Weston, Missouri is a small town that’s well known locally for the many stylish specialty shops and restaurants clustered around its historic main street. Well positioned near Kansas City, Platte City, and St. Joseph, Weston has masterfully leveraged the quaint aesthetics of its old downtown area to attract retailers, restaurateurs, and customers. On any given weekend—particularly during the Christmas season—there’s bustle in the shops and healthy foot traffic up and down the sidewalks of Weston’s business district. High above it all, tucked into a curve atop the city’s “Catholic Hill,” is a pretty church that may escape many shoppers’ notice. But for those who make the steep climb up Cherry Street, the discovery of Holy Trinity Parish serves as both a restorative balm for the soul and a perpetual touchstone for the faithful.
This is a parish that has deep roots. Founded in 1842, it isn’t the oldest Catholic parish in the area (St. Mary’s parish in Independence was founded in 1823), but it’s old enough to inspire reverence for its history. Several subscribers to Circa 19xx are from the United Kingdom, which has such a long, rich, history that to describe something there as “old” may mean hundreds or even thousands of years. In Middle America, however, a hundred years seems almost ancient; 175 years nearly prehistoric. Holy Trinity Parish pre-dates the U.S. Civil War. John Tyler, the 10th president of the United States, was in office when construction began on the first church building. Thomas Jefferson had died only 16 years earlier. The continuity of a parish over so long a period is astonishing—and tremendously reassuring.; The faith of its people is firm and lasting.
I’ve been to Weston countless times, but never knew about Holy Trinity until earlier this week, when I ended up working with Maureen Vernon, one of the parishioners, at The Catholic Radio Network, where we’re both volunteers. Maureen and I had never met before, but you learn a lot about a person while stuffing envelopes over the course of five hours! We swapped stories about our parishes, then moved on to other odds and ends (we discovered that her son and I work for the same company). Maureen and her husband started talking about the Weston Homes Tour, which led to discussion about decorations at the church and the 175th celebrations. I decided then and there that I had to visit. How could I possibly have been to Weston so many times and never know about the pretty stone church on the hill? And now that I did know, how could I not feature it in my blog?
My friend Frances and I were already scheduled to have lunch together when I called her up and suggested a drive to Weston. We’d make a day of it, beginning with a visit to Holy Trinity, followed by lunch and shopping on Main Street. When we arrived at the church, the grounds were being cleared of leaves by a lawn crew, but even in the commotion it was easy to imagine what this serene place must be like in the spring and summer when the flowers in the neatly landscaped terrace are in bloom. Frances was taken with the view; the high elevation provided a glimpse of the pretty town below. For my part, I imagined lunch in the springtime by their little waterfall under the trees. This was a restful place, conducive to reflection and prayer.
After walking the grounds, we tried the door of the church and it was locked. Maureen had told me that if I found it locked I could talk to the ladies in the office about getting in. We weren’t sure where the office was, so we walked to the nearest building and cracked open the door, where we found Father Steven Rogers, Holy Trinity’s pastor, discussing preparations for the weekend’s festivities with a couple of parishioners. Everyone was busy; there was much to do and a lot going on. For a split second I felt like an intruder who couldn’t have picked a worse time to drop in on complete strangers. They quickly dispelled my concerns, however. They couldn’t have been more gracious and welcoming. “Oh, you’re the woman writing the blog!” they said. “We were expecting you!” Frances and I looked at each other, stunned. Maureen had explained everything so we didn’t have to. (Thanks, Maureen!)
What we found were parishioners who love their parish and their pastor. They spoke of both with great enthusiasm and affection, describing Father’s inspiring homilies and their church’s proud history. They gave us a brochure offering details about various aspects of the building, and let us wander around on our own to take pictures. When we entered the church we could see that the decorating project was still underway. “This is definitely a work in progress,” Father had warned us. Even so, the little church was a perfectly charming and restful place. Frances and I, both practicing Catholics, felt fortunate to begin our Advent Season with a visit there.
There are actually two church buildings on the premises; one made of limestone, the other of gingerbread! In honor of the parish’s 175th celebrations, three ladies of the parish re-imagined the church as an elaborate, and completely edible, structure made of gingerbread, frosting, fondant, candy, and sugar cones. A replica to the smallest detail, the gingerbread church includes Jolly Rancher stained glass windows that are lighted from the inside. Even the bells within the bell towers, barely visible behind the frosting trellis, are made of chocolate. One of the ladies said that there was even a miniature chocolate Father Rogers inside, preaching from the pulpit. My mouth dropped. Then she laughed and said, “Well, no, they didn’t go quite that far, but there is a lot of detail here!” Amazingly, the team of women who built the gingerbread church, Lori Mathews, Joan Edelman, and Lisa Stiffler, had never made a gingerbread house before, let alone a project of this scale.
I don’t imagine I’ll ever visit Weston again without making a stop at this lovely church towering above Main Street. I’d like to thank Father Rogers and the parishioners I met for their very warm welcome and for letting us take pictures on such a busy day. Additional thanks goes to Maureen Vernon for making the introductions and for telling me about Holy Trinity in the first place!
When Frances and I left the church, we headed downtown for a wonderful lunch and some Christmas shopping . More on that in next week’s post.
Until next time,