A Brief History
Historians say that St. Peter’s Parish had its inception in the hope of a French family by the name of Chantelle. The first Mass was celebrated by a missioner believed to be Father Bonocini from the Osage Indian Mission (now St. Paul, Kansas) in the year 1872.
Father Hugh O’ Reilly took the pastorate in 1876. Under the direction of Archbishop Kenrick of St. Louis, Father O’ Reilly started construction of a brick church for the needs of about 20 catholic families. This first Church was built at 8th and Wall street.
In 1905, Father Anthony Clinton was assigned to St. Peter’s. During his pastorate the present church was constructed. The church was dedicated in May 1907.
In 1926, while Father William P. Brophy was pastor, the grade school at 8th and Byers was built. While Father Arthur M. Tighe was pastor, construction of St. Peter’s High School (now McAuley Regional High School) was completed. Under Father Gervase Ingoldsby, the church was air conditioned.
Father J Friedel oversaw a restoration of the church interior in 2013, including a new altar, new ambo, and fresh paint.
The elevated space in the front of the church is called the Sanctuary. It is the focal point of the whole sacred space! It is prefigured in the Old Testament by the Holy of Holies in the Jerusalem Temple, the place of encounter with God’s presence. It is the sacramental sign of the meeting of heaven and earth.
Our sanctuary features the traditional High Altar against the back wall, which was hand-carved and imported from Europe when the church was built. The free-standing Altar in the center is where the sacrifice of the Mass is offered. It was constructed in part from pieces of the Communion rail where the faithful used to kneel and receive Holy Communion. The Altar represents Jesus Christ who, in His once-for-all sacrifice on the cross, became the high priest, altar, and lamb of sacrifice in the New Covenant. During Mass, the Altar is the focus of our reverence as the mystery of Christ’s redemption is made present to us anew. Every Catholic altar is consecrated by the bishop and contains within it the relics of several saints.
On the north and south side of the sanctuary, or “St. Joseph’s Side” and “St. Mary’s Side,” respectively, are the side altars. Long ago, when a community of priests resided at St. Peter and each would say his own daily Mass, the Mass would be offered at these side altars too. Now, they are a place of reverence for several saints’ relics.
The Tabernacle is built into the high altar. It is the place where the Eucharist (also called the Blessed Sacrament or Holy Communion) is reposed, the dwelling-place of the true presence of Christ in the sacrament of His Body and Blood. The presence of Jesus is indicated by the red sanctuary candle, elevated on the right side of the high altar. Catholics revere the true presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament by genuflecting (bending the knee) toward the Tabernacle, and by making the sign of the cross when passing by a Catholic Church.
The Ambo to the left of the Altar is the place where the Holy Scriptures are read aloud and the homily is given. During the Liturgy of the Word, Christ speaks to His people and we are nourished as we prepare for the reception of the Eucharist.
The Celebrant of the liturgy (usually the priest or bishop) sits in the Presider’s chair, to the right of the Altar. During Mass, the priest sits at the head of the congregation, representing Christ the Head of His Body which is the Church, as all participate in hearing the Word and offering the Sacrifice.
As you enter the church, you are at the Baptistery: a basin of Holy water with the statue of Jesus being baptized by John the Baptist. Just as Baptism is the first sacrament and the entrance to the life of faith in Christ’s Church, so we enter the church building by passing by the baptismal font. The blessed holy water is a reminder to us of our baptismal grace and our identity as God’s sons and daughters. Catholics traditionally make the sign of the cross with the holy water.
Stained Glass Windows
The ten windows on the north and south walls were part of the original 1907 church. The depictions show scenes from the lives of Jesus and Mary as mentioned in the Gospels. This window to the left shows the Angel Gabriel speaking with Mary at the Annunciation of her motherhood of the Savior. Note the dark portions of the windows, not stained, but painted. It had become damaged over time and an effort to preserve the windows in the 1940’s failed. A local artist was engaged to repaint the windows and refine them to renew their beauty. Behind and above the altar are depictions of the four Evangelists: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (left to right). Above the choir loft at the back of the church, you will see a beautiful rose window. Rose windows originated in Gothic church architecture to liturgically symbolize God’s ordered arrangement of all Creation. Note the Easter lilies that represent Christ’s Resurrection.
The Stations of the Cross
The Stations of the Cross are a popular devotion of Catholics, especially in Lent. If you begin on the south wall, you will see statues on the wall that commemorate the Via Dolorosa in Jerusalem, the path that Jesus followed while carrying His cross to Calvary. Beginning with Jesus on trial before Pilate, the fourteen stations on the south and north walls depict the journey of Jesus to His death on Calvary. In the fourteenth station, near the statue of St. Anthony on the north side, Jesus is taken from the cross and prepared to be entombed.
Our Lady of Lourdes is depicted in the statue to your left as you face the sanctuary. Mary, the Mother of Jesus, appeared to a fourteen-year-old girl, Saint Bernadette, in southern France in 1858. She identified herself as “the Immaculate Conception,” meaning that she had been preserved from original sin by Christ’s grace at the time of her conception in her mother’s womb. At the site of her appearance, a spring of water generated that continues to flow with healing waters to this day.
On the north side of the church is a statue of Saint Joseph, husband of Mary and foster-father of Jesus. He is patron saint of the Universal Church and is traditionally depicted holding a lily, a symbol of purity and virtue.
Near the statue of Our Lady of Lourdes is the statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which overflows with His loving Mercy, dates back to 17th century France and is popular among many Catholics today.
Near these statues are rows of votive candles. Traditionally, a votive candle is lit when somebody entrusts a special prayer intention to the intercession of a saint. Feel free to light a candle with a special intention, and we kindly ask you to leave money in the envelope to provide for the cost of the candles.
On St. Mary’s side, notice the icons of Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne and Saint Pius X, the patron saints of our diocese. These icons were commissioned by Father J Friedel and created by Father Bill McNichols. Relics of these saints are encased below the statue of our Lady of Lourdes. Saint Rose Philippine Duchesne (1769-1852) was a member of the Religious of the Sacred Heart. She worked in the Louisiana Purchase area as a missionary and came as far west as eastern Kansas, where she worked with the Potawatomi Tribe. Known by the children as “Woman Who Prays Always,” they would put leaves on her skirt which remained there undisturbed for hours at a time as she prayed. She is buried in St. Charles, MO.
Pope Saint Pius X (1835-1914) served as Pope in the early 20th century. He is best remembered for fostering active participation in the liturgy and lowering the age when children could begin to receive Holy Communion. His papal motto, “Instaurare Omnia in Christo,” means To Restore All Things in Christ.
Saint Anthony of Padua is shown in the statue near the piano. Traditionally, Saint Anthony, a 13th century Franciscan monk, is noted for being a gifted speaker. Many Catholics pray to God through the intercession of Saint Anthony for lost objects. Saint Anthony’s love for the poor was noted by all. He is traditionally depicted holding the child Jesus.
The Sanctuary features the statues of two angels kneeling in adoration toward the Altar and the Tabernacle. This reminds us of the reality of the Mass as an encounter with the heavenly wedding-feast, in which all the saints and angels are present and eternally worship God in adoration. This is reminiscent of the Ark of the Presence in the Jerusalem Temple, which featured the image of two cherubim in adoration of God’s Holy Presence.
The High Altar features the statue of our parish’s patron, Saint Peter the Apostle. He is traditionally depicted holding a scroll, representing the two books he wrote in the New Testament, and keys, representing the authority Christ gave him over the Church: “I will give you the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 16:19). Our parish’s patronal feast day is June 29, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul. People often ask why Saint Peter is front and center instead of a statue of Jesus. The custom of this church’s architectural style was to put the parish’s patron saint in the center, while the more recent custom is to depict Jesus’s crucifixion in the center. We still have a small crucifix just above the tabernacle, whereas the large crucifix is at the top of the archway above the sanctuary, representing the preeminence of Christ crucified over all (1 Cor 2:2).