Formerly a German parish community, new life was bestowed on St. Mary of Victories in 1957 when the church was designated the official Hungarian Church for the Archdiocese of St. Louis. St. Mary's became home to a Hungarian congregation who had been worshiping in St. Stephen's at 12th and Chouteau Streets, and many of whom were refugees from Hungary after World War II and the 1956 Hungarian Uprising. Historic St. Mary of Victories - St. Stephen of Hungary Church and the adjoining hall became the symbolic home to immigrants of all faiths and walks of life who longed to celebrate and commemorate the important events of over 1,000 years of Hungarian history.
Hungarian Cardinal Jozsef Mindszenty's visit to St. Louis in 1974 brought strong words of encouragement and inspired the establishment of a small school named in his honor to provide children with instruction in Hungarian culture and language. The visit is commemorated with a carved white marble plaque in the sanctuary and in the parish hall where he spoke, which has been named in his honor.
The German heritage of St. Mary's is a proud foundation for our Hungarian-American parishioners who strive to preserve the language and culture through parish-sponsored activities. Among these are the Annual Homecoming Picnic which is celebrated in Mindszenty Hall every August, during the week of the Feast of St. Stephen of Hungary, co patron of the Church. The Homecoming Picnic features Hungarian food such as sausages and stuffed cabbages, embroidery and crafts, and of course music and dancing!
The weekly 11 am Sunday Mass celebrated in the Ordinary Form, features a touch of Hungarian. The second reading is typically read in Hungarian (English translation is in the Missal), and the closing hymn is also sung in Hungarian as well. We traditionally sing the Hungarian National Anthem with the choir prior to the closing hymn on the third Sunday of the month.
Within the Church itself, the Hungarian influence is obvious. The High Altar as well as the numerous side altars are covered with altar cloths lovingly adorned with traditional Hungarian hand-ebroidered flowers. Across from St. Joseph and the Baby Jesus on the right, a statue of St. Stephen the Great, King of Hungary stands at attention to the left of the main altar. To the left of St. Stephen is a large original oil painting of St. Elizabeth of Hungary distributing bread to the poor. Her statue dressed in beautiful white and purple hues is present with the others on the north wall of the Church. A statue of St. Stephen given to the Church in the 1950s also stands guard in our European-style garden and courtyard outside the north entrance. Many prominent members of the Hungarian community are pictured in the rear of the Church, and in photographs displayed in Mindszenty Hall.
Today, the Hungarian members of our faith community travel to St. Mary's from the entire metropolitian area, including the Diocese of Belleville, Illinois. Tradition holds that when Belleville closed their Hungarian Parish, Bishop William M. Cosgrove designated St. Mary of Victories - St. Stephen of Hungary as the official church for those of Hungarian heritage living in the diocese. St. Mary's remains a vital faith community for Hungarians and non-Hungarians, and all who seek reverent Catholic worship.
In order to maintain the buildings and fund parish activities, dedicated parishioners organize fund-raising projects including concerts, Hungarian luncheons and suppers, and the annual Hungarian Sausage Sale. Please visit our web site often for announcements of these special events!
Please come and celebrate Hungarian Culture and Heritage with us!