Members of the Foundation For Restoration of Ste. Genevieve conducted their annual meeting at St. Mary’s Immaculate Conception Church on July 21 and received an update on the St. Mary Immaculate Conception Church Preservation Society’s efforts from Brian Helms.

Of the church, foundation president Sara Menard said she is “pleased to have a treasure like this” in the county.

Menard also gave a brief review of the foundation’s accomplishments in the past year and thanked outgoing board members Jan Brans, Romaine Holman, Joyce Greminger and Janet Leonard for their service. ...

Helms then retraced the battle to save the historic church and to keep it in use as a place of worship.

He began by noting that the Catholic community is strong in this region.

“History connects specific times and places and events that are significant amongst our collective past,” he said. “Sometimes one or two buildings can serve to define a community, and St. Mary’s Immaculate Conception Church is one of those.”

He said the church’s stained glass windows honor many of the  founding families of both the parish and the city.

St. Mary, he said, survived the Civil War, the 1919 influenza pandemic and the Great Depression.

The parish was founded as a mission in 1853. The cornerstone of the present building was set in 1887 and the steeple added in 1913.

Helms relayed the stunned reaction of parishioners when they were informed the parish would close in 2018.

“It was with great shock that last year we were told this parish was going to close,” Helms said. “that this parish was no longer going to exist and that it was going to move into the Ozora [Sacred Heart] parish ... and that the church was going to be shuttered and the windows would be taken out and the steeple would be coming down and the organ would be sold.”