The oldest Catholic church in Georgia gets a holy overhaul

Over the past year, a group of supporters has raised $200,000 toward the building’s restoration
1879
Church of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Photograph by Johnathan Kelso

Originally established in 1790 in a farming community halfway between Madison and Augusta, the Church of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the oldest Catholic church in Georgia. But the remaining simple white clapboard structure—built in 1883—is in danger of collapse, resulting in the suspension of services until structural repairs can be completed. Over the past year, a group of supporters has raised $200,000 toward the building’s restoration. On May 9 work began to shore up the foundation, reinforce sagging ceiling joists, stabilize the bell tower, and reglaze the double-sash windows. Attorney Bill deGolian, who chairs the Friends of Purification, says the goal is to restore the church to its original condition, with reasonable upgrades such as lead-free paint and a bathroom.

Storied History
The church once counted Alexander Stephens, vice president of the Confederacy, and ancestors of both Margaret Mitchell and Flannery O’Connor among its parishioners. Its restoration committee includes retired University of Georgia athletic director Vince Dooley; his wife, Barbara; and Atlanta Bishop David Talley.

This article originally appeared in our August 2016 issue.

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