LOUIS (AP) When a young man was diagnosed with leukemia, his mother tried to help.
She started giving him medicine.
She offered him clothing and clothes for his clothes and his house.
She bought him a Christmas tree.
She took him to his local church.
She prayed for him.
And she taught him to love the church, the church for him, not the one that put him in a wheelchair.
“You don’t need to be there to teach him how to love,” her son, Josh, says.
Don’t ask questions.”
Josh is now 23, and he’s a good son.
But there is a long road ahead for Josh, and it’s one he’s not willing to take.
For nearly a year, Josh has been living at the St. Louis Catholic Church.
It’s where his mother was baptized and where his father, a Catholic priest, and his mother, a Baptist pastor, first met.
Josh has a sister, an aunt and three uncles.
They call it a “home” but it’s more like a home for an entire generation.
St. Charles, Missouri is a predominantly white city that’s been on the edge of economic and social distress since the Great Recession, and the Sts.
Louis Archdiocese is trying to reverse that trend with an ambitious plan to revitalize the city.
The plan includes a plan to build a new St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the heart of St. Francis Xavier’s campus.
Josh and his sisters are among the first to be accepted into the program.
St Louis’s Catholic church has been an integral part of Josh’s life since the birth of his father.
He says the church has always been an anchor of faith and community.
“It’s not just about being in a Catholic church.
It is what it was when my mom was a little girl and my dad was a priest,” Josh says.
Josh says he misses being able to attend Mass every Sunday, but he also misses being the one in the pew.
He wants to attend services every week, but St. Augustine’s Church, which Josh and other members of the StlCSO are currently attending, doesn’t have a pew and doesn’t want him there.
St Augustine is a relatively small church, but it has an older congregation of around 250, which means the congregation can accommodate an additional 25 to 30 people in a pews.
That means Josh and a few other children, including his sister, can attend a church service that is smaller than that.
“I’m not a little kid anymore,” Josh said.
Josh said the church gave him a chance to experience the joy of being a little person, to go into a church that is welcoming, and to experience being a good parent and a great citizen.
“That was a huge part of my upbringing,” Josh, now 22, said.
“Growing up in St. Joseph, we would go to church at the time and I think it really helped us as children grow and become a family.”
For many of the children at St. Jerome, St. Mary’s and St. Peter’s in St Louis, the experience of attending Mass at the church is a rite of passage.
They say that was the reason why they started attending Mass in the first place.
But Josh and others say it also had a bigger impact on the children, because the parishioners were welcoming and accepting of them.
The church was a place where Josh felt he could have a normal childhood, says the Rev. Eric R. Farr, who has been serving as the parish priest since 2012.
“He loved the church,” Farr said.
The experience of going to St. James was so meaningful for Josh and for his siblings, Farr says.
The children have had a lot of fun at the parish.
Josh was a member of the choir and participated in the Stillsville Volunteer Fire Department, the Staysville Volunteer Police Department, and helped the local chapter of the Boys and Girls Club.
He was also a member in the Boys Club of St Louis and has a picture on his wall of him with the organization.
“This is where Josh grew up, and I love him for that,” Fars said.
St LOUIANS CHURCH ON THE COLLAPSING TIDE of change in St Charles, a city that had a population of just under 400,000 in 2011, has seen a dramatic change in the past decade.
The number of Catholics has dropped from about 4,400 in 2005 to less than 500 in 2016, according to census data.
There are now fewer than 2,000 registered voters in St James, compared to more than 5,000 before the Great Depression, according a 2017 census.
The St. Bernard Parish in Stl.
Louis County is home to the largest Catholic diocese in the country