Celebrating 100 years of Novena in St Louis

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A triduum and feast day Mass in honour of Our Mother of Perpetual Help will be celebrated at St. Alphonsus “Rock” Church in St. Louis, U.S.A., next week, marking the 100th anniversary of the weekly perpetual novena at the parish. 

Noted iconologist Br. Dan Korn (cover, standing in front of the Perpetual Help Shrine at the “Rock” Church in 2016) will lead the triduum on June 21-23. He will discuss the strong Marian devotion of St. Alphonsus Liguori, and share the mission of redemption as well as the significance of the elements depicted in the icon. The parish will welcome Redemptorist Bishop Bruce Lewandowski of Baltimore, a champion of social justice, to celebrate the feast day Mass on June 26. 

Historians credit the humble start of the weekly perpetual novena at the “Rock” in 1922 with catapulting the fulfilment of Pope Pius IX’s mandate to “make her known.” The City of St. Louis established bus routes specifically so that the tens of thousands of faithful Catholics could get to one of the 11 services the Redemptorists led on a single day. Historical records indicate that more than a million people attended the Solemn Novena between 1923 and 1934. 

Redemptorist confreres spread the devotion to virtually every church in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, and then to parishes throughout the entire country. Redemptorist missionaries serving as military chaplains and those working in developing countries around the world also introduced and fostered devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help. 

Economic uncertainty and the World Wars must have influenced the faithful decades ago, but ever since the icon was entrusted to the Redemptorists, the ancient image of the Mother of God has enjoyed great fame and veneration for the many miracles attributed to her intercession. 

“We hope that the triduum and feast day celebration bring more of the faithful back to participate in our Tuesday devotions every week. We have invited every parish in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, and we will livestream the services on YouTube,” explained Fr. Steve Benden, pastor. 

Fr. Steve and Fr. Rodney Olive, associate pastor, are already renewing interest in the novena within the “Rock” community. Parishioners may now purchase candles and place them before the historic Icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help to demonstrate their reliance on her intercession, and the faithful now receive a special blessing with a handheld icon plaque every week. Prayer intentions and testimonials are read during the service, and those unable to attend may submit prayer intentions and participate in the novena online. 

“There are so many people in the world who share our devotion to Our Mother of Perpetual Help,” said Fr. Rodney. “We are expecting participation from the faithful in at least eight countries, for a truly international celebration.” 

Participate in the triduum and Mass on YouTube at St. Alphonsus Liguori Rock Catholic Church streamed live on the YouTube channel and submit prayer intentions to: parish130@archstl.org

by Kristine Stremel;
photos by Fr. Vincent Minh and Fr. Rodney Olive;
courtesy of Denverlink, issue of June 17, 2022

See also Jennifer Brinker’s article about the novena centenary in St. Louis Review.

Learn more about the Redemptorist community at St. Alphonsus Liguori “Rock” Church in St. Louis, and visit its website.

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