Church, grounds in Perryville, MO remodeled to celebrate 200 years

The rosary walk will be on May 6 to celebrate the completion of the grotto grounds. (Photos courtesy of Don Fulford)
The rosary walk will be on May 6 to celebrate the completion of the grotto grounds. (Photos courtesy of Don Fulford)

PERRYVILLE, MO (KFVS) - Two centuries! That's a term a person doesn't hear too often when it comes to age. Well, that is exactly what one organization is celebrating later this year. And they are preparing a new look for the occasion.

"Two centuries in Perry County is an amazing feat for any church," Association of the Miraculous Medal President/CEO Don Fulford said. 

The Association of the Miraculous Medal, an organization which overlooks several properties in Perryville, Mo, including a church and the nations first college west of the Mississippi River, a grotto and more. 

The organization was established in 1918 in Perryville in order to spread devotion to Mary as the Lady of the Miraculous Medal (about section link).

The grounds that the Saint Mary's of the Barrens Church sits on were settled back on October 2, 1818, by Vincentian Priests. 

The church itself is turning 190 years old while the grotto and the organization are celebrating 100 years old this year. 

"The church, grounds and Grotto, all found by Vincentian Priests, are all being redone in honor of this 200-year celebration," Fulford explained. "So there's

a lot of anniversaries coinciding this year and we're excited to be a part of all of them."

In preparation for the anniversary celebration, the organization is doing some remodeling inside the church and at the grotto.

At the church, they are doing a major remodel inside with repainting artwork and fixing any areas of concern the structure.

"Repainting, cleaning and just protecting the rich heritage and history that's in this church," Fulford added. "So whether you're Catholic or non-Catholic, this
is a treasure trove of wonderful works of art, beautiful statutes and for the people here, it will be a great homecoming when this church is finished up." 

The art is being hand painted with one inch or less brushes. A team has filled the church with scaffolding to be able to reach every area of the structure.

"I knew at that point this is going to take a little longer than anticipated," Fulford said. "But every detail, every painting has been cleaned and restructured
and refurbished. So every avenue of this church has a story to tell."

On the other side of the campus grounds, the grounds around the grotto are being remodeled with the additions of sidewalks, benches and memorial tiles. 

All of that outside work is expected to be completed by early May in which they will celebrate with a rosary walk. The sidewalks will be detailed with circles in certain areas to mimic a rosary.

"We are doing one of the largest rosary walks in the United States," Fulford said with excitement. "You'll be able to say the rosary and as you walk from bead to bead, between each bead of the rosary, it's timed so that when you finished one Hail Mary, you'll be at the next Hail Mary. And you can walk all the way around and say the Hail Mary and come back at a beautiful crucifix plaza."

Fulford said it's important they maintain the church when needed to keep it strong for years to come but also to update it when possible to keep the look and designs fresh and welcoming.

"The most powerful part of this is the people and building upon what they built but protecting it as well," Fulford said. "One of the first things we ran into was termites at this church. Had we not decided to do this at this time the termites will still be down below us in the floors doing their work."

The rosary walk will be on May 6 to celebrate the completion of the grotto grounds. Also, a special event will take place in October when the grounds officially hit 200 years old.

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