St. Patrick Church on Highway 5 in Laurie is celebrating its 150th anniversary and remembering its fascinating past. The first step of its historic journey began in 1822 when seven Osage Indian Chieftains rode by horseback to Florissant, Missouri, to ask the bishop to send a priest to minister to them.

St. Patrick Church on Highway 5 in Laurie is celebrating its 150th anniversary and remembering its fascinating past. The first step of its historic journey began in 1822 when seven Osage Indian Chieftains rode by horseback to Florissant, Missouri, to ask the bishop to send a priest to minister to them. After the spring rains each year, missionaries traveled on horseback, by boat, canoe, or on foot to preach, baptize and marry the Osage.

As the area continued to grow Thomas Fitzpatrick settled in the beautiful green stillness of the Ozarks which reminded him of his native Ireland. He returned to Ireland and convinced his wife and neighbors to join him. In 1863 plans for the church were formulated. Patrick Johnson donated 3.38 acres for the church and cemetery, and in 1868 work began.

The church was built by a group of Irish Catholics, a German-American Catholic, and a Protestant Scotsman. Stone was quarried on the Johnson farm and hauled to the site by oxen. The floor was dirt, the pews were logs split in half, and the shingles were hewn from oak trees. Located on what is now State Route O in Laurie, the building was designed to hold 80 and was ready for worship in 1870.

Through the years the log seats were replaced with pews given by a church in Kansas City, Missouri. A more formal altar was added that came from the chapel of St. Mary’s Hospital in Sedalia, and the altar rails were a gift from Sacred Heart Church in Sedalia. Churches in Jefferson City donated statues and other furnishings.

As the congregation outgrew the little church, Mass was held with the windows open so that the overflow of people standing outside could still participate.

The last regular service was held at old St. Patrick Church on July 20, 1952. On March 2, 1979, the old church was listed on the National Registry of Historic Sites.

The congregation moved to a new church built in Gravois Mills where the population had shifted. That church, the second St. Patrick Church, remained in service for 30 years. By then summer visitors were boosting numbers. Fr. Fred Barnett, the pastor, began saying Masses atop a flatbed truck at the Sunrise Beach Community Center to accommodate the crowds. Meanwhile plans were underway to build the new St. Patrick Church, named Shrine of St. Patrick to designate it from the old, original St. Patrick Church.

The new and current St. Patrick Church was built in 1980. It features an outdoor prayer path with stations of the cross that are over 100 years old, an avenue of flags and beautifully manicured grounds.

By the mid-1980s summer crowds were again overflowing the church. Fr. Barnett built a grotto to Mary to accommodate summer visitors with outdoor Masses. The shrine, Mary Mother of the Church, was dedicated in 1988. In 1999 a Wall of Life was added, a wall of granite panels where mothers can be remembered with their names engraved. In 2003 the shrine was designated as a National Shrine. Thousands of visitors come to stroll the grounds, hear the carillon bells and enjoy the fountains, waterfall, pond and flowers.

St. Patrick Church is the oldest church in the area and the first rock church west of the Mississippi River. The old church was beautifully restored in 1997 by 1,600 manhours provided by the Knights of Columbus, Council 10381, which earned them an International Service Program Church Activities Award.

The parish will celebrate its Sesquicentennial October 13, 2018 beginning at 2 p.m. at the historic Old St. Patrick Church, then proceeding to the New St. Patrick Church. Festivities will include an outdoor Mass at the Mother’s Shrine, a meal of fried chicken and roasted pork, games, booths, historic displays, a wine and beer garden, music and a drawing for $14,000 in prizes. The public is invited to share the unique history of this fascinating church and share in its celebration.