Kreme." What a wonderful training ground that was for a little one! She loved to sit in the front pew, but if she was "distracting" to other worshipers we moved back the next Mass and then worked our way back to the front. I always rewarded her with lighting a candle, but Krispy Kreme was saved for those special days. And there were man sitting at the counter with hot chocolate and a hot doughnut.
Then there was Huntley Meadows, the nature center nearby with a boardwalk through the wetlands where beavers built dams and lodges, the redwinged blackbirds perched on the cattails, ducks and turtles swam through the pond, and the great blue heron feasted on fish and frogs. My youngest and I spent several wonderful homeschooling years running the Nature Detectives program for pre-schoolers which led to one of our creepier experiences, with a "pet" corn snake. How I hated feeding time with those poor little "pinkies."
Leaving St. Louis was one of the hardest things we ever did and the parish still holds a special place in our hearts. Thinking of the parish and all the dear ones we left behind reminds me of the song in the round. "Make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other is gold." Some of those golden friends are gone now, but I continue to depend on them to pray for me.
I have to confess that my anonymous St. Louis acquaintances posting here are not admirers by any stretch of the imagination. It's a humbling reminder that no matter how hard we struggle to do God's will, we cannot please everyone and some will remember us with hostility and even animosity. It's certainly painful, but an opportunity to unite little sufferings to Christ on the cross, a sort of crucifixion by thumbtack as my sister often says.
But even though painful memories weave like black threads among the vibrant colors of a tapestry, I would not trade my years at St. Louis for anything. I still pray for the many pastors and associates who gave us Christ's Body and Blood and served us as spiritual fathers -- yes, both the faithful priests and the unfaithful. I remember with gratitude the school principals and teachers who helped form our children and the long list of good friends: my Cursillo group reunions, the pro-life committee, the school volunteers and office staff, my CCD classes, the other home schooling parents. Those wonderful years at St. Louis were a little microcosm of life where our family learned so much.
May all the dear ones still there and those who have moved on be blessed. They truly are golden!