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Sunday, Sep. 21, 2014

Catholic churches open doors to public for Christmas tours

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

(Photo)
Frances C. Telker, sacristan for St. Henry Catholic Church in Charleston, adjusts greenery in one of the church's stained-glassed windows
(Photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
"Christmas Catholic Church tour"

SIKESTON -- Anyone looking to extend their Christmas celebration can do so through a tour featuring local churches dating back to the early 1900s and with unique features like stained glass windows and arched ceilings.

The second Christmas Catholic Church Tour will be from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Friday in Scott, Mississippi and Cape Girardeau counties.

Churches new to the tour are St. Francis Xavier, 245 Front St., in Sikeston; St. Henry, 304 Court St., Charleston; St. Joseph, 604 Sycamore St., in Scott City; and St. Vincent de Paul, 1913 Ritter Drive, in Cape Girardeau.

Churches returning to this year's tour are Guardian Angel, 604 Church St., in Oran; St. Ambrose, 418 S. Third, in Chaffee; St. Denis, 135 N. Winchester, in Benton; and St. Lawrence, 1017 State Highway A, in New Hamburg. St. Lawrence's original log church will also be included in the tour.

St. Augustine Church in Kelso isn't on this year's tour due to a wedding taking place at the church this weekend.

Jackie Griffith, tour chair and member of St. Lawrence Church, said this year several of the churches are expanding their decorations because of the tour. Last year over 200 people from all over Southeast Missouri -- and even Illinois -- visited each church on the tour, Griffith said.

"It seemed to be a very social gathering and a chance to see old friends -- and a continuation of the Christmas season," Griffith said about last year's tour. "After Christmas day, all that and it's over, but this is a way of expanding the spirit of Christmas."

In addition to seeing the churches adorned in Christmas decor, the tours provide the general public a chance to see the architecture of some of the oldest structures in the area.

"Last year people had all kinds of questions, and because of that, we had metal signs engraved and put on all the statues in the church," Griffith said.

The Rev. Scott Sunnenberg, pastor of St. Francis Xavier Church in Sikeston and St. Henry Church in Charleston, said Griffith contacted him about the two churches being included in this year's tour.

Sunnenberg said both churches are very different structures. For example, St. Francis Xavier is an English-style structure with dark brick and pastel windows while St. Henry is a Romanesque-style featuring stain-glassed windows, Sunnenberg said.

"The people are very proud of their churches here," Sunnenberg said. "Many families go back a number of generations over those years, they give their lives of the building and many of those families continue to do so."

In 1839, St. Henry's log church was built in the Texas Bend Community, about four miles north of Charleston. In 1873, the frame church was built in Charleston. The present church was built in 1905, and its parking lot is where the frame church once stood. The log church is no longer standing. Over the years, the present church has undergone renovations.

Construction on St. Francis Xavier's present church was completed in the summer of 1938. Today it's the interior brickwork that sets the church apart from others, said Joan Chinnadurai of the church.

"The structure of the churches is something we want to celebrate as well as birth of Jesus," Sunnenberg said.

Here's more information about churches on the tour:

-- St. Lawrence's present church was built in 1869 followed by the addition of a bell tower and the front of the church in 1907. A major renovation of the inside of the church was completed in 1994.

Also the original log church constructed in 1848, which has since been renovated, will be available for touring. The church's former nativity set will be on display at the log church.

-- St. Denis Parish was established in 1904, and a new red brick and stone church with a Gothic line was built in 1953. In 1991, the inside of the church was redone.

-- Guardian Angel Parish was founded in 1892, and the current church building was built in 1917. The architecture of the church is Italian Renaissance. Since that time, the church interior has been renovated twice and although the current scheme is not as ornate as the original, it has been restored to much of the character of the first furnishings, according to the Rev. John Harth, pastor.

-- St. Ambrose Parish in Chaffee was established in January 1907. After a fire destroyed its initial church, the parish built a new church in 1954. The inside of the church was renovated about 10 years ago.

There is no charge for the tour, and there is no specific church to begin or end the tour. Tour guides will be available at each church.

Refreshments will be available along the tour.