A Growing Traditional Catholic Parish in the Ozarks

Saint George Congregation in 2015 while meeting at Immaculate Conception Church in Springfield, Missouri

What if I told you there is a place in the Ozarks where the priest always celebrates the liturgy ad orientem (facing east with the congregation), where communion is always administered on the tongue while kneeling, where the homilies are challenging and orthodox, where traditional customs (such as head-covering) are encouraged, where the only Catholic Church in town is this parish, where all the sacraments are celebrated, parishioners live full sacramental lives in a traditional way, and all of this is done in ENGLISH.

It’s a parish that uses the Traditional ENGLISH Mass (or TEM) and everything is done in English — traditional, sacred English to be exact. That’s because this community uses Divine Worship, which is the Vatican-approved liturgy for Ordinariate parishes of the Anglican Patrimony. Saint George Catholic Church is a fully functional Ordinariate community in the City of Republic, Missouri. In fact, it’s the only Catholic Church in Republic. This effectively makes Republic, Missouri and “Ordinariate town,” with no other Catholic parishes in the city, and the nearest diocesan parish is in a neighboring town, ten miles away. This means all Catholic liturgies, celebrated in Republic, will be Ordinariate for the long-term foreseeable future. If you would like to see what a TEM looks like, click here to watch a video from a similar parish in Orlando, Florida.

Saint George is growing fast and has many young families with small children. In fact, the church is raising money for a significant building project that will erect a traditional English stone chapel in the southeast corner of Republic. This will become the first Catholic parish of that style ever built in the area. The chapel will consist of a long nave, a separated sanctuary, with an altar rail and rood screen. The tabernacle will be front and center, and the sanctuary will be designed for ad orientem worship exclusively. The chapel will be built to reflect the traditional liturgy of the Anglican Patrimony. The nice thing about Ordinariate parishes is that once they’re built, they’re here to stay. Such parishes fall under the jurisdiction of the Ordinariate, so there is no chance of the liturgy ever changing, or established traditions being dropped. Ordinariate priests, unlike diocesan priest, are usually assigned for life, and this means Ordinariate parishes (once built) are less likely to endure the constant transitions common to diocesan parishes with frequent priest transfers.

Saint George is currently looking into ways it can help homeschooling families, since many of its members homeschool their own children, and homeschooling is very popular in Missouri. Homeschooling is becoming a new Catholic method of educating children using traditional Catholic means. Saint George seeks to become a big part of this in the Republic area.

While it functions as a suburb to Springfield, Republic is still separated by about five miles of wooded farmland. The population of Republic is under 15,000 people, but Springfield is a mid-size city of over 160,000. Many professionals live in Republic but work in Springfield. The City of Springfield has seven diocesan parishes, four Catholic elementary schools and one Catholic high school.

Springfield has an elaborate parks and recreation infrastructure with green-ways connecting multiple city parks. Republic also has a few city parks, a couple green-ways, and is situated right next to Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield — a significant Civil War monument and park. The entire Springfield-Republic region is surrounded by wooded farmland in the oak, walnut and ceder forests, which is the natural landscape of the Ozark Mountains. There are plenty of lakes, rivers and streams which afford ample opportunity for hunting, fishing, boating and hiking. The climate of the Ozarks is subtropical in the summer, with relatively mild winters, compared to most of the Midwest. In the Ozark Mountains, snowfall is usually measured by the inches, while the Plains States are measuring it by the feet. The storm season during the Spring is usually milder in the Ozarks as well, compared to what is typically seen in the Plains States.

The culture is a Southern-Midwest mixture, neither completely Southern nor Midwestern, but a pretty healthy blend of the two. The religious culture is overwhelmingly Baptist, but the typical anti-Catholic stereotype doesn’t usually apply. Baptists, and other Protestants in the Springfield area, tend to be very accepting and friendly toward local Catholics. The Bible-Belt atmosphere is refreshing though, even for a Catholic, because it’s great to see Christian monuments peaking above the treeline, an unabashed proclamation of Scripture in the public square, and billboards sharing the message of the gospel and Biblical moral teaching, backed by the Catholic Church for 2,000 years. The entertainment capital of the region, Branson, often features gospel messages into its live shows, and passages of Scripture can be found peppered throughout the nearby Silver Dollar City theme park.

The entire State of Missouri generally leans to the political Right, which is much more pronounced in the Ozarks region in the southern half of the state. The state boasts of some of the most permissive conceal-and-carry laws in the country. Open carry is permitted throughout the state without a permit, and technically this is true for conceal-and-carry too, though it is recommended that those seeking to conceal-and-carry get a permit anyway. Missouri also has the “Castle Doctrine,” which protects homeowners who defend their homes and family from intruders. Missouri is generally classified as a “Red State” (Republican) outside of St Louis and Kansas City. It has leaned toward the Republican Party in every presidential election since 2000. Paradoxically, however, Missouri is well known for compromises with the political Left on specific issues. For example, Missouri is a medical-marijuana state, and has a competitive minimum-wage for the region.

Springfield is home to BassPro Shop’s Outdoor World and the Wonders of Wildlife Museum. In fact, Springfield was home to the very first BassPro Shop, which still exists within the Outdoor World complex. Springfield is also home to two enormous medical employers, Mercy and CoxHealth. It can boast of surprisingly advanced medical services for a midsize city. Kansas City and Tulsa are within a three-hour drive, and Saint Louis can be reached within about three and a half hours.

The Ozarks are an excellent place to raise a family, and the Springfield area offers all the amenities of a big city, without the urban sprawl, air pollution or traffic jams. That being said, Republic is the perfect suburban environment, far enough away from Springfield to be free of its urban lights, but close enough for commuters to easily find their way into the office within fifteen to thirty minutes from leaving the home garage. Saint George in Republic would offer a traditionally-minded, Catholic family a place to worship (in sacred English), in a fully sacramental parish life. Being the only Catholic church in town, it can only grow, and it is growing. Saint George is currently meeting in and old Franciscan retreat center, but this is just its temporary home. It will soon outgrow it. Big plans for expansion are in the works. The congregation consists of about 70% converts, and 30% cradle Catholics. Most of them are local, but a small number of members have moved to Republic specifically for the thriving community and traditional worship at Saint George. Some come from long distances, and it can now be confirmed that more families are on the way. Saint George is a magnet community. It’s drawing both non-Catholics to convert, and cradle Catholics to move long distances to become a part of it. If you’re looking for a traditional parish, that maintains all the traditional trappings, but doesn’t require you to learn Latin, then Saint George is your destination.

A growing number of Catholics are looking for traditional Catholic worship, and a flourishing church community, but in the setting of a small city where traditional Catholicism is the only game in town. There aren’t too many parishes that fit that description, but Saint George is one of them. Republic offers a safe environment for raising children, a well-funded police department, low crime, with plenty of family-friendly recreation nearby. Parks and creeks can be reached within 5 minutes, a major river within 15 minutes, a lake within 30 minutes. Nature trails can be reached within 10 minutes. Theaters and indoor entertainment are reachable within 20 to 30 minutes, as well as auditoriums and sports stadiums. Professional live entertainment in Branson can be reached in about 45 minutes, along with an amusement theme park, boasting some of the most intense roller-coasters in the Southern Midwest. Yes, this is a great place to raise a family. There are plenty of work opportunities in this area for doctors, lawyers, management professionals, nurses and therapists, teachers, you name it. The opportunity to establish a traditional Catholic colony truly exists in Republic.

If you’re wondering how it’s possible for regular Catholics to become members of an Ordinariate parish, it’s not only simple, but it’s already happening all over North America. If you’re already Catholic, simply move to Republic, transfer from your old diocese to the Diocese of Springfield-Cape Giardeau, then have Saint George listed as your home parish. It’s that simple. If you live in or near Republic, it’s almost expected.

Saint George in Republic also makes an attractive destination for Anglicans, and Anglo-Catholics, seeking a way to enter full communion with the Catholic Church, maintain all traditional Anglican liturgy and customs, all within the atmosphere of a small city in the wooded Midwest mountains. Interestingly, Saint George has become a destination for young Baptists as well, who have decided to convert to a more traditional expression of Catholicism, that still has some connection to the pastoral sensibilities of their Protestant background. The resident priest is married and has five children. He personally understands the challenges of family life and can offer experienced marital advice.

If you have further questions about Saint George, feel free to contact the parish office.

3 thoughts on “A Growing Traditional Catholic Parish in the Ozarks

  1. I’m in a similar ideal situation, a robust & growing Ordinariate parish in Houston, Texas. If I was still at my old soul-sucking sixties folk music novus ordo parish, I would have strongly considered moving to Republic!

  2. You are all Blessed to have an Ordinariate parish. No such thing up here in Washington State. Not even a hint of interest from anyone. Definitely a wasteland. The closest one is across the water border to Vancouver Island Victoria B.C. Canada. A growing Ordinariate parish but I just cannot get to it.http://www.blessedjohnhenrynewmanfellowship.ca

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