Georgia’s first Catholic Church, the cradle of Catholicity in Georgia, is in peril.
Every year, they return, pilgrims on a journey to the little church at Sharon.
They have made a special place of this church …during Christmas
(when the Christmas Eve Mass draws a crowd).
…on All Souls Day
(at nearby Locust Grove cemetery, oldest Catholic burial ground in the state).
…at Easter time.
As the seasons change in rural Georgia, the events of a lifetime–or an era–roll on, in a stirring cycle of ritual, scripture and prayer.
Some of these pilgrims have to hold on to their pews just to stand or kneel in Purification Church.
Literally. The little church with the clear bell and the wood-framed Stations of the Cross and a parish history dating back to 1790 is sinking.
Slowly bending in two.
The sides of the church have slowly sunk on their foundations, leaving the center of the nave noticeably higher than the sides and threatening the structural integrity of the church and bell tower.
The bell of Purification Church still peals on special occasions. But its tower sits forlornly, with missing and broken louvers beneath the steeple. Soffits, eaves, window casings, gutters and downspouts – they are all broken, rusted, rotting….
From 1790 on, The Church of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary was a fully functioning parish. It was a Catholic church long before the majestic cathedrals in Savannah and Atlanta were built. It is the precursor of the many churches in the dioceses of Savannah and Atlanta that now serve some 1,000,000 Catholics.
It is the cradle of Catholicity in Georgia.
Now it has no congregation of its own. The town of Sharon has shrunk to 100 people, only one of whom is Catholic. The Church of the Purification was reclassified as a station church of St. Joseph’s Parish in Washington in February of 2001. But St. Joseph’s is a small parish with few resources. It must tend to its own ministries.
There is no one left to take care of Georgia’s first Catholic church.
The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation recently named Purification Church to its 2014 list of “Places in Peril,” recognizing that it is an endangered place of historic significance in need of community help.
Plans are underway to save Purification Church.
Can you help us?
Will you do so now?