Page 4A Progress, Wednesday, August 2, 1989
Four grave markers singularly designed with crosses memorialize the only known Catholic family in the early history of Lexington. The oldest is that of Daniel Barry, M. D.; the newest is that of William Barry who died in 1948. In the absence of a Catholic church, funeral ------------ when several factories from the North relocated in Lexington, that Catholics arrived in greater numbers. Among the first were Jack Barni and Ken Lanter who supervised the operation of Century Electric. They were soon followed by others. These people attended worship services and religious education classes in Jackson, thirty miles distant.
Most of the Catholics had been active in well established parishes in the North and were distressed at the absence of a local catholic church. In the spring of 1974, they contacted Bishop Carrol Dozier of the Memphis Diocese explaining their problem. The Bishop responded quickly and favorably and on September 14, 1974, he celebrated Mass with is little flock in the First United Methodist Church. He directed the people with plans for religious education and weekly Mass in Lexington. They were served by priests from neighboring parishes. In the fall of 1977, Sister Angela Suzalla, O. P. was appointed as an in-residence pastoral associate.
In the spirit of Christian hospitality, the First United Methodist Church continued to host the Catholic congregation for Sunday Mass. As the congregation grew, so did its needs and they began to search for a new location. In July 1981, the congregation decided to rent a store front at 39 East Church Street. Rooms at the Easter Seal Building on Monroe Street provided classrooms for the children. This arrangement took care of immediate needs but the congregation harbored the dream of having a place of worship they could call their own.
In the summer of 1982, Sister Angela terminated her services and Sister Clara Stang, O. S. F. was called to be pastoral associate. Under her leadership and that of the pastor, Fr. Al Kirk of Jackson, serious efforts were made to raise funds for a church structure. The next four years were a time of diligent study, serious discussion, hard work and fund raising. With the help of grants from the Catholic Extension Society, the Diocese of Memphis, the support of friends and the civic community they were ready to break ground October 12, 1986. On August 14, 1987, Fr. Al Kirk offered the first Mass in the nearly completed building.
On November 1, 1987, Bishop Daniel Buechlein presided at the solemn dedication of St. Andrew’s Church. Priests from neighboring parishes as well as friends and representatives of the civic community filled the church and rejoiced with the Catholic congregation on this significant occasion.
On June 15, 1988, the Bishop formally declared St. Andrew’s an independent parish with St. Regina’s in arsons as a mission church. He appointed Father Daniel DuPree resident pastor of the church in Lexington from which he also serves the Catholic people in Parsons.