Friday, September 08, 2006

Opus Dei celebrates 50th anniversary in St. Louis

On Sept. 5, 1956, a priest and layman from Chicago embarked on a car trip to St. Louis to spread the message that lay Catholics should strive to be saints in their ordinary lives.

Their journey served as the official beginning of Wespine House on West Pine Boulevard in the Central West End, the first Opus Dei center in St. Louis.

Today, the apostolate celebrates 50 years in St. Louis, the only part of the state in which Opus Dei has centers. Almost 90 laypeople are considered members here.

About 20 single members known as numeraries, live in Wespine Study Center for men, directed by Norbert Carballo; and Lindell Center for women, directed by Kathy Carroll. Both are located in Kirkwood.

There also are about 70 supernumeraries here, married people or single people called to the married life.

"The vocation is the same for both supernumeraries and numeraries — to become a saint in their ordinary life," said Father Michael Giesler, one of two Opus Dei priests in St. Louis who serve as chaplains at the centers. The other is Father Jay Alvarez.

Father Giesler said there has been a steady stream of vocations to the apostolate since its beginning here 50 years ago. About 90 percent of people who have joined the apostolate in St. Louis have since spread out across the world and remain involved.

The priest noted that supernumerary members have always outnumbered numeraries. Worldwide, supernumeraries make up more than two-thirds of the membership of about 87,000.

The local apostolate also reaches out to other areas elsewhere in Missouri, Kansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Southern Illinois and Nebraska, where centers are not present.

Founded in 1928 by Spanish priest St. Josemaria Escriva de Balaguer, Opus Dei was given the status of a personal prelature by Pope John Paul II in 1982. The title is given to an apostolate that is organized for a special pastoral purpose and placed under the direction of a bishop (prelate) with jurisdiction over the members.

Father Giesler, a Chicago native who has been in St. Louis since 1989, said he became interested in Opus Dei in 1962 as a high school senior. He learned of the apostolate through a high school English teacher, who was a supernumerary member.

An outstanding article on Opus Dei in St. Louis by Review Staff Writer, Jennifer Brinker.

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