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Visiting the Log Church

 Catherine Slenker

In the middle of January, sisters from across the congregation came to St. Louis for the Kakehashi gathering. Kakehashi is the Japanese word for “bridge.” The sisters involved in Kakehashi work to bridge the gap between generations in the congregation and to build a better future together. 

While in St. Louis for the gathering, these sisters had the opportunity to visit the Holy Family Catholic Church in Cahokia, Illinois. The log church that stands there is the same church that the first Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet worked, ministered and prayed in when they arrived in America. The church grounds also encompass the rock foundation of the original convent.

A group of eleven sisters posing for a group photo outside the Holy Family Log Church
Some of the Kakehashi sisters posed for a group photo outside the log church. They’re all bundled up because it was 15°F (-9.5°C) with 16mph wind!

Dedicated on May 14, 1699, the Holy Family Catholic Church is the oldest continuously operating Catholic parish in the United States. While the original structure burned in around 1740, the structure that stands today—and that greeted the sisters when they arrived in 1836—was built out of logs salvaged from the original church in 1799. 

Bundled up against the cold, the Kakehashi sisters were given a tour by John Reed, whose family has been parishioners of the Holy Family Catholic Church for generations. He explained the construction of the church and illuminated its long history. The log church is one of five churches built in the French Colonial style that still exist in North America. Of the five, three are unusable. Between Cahokia and Oregon, the log church and the Cahokia courthouse are the only buildings Lewis and Clark would have seen during their expedition that remain. 

A tour guide explaining the history of the Holy Family Log Church to a group of sisters
John Reed, a lifelong parishioner of Holy Family Catholic Church, tells the sisters about the construction of the log church.

The sisters were then joined by Fr. Victor M. Patricio, OMI, who presided over Mass. Embracing the cultural differences of the congregation, various parts of Mass were spoken in either English, Spanish or Japanese. After Mass, the sisters walked around the log church and held some of the parish’s artefacts.

In the Holy Family Catholic Church, the two candlesticks on the lower front shelf of the main altar were a gift from King Louis XIV of France. Sister Patty Johnson told the group, “The candle sticks that we used for our Mass were the same ones our first sisters would have lit for Mass.”

Three sisters holding a candle from the Holy Family Log Church
A decorative candle stand from the Holy Family Log Church

The original chalice that was used at the first Mass in 1698 is usually kept in the Holy Family’s Musuem, but John brought it out to be used for our Mass. It has a long and notable history. Not only was the chalice used while the first sisters were there, but it was also used by Pope St. John Paul II during his pastoral visit to St. Louis in 1999.

The chalice from the Holy Family Log Church
Two sisters holding the chalice from the Holy Family Log Church and its deerskin container

For many of the sisters, it was their first time visiting the log church. The experience was deeply moving. “This sacred space allowed me to connect with the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet spirit, with the spirit that my sisters left as a trace of unifying love,” said Sister Yoli Arribasplata. “Undoubtedly, we are women who are weaving a living history, marked by love for our dear neighbor without distinction. We are women dreamers of hope and joy, who boost the love of God that is expressed in all humanity and for humanity!” 

Category: Stories

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The Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet are a congregation of Catholic sisters. We, and those who share our charism and mission, are motivated in all things by our profound love of God and our dear neighbors. We seek to build communities and bridge divides between people. Since our first sisters gathered in 1650, our members have been called to “do all things of which women are capable.” The first sisters of our congregation arrived in St. Louis, Missouri in 1836, and we now have additional locations in St. Paul, Albany, Los Angeles, Hawaii, Japan and Peru. Today, we commit to respond boldly to injustice and dare to be prophetic.


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