Old St. Vincent as a Chapel of Ease

What is a “Chapel of Ease”?
–noun Roman Catholic Church.
a chapel in a remote part of a large parish, in which Mass is celebrated.

Chapel of Ease
A chapel of ease (sometimes ‘chapel-of-ease’) is a church building other than the main parish church, built within the bounds of a parish for the attendance of those who cannot reach the parish church conveniently.[1]

Reasons for chapels of ease
Often such a chapel of ease is deliberately built as such, being more accessible to some parishioners than the main church. Such a chapel may exist, for example, when a parish covers several dispersed villages, or a central village together with its satellite hamlet or hamlets. In such a case the parish church will be in the main settlement, with one or more chapels of ease in the subordinate village(s) and/or hamlet(s).

Some chapels of ease are buildings which used to be the main parish church until a larger building was constructed for that purpose. In England, for example, the small village of Norton, Hertfordshire contains the medieval church of St Nicholas, which served the parish adequately for centuries; but when the large new town of Letchworth was built, partly within the same parish, St Nicholas’s became too small to serve the increased population. This led to the building of a new main church building for the parish, and St Nicholas’s became a chapel of ease.

Chapels of ease are sometimes associated with large manor houses, where they provide a convenient place of worship for the family of the manor, and for the domestic and rural staff of the house and the estate. There are such chapels in England, for example that at Pedlinge in Kent, and in Ireland, that of Kylemore Abbey (originally built as a manor house) in the Connemara area in western Ireland.

When two or more existing parishes are combined into a single parish, one or more of the old church buildings may be kept as a chapel of ease. An example can be seen in Palo Alto, California, where, in 1987, the six parishes of the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Jose in California in the city were combined into a single parish, Saint Thomas Aquinas Parish. As of 2007, St. Thomas Aquinas Church serves as the parish church, with Our Lady of the Rosary Church and St. Albert the Great Church as chapels of ease.

Such is the reason why Old St. Vincent Church is referred to as “a chapel of ease”. In 1977 when the parishioners of St. Vincent de Paul Church completed the construction of a new and larger church on the west side of Cape Girardeau, MO to accommodate the growing numbers of parish families, the old church was vacated. A small group of concerned parishioners approached the bishop and the provincial of the Vincentian Fathers for permission to preserve and restore this historic structure. On December 1, 1977, Old St. Vincent’s was declared a Religious / Cultural Center by Bishop Bernard Law. It was declared “a chapel of ease” under the auspices of St. Mary Cathedral of the Annunciation Parish which is three blocks west of the old church.

This small enthusiastic group spearheaded the first successful fund drive and committed themselves to see the project to completion. They began research in Vincentian archives gathering information on the original structure. The first project was waterproofing the exterior and under the guidance of the Construction Engineer, they continued to plan the restoration. Services of Ted Wofford, liturgical architect, and Tom Sater, interior decorator, both from St. Louis were acquired to plan and supervise the restoration project.


  1. ^ Anon (2009). “Chapel of ease”. answers.com Archaeological dictionary. Answers Corporation. http://www.answers.com/topic/chapel-of-ease-1. Retrieved 9 January 2010.