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A North Star in Midwest Ohio

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My hometown is a square mile surrounded by corn, soy, and other square-mile towns (or one-stoplight-villages). Do not pity me; I find my roots charming.

These days, whenever I visit Minster, Ohio with my husband and children, we play “the steeples game” from my childhood.

When my siblings and I used to return home after visiting cousins in a neighboring county, we’d strain our eyes for the double-spired church, St. Augustine’s, in the middle of the town. We’d jump in our seats and try to yell over each other, “I see the steeples!” or “I see the water tower!” —a consolation prize for slower eyes. The game is no less competitive for me now, at thirty-one years old, when I play against my husband.

St. Augustine’s is not only the geographical center of Minster but also the figurative heart of the town.

I often sat in its pews on Mondays for Eucharistic adoration as an angsty teen and college student. I came to feel that those visits were stars in my life’s constellation. I don’t have the full picture yet, but I’ve been given many guiding lights: St. Augustine’s is where I got to know Jesus over many quiet hours, where my husband proposed to me, where we married, and where two of our children were baptized.

St. Augustine’s is closely intertwined with my hometown’s history, too.

For example, public school students used to walk from school to church for Mass once a week when the buildings shared a parking lot. (Minster students still attend weekly Mass; they just ride on a bus all the way down Hanover Street to get there now). The town’s annual Oktoberfest includes a Mass at which the lector wears lederhosen and reads in German. The track and cross country teams run to the church steps for a quick prayer on practice days before meets.

The church rests like a quiet grandmother—one who greets visitors with a warm embrace and patiently waits with open doors for anyone unaware of her invitation.

The shout of “I see the steeples!” brings more than a silly adrenaline rush now; it brings the nostalgia of feeling entirely safe and known.

St. Augustine’s is just one of thirty-three parishes within a thirty-mile span dubbed the “Land of the Cross-Tipped Churches,” which were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. If you visit them as a pilgrimage, I suggest you do so in early October, so that you can also enjoy a good reuben, beer, and polka on the streets of Minster. Sure, Ohio is flat, but that landscape allows you to spot the steeples of another Catholic home long before you reach it. The spires of St. Augustine (1849), St. Rose (1911), St. Mary (1871), and many more—they form their own constellation, a microcosm of the universal Church, a physical reminder that Jesus in the Eucharist is never too far for a quick hello.

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Rachel Simpson

Rachel Barga Simpson lives in Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four children. She’s taking a break from work as a speech-language pathologist, keeping her mind awake in the meantime by devouring novels and writing whenever possible.

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