Members of the Preservation Society who care for the Old Rock Church in Catawissa want to restore an old barn as a tribute to the man who has spent 40 years restoring the stone church and grounds.
The weather-washed structure, built in 1865 to house the horse and buggy used by Father Philip Grace to minister to the remote rural parish, is the only structure on the grounds of the church complex that has not been restored.
Billy Murphy, St. Patrick Rock Church Preservation Society president, has spearheaded an annual picnic at the church for 40 years to preserve the church and grounds. This year the cumulative funds raised at the picnics reached $1 million.
More than half was spent on the church and grounds. The effort has restored the church and priest’s house, rebuilt the antique hand-pumped organ, expanded the kitchen and screened dining hall, constructed restrooms and a pavilion to provide shade for picnicgoers.
Through it all, Murphy has harbored a dream to restore the old barn, but each year there were more pressing needs for the picnic funds.
“We are not going to use any of the picnic funds to restore the barn,” said Bob Conley, who co-chaired the annual picnic with Murphy for the past decade. “Billy has talked and talked about this and it’s time to do it.”
“People do all kinds of things to honor people after they’re gone,” Conley said. “We wanted to do this for Bill while he’s around to enjoy it.”
Conley said he did not want to give anyone the idea that Murphy was retiring.
“We’re saying this tribute is for Bill’s work for the first 40 years,” Conley said. “We don’t want anyone to get the idea that he’s retiring. We want to see him around for another 40 years.”
The timber structure has been untouched since the old priest used it. It stands east of the cemetery and grounds now used for parking on the day of the picnic.
Society members will hold a chili and bonfire fundraiser on the church grounds Saturday, Oct. 6, from 3 to 7 p.m.
Anyone wanting to contribute can make checks payable to St. Patrick’s Maintenance Fund, care of Bob Conley, No. 3 New Sugar Creek Road, Fenton, MO 63026.
Or, supporters can make donations the night of the fundraiser.