It’s Time for Catholics to Move to the Ozarks

The Ozark Mountains, of Southwest Missouri, are quickly becoming a destination for Christian families, and among them are Catholics. While Protestants do significantly outnumber Catholics in Missouri, as they do nationwide, the Catholic Church is the largest Christian denomination in Missouri, according to Pew Research. Most Missouri Catholics live around the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, but a growing number of them are moving into the Southwest corner of the state. In particular the cities of Springfield and Branson, with surrounding suburbs, are the strongest growing areas with a relatively shielded economy that isn’t affected as severely by the recessions we see around the rest of the nation. Here you will find the highest Catholic population in the Southwest region, especially in Springfield and suburbs where the majority of employment is.

There is one large Catholic Church in Branson, Our Lady of the Lake, which is fairly contemporary, but large, and close to all the family-friendly attractions in the area. Branson is home to Silver Dollar City, a Christian-owned theme park, with some of the best rides in the lower Midwest, including some of the most wicked roller-coasters I’ve ever ridden. Rides for small children are available too, and Scripture passages can be found hidden all over the park. A giant cross welcomes visitors coming down from the north. Branson, a city built around two lakes, is filled with shopping, Christian and patriotic-themed shows, and lots of little fun-zones and theaters. One of those theaters is the Christian-themed Sight and Sound Theater with the largest stage in the world, where they do theatric presentations of stories from the Bible.

In Springfield, the two largest Catholic churches are St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and Immaculate Conception. Both are large and contemporary. Both have Catholic schools. Smaller parishes include St. Agnes Cathedral, Holy Trinity, Catholic Campus Ministry (on the campus of MSU), St. Joseph and Sacred Heart. There is also Queen of All Saints, which is an SSPX chapel, and is very traditional of course. Aside from the Latin Mass, the most conservative and traditional parish is St. George in Republic, which is a parish of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter (POCSP) and in full-communion with Rome. This parish also has a good working relationship with the local diocese, and diocesan members in Republic are encouraged to attend St. George. Since Republic is the fastest growing suburb of Springfield, St. George (while small now) has the potential for the most sustainable growth in the future.

Springfield is a midsize city with a large Christian population, primarily Evangelical, with a focus on parks and nature trails running throughout the city. A large Nature Center conservation is available to Springfieldians on the Southeast corner of the city, and a large Civil War Battlefield Park is available for walking and biking to the extreme Southwest of the city near Republic. Most of the Catholic population of Springfield lives on the south side of the city, or in the surrounding suburbs.

As for the politics of Missouri, if you’re an orthodox Catholic, who actually believes what the Catholic Church teaches, you’re going to love Missouri. If you’re a liberal Catholic, who ignores Church teaching on key moral/sexual issues, you will hate Missouri and want nothing to do with the Ozarks. (I’m just being honest here. There is no need to look at the area through rose-colored glasses.) Conservative Christian-type people love this state, and liberal Christians (along with non-Christians) generally hate it. They may like the forested geography, with lakes and rivers, but the politics are very conservative and Christian oriented. Missouri is a solid-red, Republican state. Both houses of the state Assembly are controlled by the Republican Party, as is the governor’s mansion. You must have a picture ID to vote in Missouri, and elections are tightly controlled to avoid voter fraud.

Missouri is a constitutional-carry state, which means you don’t need to even have a permit to conceal and carry a firearm. Missouri also enforces the Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground. So Missourians have rights to defend themselves in the event of a home intrusion, carjacking or life threatening assault of any kind.

Recreational alcohol and marijuana are permitted in Missouri, after the age of 21, but the reason for this has nothing to do with liberal attitudes. Following the state motto of “Show Me,” which is the equivalent of “Prove It,” Missourians have a very skeptical view about government regulations in general, especially federal regulations. Missourians just don’t buy into it as easily. Most government regulations are just power grabs, and that’s why Missourians are not keen on regulating/criminalizing recreational alcohol and marijuana. It gives the government too much power.

Taxes are relatively low in Missouri, in comparison to northern and western states, and homeschooling of children is permitted in Missouri without reporting to government authorities. In other words, you can raise and educate your children completely “off-the-grid” in Missouri. You don’t need to worry about the state snooping into your family business with the education of your children. If you choose to homeschool, you’re safe in Missouri.

Outside of the big cities (St. Louis and Kansas City) the state is solidly conservative. Springfield, a midsize city, has a history of vacillating between conservative and liberal. My advice is to just live outside of the city limits, and it’s not a problem. However, Springfield could be easily tilted toward Republican if enough conservative Christians simply organize and start voting Republican. It’s happened many times during my 30-year residence in the area. If Republicans simply focused on taking control of the city, they could do it, assuming it were a priority for them.

The local region between Springfield and Branson is beautiful, with plenty of lakes, rivers and streams, lots of forested hills and plenty of wildlife. It’s perfect for raising a family — and yes, especially a Catholic family.

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