Wednesday, August 3, 2011

North St. Louis Treasures - Spiritual and Sweet

North St. Louis, where I was born and lived until after high school graduation, was the final leg of the "Treasures of St. Louis" trip I took two weeks ago.

We stopped by Mount Grace Chapel, home of the Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters. Mount Grace Chapel is tucked away in a corner of North St. Louis, not far from Interstate 70, an area unfortunately known for its poverty and high crime rate.

The day of our visit, smiling young mothers and grandmothers and their giggling children waved to us as the bus drove by some tidy brick homes, others were boarded up and abandoned. Two security guards kept watch as we parked and exited the bus. Walking inside the cool and dark chapel felt like entering an oasis of redemption in the midst of a desert of dispair.

The wooden pews are simple, but the altar is ornate, with a marble floors statues of angels and the Blessed Sacrament on display. During our visit, a lone nun, dressed in a pink habit and white veil, knelt in silent prayer at the foot of the altar, with her back to us. She prayed behind a gate which separated her from the outside world. After leaving the chapel, our tour guide ushered us to the Marian Center to meet Sister Mary Katherine, the mother superior.

The Holy Spirit Adoration Sisters are commonly known as the "pink sisters" because of the rose color of their habits. When I asked Sister Mary Katherine, who kindly permitted photos, why the sisters wear pink, she told me "the rose color signifies their dedication to the Holy Spirit and the joy of being in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament."

The sisters are cloistered, but they do not take the vow of silence, so they are permitted to speak. Mount Grace has 23 sisters, ranging in age from 25 to 90, and in the past few months they have had a few young women visit to learn about joining the order. Most of the sisters' days are devoted to prayer. In the photo on the left, Sister Mary Katerine stands behind an acrylic divider to signify her separation from the outside world.

Mount Grace Chapel was made possible through the generosity of Mrs. Maria Teresa Backer-Kulage and was dedicated in June 1928. Since then, one or two sisters have been kneeling in adoration before the exposed Blessed Sacrament day and night. Some folks give the pink sisters credit for praying for unusually mild weather (in the 70 degree range) our area experienced when Pope John Paul II visited St. Louis in January 1999. The nuns support themselves through donations. They also sell beautifully decorated cards and rosaries.

Several times a year I call to purchase memorial Mass cards from the sisters. The cards are elegantly decorated with calligraphy done by the sisters. The chapel is open daily to the public from 5:30 a.m. until 6:25 p.m. Daily Mass is at 7 a.m. and Vespers and Benediction daily at 5 p.m. and on Sundays at 4 p.m.

The final stop on our trip was--- in a word --- Sweet.

Crown Candy Kitchen (on left) has been a popular St. Louis landmark for decades. When I was young, my mom and dad took all us kids on Saturdays to 14th Street Shopping Center--an area on 14th Street and St. Louis Avenue. While Mom took us kids shopping at Krogers and Sobel's Department Store--or window shopping at Gervich Furniture--Dad waited for us at the cornern tavern. After shopping, if we behaved, Mom treated us to a scoop of ice cream at Crown Candy.

The day our tour bus visited, we arrived after 2 p.m., and customers stood in the 100 degree heat outside the door. The line we formed to buy ice cream trailed out the door and down the street to the bus. But our wait was short, and it was worth it. I got a scoop of chocolate chip in a cup then my sister Kathleen and I, along with several other of our travelers, ate our ice cream outside because there was no place to sit, or even stand.

When Kathleen and I finished our ice cream we squeezed back inside to buy some candy out of the glass display case. After out sweet stop at Crown Candy Kitchen we got back on the bus and headed home, passing familiar childhood landmarks along the way.

Our tour was sponsored by the City of St. Peters. To learn more about their day trips and tours, visit the City of St. Peters website.

Hope you enjoyed my virtual tour of the Treasures of St. Louis. Seeing so many wonderful places brought back memories of my childhood and has given me lots of ideas for essays and stories.

These posts also got me to wondering:

Have you ever visited a place from your past that has stired your imagination so much that you had to write about it?

If so, where?

If not, is there somewhere from your past you would like to revisit?


  1. I don't think I have ever seen a pink habit before! If you look closely, Sister's cheeks are the same shade as her habit...she looks radiant.

  2. Yes, she does look radiant. A life of prayer works wonders for the soul, and also the skin. Would you be surprised to know she took her vows 43 years ago, which would make her in her 70s.

  3. I agree. She does look quite happy.

    I'd love to go back to my grandparents' house, in Overland, but it has changed so much and has been so abused...However, I do have loads and loads of great memories.

  4. What an awesome trip, Donna! I didn't realize it was one of St. Peter's tours. I always read about them and think..Oh, that would be fun! But I never know who to ask to go along! I love the Pink Sisters! AND of course,,,,,Crown Candy! I didn't realize you were from that area. What fun info to learn! AND yes, I've gone back to places that definitely made me write!! Thanks for a lovely post!

  5. Thanks for the virtual journey back to my old stomping grounds too. I so would love to drive through Walnut Park and by the Water Tower, but it is too dangerous. Looks like an enjoyable trip.

  6. Okay, now I want ice cream....I want to write about Wales, and I always want to write about my hometown of Andover, Mass. It's such a pretty town, and it so influenced me because I was always aware of its beauty.

  7. Thanks for sharing your trip with us, Donna. I love when visiting a place from past tugs at the heart and fills me with inexpressible longing that wants to be expressed. C.S.Lewis had a term for it, but I can't recall it at the moment. Glad that you returned home so inspired!

  8. Hi Sioux,
    It's good to keep those memories alive.

    Hi Becky,
    Thanks. It was a fun learning experience--and the ice cream was good, too!

    Hi Linda,
    You're welcome. We actually did drive past the water tower on Grand, which is down the street from my old grade school, Holy Name.

    Hi Melissa,
    Massachusetts is such a lovely state. We lived in Western Mass for four and a half years. My son was born in Holyoke.

    Hi Clara,
    You are most welcome. You've got me curious: I'll see if I can find out that C. S. Lewis quote.



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