Missouri News

St. Joseph Catholic Church in Palmyra undergoing major renovation

Thirty-seven feet up from the floor of the St. Joseph Church in Palmyra, Ron Hadsall with A.H. Kemner & Sons, Inc., paints details on the old antique wooden ribs of the church's ceiling Thursday morning, Feb. 4, 2016. St. Joseph Church is getting some major interior renovations. H-W Photo/Steve Bohnstedt
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Feb. 7, 2016 12:01 am
PALMYRA, Mo. -- One of the region's oldest churches is getting a makeover.

St. Joseph Catholic Church in Palmyra -- celebrating its 150th anniversary this year -- is in the midst of its first major redecorating effort in 48 years.

It's all part of a three-year, $252,000 capital campaign launched in April 2015. At that time, the church kicked off a drive to raise all the money needed to make a series of repairs and enhancements to the church, rectory and parish hall.

The response from parishioners has been overwhelming.

"I'm extremely pleased," said John Buckman, one of four members of the church's Capital Campaign Committee. "This is the first actual capital campaign that we've ever conducted in the parish's history, and we're already at 90 percent of our pledge goal. And the amount in cash keeps going up every week."

The first phase of the campaign is focusing on the church itself, which opened in 1899. Church officials earmarked $109,000 for stabilizing, repainting and redecorating the building's interior. On top of that, $10,000 is being spent to complete repairs to the church's bell base, while $8,000 was spent insulating the building's 65-foot-high ceiling.

"There has never been any insulation in the ceiling," Buckman said. A contractor recently blew in 15 inches of insulation. "We can already see a difference" in utility savings, he said.

A local painting contractor, A.H. Kemner and Sons of Quincy, Ill., was awarded the contract for the stabilizing, repainting and redecorating work. When the company was ready to begin prepping the church for painting in mid-January, a small army of parishioners -- about 75 people in all -- stayed after Mass one Sunday to help remove all the pews, altars, statues and other fixtures from the church's sanctuary, including the massive crucifix.

Buckman said he was gratified by the outpouring of volunteers who stepped forward to help.

"We couldn't believe the response," he said. "We put out the call, and they answered."

The main altar and pulpit were relocated temporarily to Monsignor Farischon Hall, where Sunday services are being held until the redecorating work is finished. The rest of the fixtures were placed in storage locations provided by parishioners.

Buckman said church officials hope the interior work will be finished by Easter Sunday, March 27, but there are no guarantees.

The second phase of the capital campaign will involve spending $75,000 to put a new roof on Farischon Hall and $25,000 to replace the 40-year-old air conditioning units in that building.

The third phase will involve addressing a water leak and foundation problem in the basement of the parish's rectory, built about 1879. In addition, plans call for installing a fresh layer of asphalt on the parish parking lot.

Buckman said the parish is planning to host a gala rededication ceremony Oct. 30 in the renovated church in conjunction with the parish's 150th anniversary celebration. Bishop John Gaydos of Jefferson City is expected to be on hand.

Buckman said St. Joseph's physical roots go back to 1866 when Franciscan priests from Quincy bought a two-story wagon shop on the southwest corner of Lane and Church streets and converted it into the parish's first church, which was regarded then as a Franciscan "out mission."

As the congregation continued to grow, a larger church was needed. That's when the current church was designed by two Franciscan brothers from Quincy and built on the southeast corner of the same intersection. The church was dedicated Nov. 30, 1899.

Buckman said the church serves about 250 families. The pastor is the Rev. Alexius Ekka.

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