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Our History

St. Alphonsus Liguori Catholic Church is known far and wide as "The Rock." The parish is staffed by the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, better known as the Redemptorists. The parish made history in 1922 when it began the weekly novena in honor of Our Mother of Perpetual Help. This novena is prayed weekly in almost every country in the world. 

Our family here is predominately African American and its liturgies reflect our culture, complimented by two dynamic Gospel choirs. Our historical church features fabulous Old World architecture, beautiful stained glass, incredible stone and marble work, and one of the four surviving pipe organs of its kind in the country. 

1861

Archbishop Peter Richard Kenrick invites the Redemptorists to set up a permanent home in St. Louis.

1866

The Redemptorists purchased three and one-half acres at Grand and Cook Avenues. Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos, C.Ss.R. visited the site while preaching a parish mission.

1867

Ground was broken on May 1st for the church, and on November 3rd, the cornerstone was put in place and blessed by Rev Joseph Melchers, Vicar General of the Archdiocese. Officially named for St. Alphonsus, the sainted founder of the Redemptorists Congregation. The construction men who built the Gothic stone church and the rock wall that surrounds it gave it the nickname, "Rock Church." One that continues today. 

On June 23rd, Pope Pius IX entrusted the ancient and miraculous picture of Our Lady of Perpetual Help to the Redemptorists with the command, "Make her known to the world."

1872

St Alphonsus Church was dedicated on August 3rd by Archbishop Patrick J Ryan.

1873

The first Mother of Perpetual Help Shrine at St Alphonsus Church was blessed on December 7th during the first public Triduum in homage to her under this title.

1881

St Alphonsus 'Rock' Church officially became a parish church of the Archdiocese of St Louis under the care of the Redemptorists.

1887

On November 22nd, Rev Augustus Tolton, first recognized African-American Roman Catholic priest, visited St Alphonsus 'Rock' Church, met the Redemptorist community and offered Mass for the School Sisters of Notre Dame in their convent chapel.

1904

The beautiful stained glass windows were completed and installed in the church. Meyer of Munich, Germany was commissioned to create the windows. The larger windows were priced at $647 each. Meyer had a display sign at the St Louis World's Fair directing visitors to see their work at the 'Rock' Church.

1941

Rev James Higgins, C.Ss.R. ended segregation at the 'Rock'. The parishioners of St Clement's were incorporated into St Alphonsus.

1947

Rev Emmet Crane became Pastor of the 'Rock'. He came as a Redemptorist who had grown up in St Louis. His early years of priesthood were given to teaching at the Redemptorist minor seminary, St Joseph's College in Kirkwood, MO.

1948

St Alphonsus School was integrated.

1970

The parishes of St Alphonsus, St Teresa and St Bridget joined resources to create Central Catholic Community School which eventually became Central Catholic-St Nicholas grade school. Central Catholic-St Nicholas closed in 2010.

Brother Terry Burke arrived at the 'Rock' on April 3rd and quickly became an invaluable asset to the parish. Brother Terry was in charge of maintaining the entire plant and the heating/cooling system. Brother Terry became a legend in St Louis with his resale store. He would go out each day to pick up clothes and furniture for the store. He was transferred to Sacred Heart Retreat Center in July of 1982 and returned to the 'Rock' in July of 1990. He was Financial Officer, Bookkeeper, buyer, plumber, carpenter, keeper of Tiger, landscape artist and general lover of all that is the 'Rock'. In 2020, Brother Terry was retired to St Clement's Health Center.

1972

Rev Kyle Fisher, C.Ss.R was appointed Associate Pastor in 1966 and served in that capacity until 1972 when he was named Pastor. He was Pastor until 1978. Fr Fisher was retired and lived in the rectory at St Alphonsus until 2020 when he was sent to St Clement's Health Center. He died at St Clement's on March 28, 2022.

1973

Due to a decline in enrollment, St Alphonsus 'Rock' High School closed.

 

Mrs Bessie McGee-Cunningham became the first African-American secretary at the 'Rock'.

1978

Rev Robert Wirth, C.Ss.R. was named Pastor of the 'Rock'. It was under his leadership that the church was renovated in the Afro-centric manner.

1985

The first Gospelfest was hosted at the 'Rock' with the support of other parishes. The event was turned over to the North City Deanery and renamed the North City Deanery Catholic Revival.

 

Mrs Dorothy Bennett joined the staff as the first African-American Pastoral Minister. 

1989

1990

On June 10th, the St Alphonsus 'Rock' Church family rejoiced as their own Fr Maurice Nutt was ordained to the priesthood by African-American Bishop J. Terry Steib, S.V.D. The ordination was held at the 'Rock'.

1991

Renovation of the church with an African-American motif was completed. Rev Charles (Chuck) Bierwaltes, C.Ss.R. was appointed Pastor.

Minister Malcolm Speed was hired as the Director of Voices of Praise Choir.

Parishioner Leslie Johnson, Sr was ordained a Deacon. The ordination was held at the Cathedral Basilica of St Louis. Sr Renee DePorres Fenner, D.C. joined the staff at the 'Rock' as Liturgist and Pastoral Associate.

Rev Robert Earl, C.Ss.R. died of cancer at the age of 53. He was Associate Pastor of the 'Rock' Church. Fr Earl was known as an activist for the underprivileged, homeless and those living in substandard housing. Rev Juan Lasso de la Vega , the Superior General of the Redemptorist, was in St Louis at the time of his death attending a North American Redemptorist Youth Conference which was hosted at the 'Rock'. Fr Lasso celebrated Fr Bob Earl's funeral Mass at the 'Rock' Church.

1993

Rev Maurice J. Nutt, C.Ss.R., who grew up in the parish, was the first African-American Pastor appointed at the 'Rock'.

1994

Rev Rick Potts, C.Ss.R. was named Associate Pastor of the 'Rock'.

The 'Rock' began celebrating Family Life events, i.e., Women's Day, Men's Day, Elders' Day, Youth Day, Redemptorist Day, etc.

Sign Me Up Sunday, a "festival of ministries", was inaugurated as part of the Stewardship Committee.

Rev Maurice Nutt, C.Ss.R. reorganized the housing ministry efforts by founding the Grand Rock Community Economic Development Corporation. Judge David Mason served as the first Chairman of the Board.

2000

St Alphonsus 'Rock' Church was selected as one of 300 Excellent Catholic Parishes out of 20,000 Catholic parishes in the United States from the Pastoral Summit. The 'Rock' Church met several objective criteria distinguishing itself as an outstanding Catholic parish. The Danforth Foundation honored the 'Rock' Church by selecting it as the first recipient of the I Dare You Award. A celebration was held in June at Powell Symphony Hall with Rev Bernice King, J.D., daughter of  Rev Dr Martin Luther King, Jr as the guest speaker. The church received a $100,000 cash prize.

2002

Rev Richard M. Potts, C.Ss.R. is appointed Pastor of St Alphonsus 'Rock' Church on July 21st.

2005

Rev John Phelps, C.Ss.R. is appointed Pastor of St Alphonsus 'Rock' Church on September 11th.

Rev Bob Wirth, C.Ss.R. is named Associate Pastor. He served in that capacity until August 2007.

2007

On August 16th, the middle tower of the church was struck by lightning resulting in a fire that burned the roof and ceiling. The inside of the church suffered major water damage. The stained glass windows and marble altars were undamaged. No one was injured or killed in the blaze.

Rev Matthew Bonk, C.Ss.R. was installed as Pastor of St Alphonsus 'Rock' Parish on September 9th.

2009

On Palm Sunday, after extensive renovation to our beloved 'Rock' Church was completed; parishioners, waving palms and singing praises to God, marched with great jubilation into the newly restored church.

2010

Rev Richard M. Potts, C.Ss.R. returns to the 'Rock' and on December 12th, he is installed as Pastor of the church.

2016

For 150 years, the Redemptorists missionaries have upheld their promise to Pope Pius IX to spread devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help--the icon of love. The Redemptorists of the Denver Province renewed that commitment at a jubilee celebration on June 27th at St Alphonsus Liguori 'Rock' Catholic Church where the weekly novena was introduced in the United States. Redemptorist Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin of Indianapolis was the main celebrant. The evening Mass drew about 850 people and was televised on EWTN.

2017

In January Roberta George, the church Secretary, celebrated 40 yrs of service to 'Rock' Church parish, the parishioners and the Redemptorists. She has been a member since 1965 and has served in the Hardin Food Pantry, on the Bereavement Committee, Social Life Commission, facilitated special events in the parish and has supported many other ministries throughout the years. Her devotion to the 'Rock' Church is unmatched even to this day.

 

On September 8th, the church held its Jubilee Gala Dinner to celebrate 150 Years of Standing on the Rock! The event was held at the Clayton Plaza Hotel. Pillar of the Community Awards were presented to Vincent Bennett, Kathy Conley-Jones, Michael Holmes, Christine Bluett, Roberta George, Alicia McClendon, Rev Dr Maurice Nutt, C.Ss.R., Judy Bentley, James Clark, Kathy McGinnis, Michael McMillan, Gloria Taylor, Richard Gaines, Carol Powell, Anne-Marie Clarke, Hon David Mason, Shira Truitt, Kelvin Westbrook & Valerie Bell, DeWayne Johnson and T. Christopher Peoples. These individuals were honored, not only for their contributions to and support of the church, but also for their support and dedication to the community.

We celebrated the church's 150th Anniversary (Sesquicentennial) as a parish in the St Louis Archdiocese. St Alphonsus Liguori 'Rock' Catholic Church hosted the province-wide Jubilee Celebration. The Jubilee Mass took place on November 5th and the Most Reverend Robert J. Carlson was the celebrant.

On November 11th the Homegoing Celebration for Sr Mary Antona Ebo, F.S.M was held at the 'Rock'. Most Rev Robert Carlson was the celebrant. Most Reverend J. Terry Steib and Mark S. Rivituso were concelebrants. Sr Antona was one of her orders first Black postulants. Over the years, her contributions as a woman religious and an activist for human rights have been numerous. She marched from Selma to Montgomery over the Edmund Pettus Bridge on Bloody Sunday, she was later honored by the Voting Rights Institute in Selma with the Living Legend Award, the Archdiocese of St Louis honored her by naming a conference room at the Rigali Pastoral Center after her, the Missouri History Museum honored her as part of the special exhibit "Civil Rights: The African-American Freedom Struggle" and many other awards and honors throughout her life.  

2019

On September 22nd, Rev Stephen J. Benden, C.Ss.R. was installed at the 37th Pastor of the 'Rock' Church. Fr Rodney Olive, C.Ss.R. joined the parish that year as the Associate Pastor.

2020

On February 16th, the Most Reverend Fernand J. Cheri celebrated Mass at the 'Rock'. After Mass, Bishop Cheri dedicated the Sr Mary Antona Ebo, FSM Chapel/Prayer Room in the Parish Hall.

In late March, the Church (and all churches in the Archdiocese of St Louis) closed. Millions of people died as a result of exposure to the coronavirus, COVID-19. The world experienced a pandemic for the first time since 1870.

Fr Rodney and the Media Team began livestreaming Mass on YouTube in April. In May, churches re-opened with masking, social distancing and sanitizing required.

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