Inside a small house at the corner of then-U.S. 50 and Clark Avenue, a new Catholic parish celebrated its first Mass 100 years ago today.
Poised at the east end of the city with growth on the horizon, Immaculate Conception Church relieved the overflowing conditions at St. Peter Church.
At that time, parish membership was strictly enforced with Jackson Street as the dividing line.
Many of its original members were from the rural area. And today, it retains that flavor, despite serving about 1,600 families with six Masses per weekend.
"This is as close to a country parish in the city," Larry Hassenbeck said.
The close-knit atmosphere is fed through the smaller organizations, where parishioners socialize and find common pursuits.
"Organizations are where a lot of things get done," said Monsignor David Cox.
Many of the fundraisers that support the parish are hosted by these groups. And there's less chance of a breakdown in communication with the more manageable microcosm, Cox said.
The various organizations have established their own projects to honor the parish centennial.
"I think people just want to be part of it," said volunteer Judy Birk.
St. Ann's quilting group numbers were bolstered to piece together 10 large quilts plus 18 baby quilts to help with fundraising in the fall.
The Immaculata organization compiled a Centennial Cookbook. The IC Church Circle has created a Christmas ornament. And a pictorial directory was published.
The social concerns committee conducted a neighborhood cleanup to make its presence known, said Debbie Kolb.
Although today is the exact anniversary of the first Mass celebrated the last Sunday of July in 1913, the parish will host a 2 p.m. Mass with Bishop John Gaydos on Sept. 29.
At the September specialty Mass, each of the organizations in the parish life will march into the church with a banner representing their group, said coordinator Larry Jansen.
They also hope to have other banners and displays prepared to acknowledge parish life and history, Ruth Hassenbeck said.
"That should be very interesting," she said.
Most of the priests in the Diocese of Jefferson City have served at Immaculate Conception at one time, said Cox, who has been with the parish three years.
Like a wedding for family, the Mass with the bishop will be an intimate time for past members, and clergy will come back.
The congregation also unites for ministry. It hosts a Thanksgiving Dinner for about 400 from its neighborhood and the annual Bell Tower Barbecue supports a food program in Peru.
The Samaritan Center was born in the church's basement. And pro-life activities have begun there and become a mainstay.
"Lots of things have blossomed from here," Cox said.
From the small house to Pleus Hall to the present day church, Immaculate Conception has been a growing congregation.
In 2007, the parish bought the grocery store and parking area next door.
"We needed the parking and the road through for the school," said Judy Birk.
And recently, the parish has negotiated to buy adjacent residential lots.
"With so many community plans, we need to be ready for anything," Cox said.
One plan might close Clark Avenue's access to U.S. 50 and another might expand Clark Avenue for heavier traffic.
"It could happen now or in 10 years; we're in a precarious position," he said.
Parish council president Greg Beston added, "Being landlocked, we need to take our opportunities."
The city's east side has experienced significant redevelopment in the last decade, with more expected as projects evolved at the Missouri State Penitentiary site.
Just as the parish was on the edge of the city's expansion 100 years ago, now it is at the heart of a neighborhood redefining itself.
"It's exciting," Cox said.
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