Recently, at a wedding rehearsal, one of the grandmothers of the groom approached me with concern. She badly wanted to be assured that her grandson was getting married at a Catholic church. She was a pious lady, familiar with many saints but she had never heard of a St.“Austin.” She wanted to know if there really was such a Saint. I assured her that St. Augustine of Canterbury and St. Austin were one and the same, just two names for the same holy man. This relieved her anxiety.
However, it got me to thinking since I have never seen another St. Austin Church in all of my time as a Catholic priest. Could we be unique in all the world, with our rather unusual saint’s name? Even though we pride ourselves on residing in the LONE star state, I would feel a bit eccentric, and if truth be told a bit lonely, if we were the ONLY St. Austin church on the globe. I would not want to be common, one of many hundreds of churches dedicated to the same saint (e.g. our cathedral), but on the other hand I would not want to be unique, out there all alone as the only church dedicated to St. Austin in all the world. Being simply extraordinary is sufficient for me.
Due to the wonders of Google, I am happy to report that we are not alone in laying claim to St. Austin as our heavenly patron. There is, in Minneapolis, another St. Austin Catholic Church! Fr. George Kallumkalkudy is listed as the Pastor. I was not able to open their parish website to find out the history of the parish, and why they are named St. Austin. L From the Catholic Directory I see it was founded in 1937 and is listed as a Polish parish, with a total of 10 students in its religious education program. So it can’t be very big. I have since learned that St. Austin has been designated to merge with St. Bridget (the church that is, not the Saint) by the St. Paul/Minneapolis Archdiocese, but that the plan has been appealed to Rome. So we may become the only functioning St. Austin Church in the USA in the near future. If anyone ever gets to that part of Minneapolis, on Upton Avenue, please send me a copy of the bulletin!
There is, in the town of Austin, Minnesota, a St. Augustine Church. I discover from their website that the original church was built in 1886 (before our first church), and you would think that in the town of Austin they would be dedicated to St. Austin, but sadly I learned in an email from their administrator that they are dedicated to that other St. Augustine, the one of Hippo. They too are part of a merged parish of three churches. It is a sign of the times. This town of Austin, Minnesota, is the home of the Hormel Corporation. For this reason the town proudly proclaims itself as SPAM® Town USA. Hmmmm. That kind of fits in with “Keep Austin Weird” as a slightly different take on hometown boosterism.
So as far as I can tell we and the small parish in Minneapolis are the ONLY two parishes named for St. Austin in the US. If you know of others, please let me know.
However, there is another St. Austin parish in Nairobi in Kenya. They have a nice website at http://www.ugandanspiritans.com/ministries-ad-extra/st-austin-nairobi-kenya. This parish was founded on August 13, 1899, making it almost a decade older than our parish. It was founded by the Spiritan Fathers (a/k/a Holy Ghost Fathers) like the Paulist Fathers founded this one. One interesting fact I learned from their website is that the missionaries first planted coffee in Kenya at St. Austin’s, and so “St. Austin mission is regarded as the birthplace of coffee in Kenya.” While we don’t plant or grow coffee here at this St. Austin’s, we certainly drink enough of it. So we do have something in common.