City of Saints

Sts. Peter and Paul in St. Louis was one of the first parishes I knew I was going to visit and one of the last ones I did.

A one-time bustling German parish not far from the Gateway Arch, the neighborhood surrounding the parish had fallen on hard times. And one night in the winter of 1979, a local homeless man known to the remaining churches in the area froze to death. The tragedy pushed the church, plus fellow neighborhood houses of worship St. Vincent de Paul and Trinity Lutheran to act. Together, they founded and began to staff a homeless shelter and accompanying kitchen, locating the site in the basement of Sts. Peter and Paul. Forty-plus years later, it’s still there, housing 60 men nightly.

The church itself has also undergone a transformation. Its rolls have dwindled as the neighborhood changed. Rather than continue to use the space as designed, with a few dozen parishioners spread into a church made for a thousand, they tore out the original pews and created an intimate area with the altar at the center of an elevated in-the-round setting. It was a configuration that led to an observation that wouldn’t have been possible in its old layout, though you’ll have to wait for the book for details on that.

As for that, I do hope to have some of the details on the book very soon.

The reconfigured Sts. Peter and Paul

Father Bruce Forman
The baptismal font in the gathering space.

The exterior view of the historic church.

The shelter in the church basement.

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