Taos parish marks 175th year

Play is unique addition to anniversary

TAOS, Mo. — The “Apostle of Central Missouri” celebrated Mass in what would become Taos with 20 families May 28, 1838.

With the support of his mother, the Countess Marie of Lens in Belgium, the young priest eventually founded seven parishes in Mid-Missouri.

St. Francis Xavier Parish in Taos will celebrate 175 years Saturday.

The highlight of the day may be the original play portraying key figures throughout the town’s history.

The 10 a.m. parade will be a big deal — the last one was held 25 years ago. Route M will be closed 10 a.m.-noon to through traffic to allow the parade to travel from Liberty Road to Firehouse Lane.

The car shows, period demonstrations and the church museum will continue 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

At noon, the opening ceremony will be held on the main stage.

“St. Francis — Faith Through the Years,” a live play by community members, will be performed at 12:40 and 3 p.m.

Children’s games will be set up in the school parking lot from 1-4:30 p.m. and 5:30-7 p.m.

Musical entertainment will include Winnie & the Poohs at 1:30 p.m. and Shiloh 8-11 p.m.

A pie-eating contest will begin at 3:30 p.m. and a washer tournament will begin at 6 p.m.

Mass with Bishop John Gaydos will be celebrated at 4:30 p.m.

The Knights of Columbus will provide food throughout the day, as well as snow cones and kettle corn.

Off-site parking will be available at Countryside Park and Knights of Columbus with shuttles running 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

Play is unique addition to anniversary

One of the most unique parts of Saturday’s celebration for St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church will be the play “St. Francis — Faith Through the Years.”

Playwright Tracy Wegman is a historian by training. She’s not a member of the St. Francis Xavier parish but has been teaching at the parish school for 12 years.

“I have a real vested interest in the history of this community; it’s truly an amazing and beautiful history,” Wegman said. “And the people here still embody that.”

Several descendants of the original Taos founders remain in the community. And traditions, such as picnics or the December Mass on behalf of Helias’ mother, are still honored today.

Those descendants as well as parish historians and previous anniversary history books provided a good background for Wegman’s play “St. Francis — Faith Through the Years.”

“I was honored to be asked several years ago to put this together,” Wegman said.

Depicting real people and a true history, Wegman said she used as many primary sources as she could find, including letters and journaled conversations.

“I wanted to make sure to get it right,” she said.

Wegman also pulled from Gary Pool’s play for St. Peter Parish’s sesquicentennial in 1996.

And she was able to call on her husband Mark, who wrote the songs for the St. Peter Parish play. Donna Stuckenschneider is the music director.

The play will be delivered readers theater-style to adhere to historical accuracy.

The cast of about 20 is composed of Taos residents, some of whom are Wegman’s students.

The students, many of whom are in the school drama club, have been proud and enthusiastic to be a part of sharing their home’s history, she said.

“With a book, you get to read the history; a play lets you experience it,” Wegman said.

The audience will walk away with a vibrant sense of who the integral characters of the town’s history were and the benefits they brought.

“So much of Central Missouri’s

religious history is owed to Father Helias, and he loved Taos,” Wegman said.

In addition to Helias, the Apostle of Central Missouri, other priests carried on the work of building the parish and constructing the buildings for ministry.

Performances will be at 12:30 and 3 p.m. Saturday at the school playground.

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