New Church Unites Two Missions On Solid Ground
Published: August 5, 2004
THE ROCK—History was made June 20 in this tiny town with the unique name, as two communities were brought together to celebrate the beginning of a new family.
Archbishop John F. Donoghue was the presider as he broke ground for the forthcoming St. Peter the Rock Church, which will combine St. John the Baptist Mission in Thomaston and St. Ann Mission in Barnesville. Both are missions of Sacred Heart Church, Griffin.
In his remarks, standing on the church grounds in The Rock, the archbishop spoke of the rich history of the Catholics in the area. St. John’s Mission was founded in 1958, and though 1958 does not seem that long ago, the archbishop said, it has indeed been a time of waiting.
“But if we turn that motion of our memories around, and we talk instead about the time of waiting, then the good people of this area have been waiting 46 years for the event we celebrate today,” he said. “That is almost half a century, and it is a long time, when we think about the few years we have to spend here on earth.”
In those 46 years the faith of the people has grown, he said.
“… In that time, the faith of the people here has not weakened, has not forgotten the desire that you always shared—to have a church, a parish, a local Catholic dwelling to house the Lord, and to shelter that comfort to which He calls us—the peace of His Sacraments, the peace of His Holy and True Presence.”
The archbishop remembered the Redemptorist priests who served the communities for years, for their sacrifice and great faith, as well as their dedication to the missions.
“We thank our Father in Heaven, that from the sincerity and steadfastness of these priests and the original families of the missions, St. John’s and St. Ann’s, the growth of the number of Catholic families in this area, has been like the yield of a rich field, on which the sun and rain of God’s power has settled, drawing forth abundant life, producing the means to sustain that life, and now, the energy to draw these families together, and to make this new parish, this new church,” he said.
“How fitting, that upon the names of the two who worked to prepare the way of the Lord, St. John the Baptist and St. Ann, this new church will bear the name of that rock upon whom Jesus Christ built His one true Church—the name of St. Peter—St. Peter the Rock Catholic Church.”
Along with the archbishop, those who dug their shovels into the earth for the ceremonial ground-breaking included Father Karl Duggan, administrator of the missions, Father Philip Ryan, pastor of the missions’ mother church, Sacred Heart in Griffin, Deacon T.C. Meuninck, and Doris Grace and Mable Deraney, oldest members of St. John’s and St. Ann’s, respectively. Also on hand were representatives of architects CDH Partners, Inc.
Over 350 people from both missions attended the ground-breaking, which was followed by a beach party held on the property of St. John’s. Twenty tons of sand was trucked in for the party, which included volleyball and a cookout.
Father Duggan said that the event produced a buzz of anticipation in the atmosphere.
“People are getting really excited,” he said. “(The new church) is the topic of conversation every time we get together.”
Phase one of the three-phase project is slated to take six months. The $2 million first phase will include a 14,000-square-foot building, which will house a temporary sanctuary and social hall. There will be eight classrooms as well as a day chapel, choir and youth room and office space. Phase two will be a permanent worship space, and phase three will be a new rectory. Group VI of Peachtree City is the general contractor.
With the ground-breaking, the dream of a new church is becoming visible and exciting.
“There is finally a sense of belief; this is the first tangible sign,” Father Duggan said.
St. John’s community currently meets in a former Baptist church building, while members of St. Ann’s gather in a church that many of them helped to construct.
Karen Harville, a member of St. John’s, said that the ground-breaking was an opportunity for people from both communities to meet.
“It was really neat because the choirs got together,” she said. “And people weren’t sure we could pull that off, but it was great.”
Harville gives a lot of credit to their administrator for his hard work.
“If it hadn’t been for Father Karl, I don’t know if this ever would have happened,” she said. “It’s exciting seeing this finally happen.”
Father Duggan, a native of Ireland, who is deeply content with his assignment in the rural towns of Thomaston and Barnesville, is approaching the new church with anticipatory prayer.
“This is really the beginning,” Father Duggan said. “A lot of hard work and dedication have brought us to this point, but now people know that they have to die to their own missions to build St. Peter the Rock.”