St. Cronan Church has a rich and colorful history. St. Cronan was founded in 1878 by Father Thomas Butler, an Irish priest from Ireland, who spent some time in Kansas before coming to St. Louis. The first Cronan church was in the attic of a building housing the business of Timothy Murphy. Shortly afterwards the second Cronan Church was located in a stable which had been a part of the Laclede Race Track.
Fr. Butler was instrumental in the purchase of property from the Laclede Race Track for $1000.00 in 1879 that became the site of the St. Cronan church on Boyle avenue. The cornerstone of Cronan church was laid on 9 April 1879 followed by the construction of the church at a cost of $4400.00 and the blessing of the new church by Bishop Patrick J. Ryan on 7 July 1879.
Building & Guiding the Parish
During Fr. Butler’s time at St. Cronan, three additions to the
original church building namely the bell tower, the vestibule, and the sacristies were completed in September 1893. Archbishop John J. Kain dedicated the new additions on 24 September 1893. Fr. Butler was also responsible for the construction of the St. Cronan rectory located next to the church as well as the construction of what was the original one-story parish grade school in 1897 across the street from the church in the same location as the present school building.
To ensure Catholic education was properly utilized Fr. Butler arranged for the Sisters of Mercy to teach and administer at the Cronan grade school. They taught for several years and were followed by the Ursuline sisters who taught until 1907.
To add to the story of teachers at the Cronan grade school it should be noted that after the Ursuline sisters taught for several years at Cronan they were replaced by the Loretto sisters who taught until 1971 when the St. Cronan grade school was closed due to a lack of students. A tremendous debt of gratitude is owned to the many sisters who taught at St Cronan grade school from 1897 to 1971.
St. Bernard parish, a neighboring parish to St. Cronan, was closed in 1965 and was merged into St. Cronan parish at the direction of the Archbishop of the Archdiocese. The cornerstone of St. Bernard’s sits at the south east entrance of St. Cronan church.
Fr. Butler’s drive, determination, and dedication in serving the St. Cronan parish set a standard of excellence emulated by many subsequent pastors at St. Cronan. He died on 6 September 1897 hailed as the poet priest for his composition of numerous poems.
Like every parish in the Archdiocese of St. Louis, we have had a mixture of pastors and associates. Some were very committed to our parishioners as well as some who caused harm to our parishioners. Fortunately for us, most of our pastors and associates contributed greatly to our parish. We need to mention those pastors. They include:
Fr. J.T. Foley (1898-1931); Fr. John Lonergan (1932-1939); Fr. T.J. Reddin (1940-1952); Fr. James McGrath (1952-1957); Fr. Allois Schutzbach (1958); Fr. Alois Stumpf (1959-1963); Fr. Thomas M. Flynn (1964-1966); Fr. William Burke (1967-1981); Fr. Edmund Griesedeck (1982-1991); Fr. Gerald Kleba (2002-2017); and Monsignor Jack Schuler(2017-present).
Through the years St. Cronan parishioners have shown themselves to be energetic, dedicated Catholics who take their roles as Catholics seriously and who actively support their church in all its endeavors. These endeavors have included the St. Vincent DePaul society, the Holy Name Society, and the food pantry. Numerous Church activities including bingo, fish fries, 400 Club, the Martha & Mary Sodality the stock club, the Legion of Mary, and men’s and women’s clubs have been aggressively supported by Cronan parishioners. For many years including up to the present time, Cronan parishioners have regularly utilized parish assemblies to discuss and resolve issues and problems. The Cronan parish council has been an active reality at St. Cronan for many years. The present St. Cronan congregation has no problem in speaking out about current issues within the Catholic church and within the community and nation.
Some of those issues have included support of eliminating death penalty, elimination of racism in the United States, support for fair and just immigration policies, support for our LGBTQIA+ Community and support for Medicaid expansion for all.
All Things New
Most recently during the St. Louis Archdiocesan program entitled “All things new” St. Cronan parish ceased to be a parish as of August 1, 2023 but remains St. Cronan Church. Whether as a Parish or a Church we all are looking forward to celebrating our 150th Anniversary in the year 2028.