Saint Theresa Church Picnic this weekend

St. Theresa of Avila Church.

Photo by Trish Turner | The Meade County Messenger The grave of Father Felix Johnson in the new cemetery.

Trish Turner

Messenger Staff 

On Saturday, August 13th, St. Theresa Catholic Church will hold their annual picnic, car show, and auction. The church is located at 9245 Rhodelia Road (KY 144), in Payneville.

The day will begin with a motorcycle poker run. The registration for that is at 11:30 a.m. and the ride begins at noon. Also, at noon the car show begins. Booths and games will open at 2:00 p.m.. A delicious fried chicken, beef, and barbecue pork dinner will be served from 3 to 7 p.m. inside the spacious, air-conditioned Meade-Breck Center. The live auction begins at 6:30 p.m.. There will be live music, a Capital Prize Raffle, Pull Tabs, Festival Bingo, Pony Rides and more!

St. Theresa of Avila is the oldest Catholic church congregation in Meade County. The first Catholic church in Meade County was built of logs in 1818 and stood on Flint Island in the Ohio River not far from Yellow Bank. The church building was later abandoned due to continual flooding from the Ohio River. The next church building was also built of logs and was opened in 1826 in the Rhodelia area. It was located in what is now the old section of the St. Theresa Cemetery where the large wooden cross stands.

The present gothic revival style church was built in 1857. The materials for the church were supplied by the congregation. Huge rocks were taken from a nearby quarry for the foundation. A brick kiln, fired by wood taken from local farms, was built near the site of the church, and clay for the brick came from the surrounding fields. The church was in use by the summer of 1857 and was formally dedicated by Bishop Spalding on June 16, 1861.

The St. Theresa church held church picnics for many years, but they have not run continuously like the picnics at St. Mary’s church. Father Ronald Knott related to me that he did not know when the picnics started, but he was born in 1944 and could remember going to them all through the 1950s. He said that he and his siblings would pick blackberries and sell them to make money to spend at the picnic all through childhood. His grade school years would have been 1950-1958. Karen Barr, this year’s picnic coordinator, told me that around 1990 or 1991 Louis Manning was instrumental in getting the picnics started back up again.

Father Knott shared some more interesting information about the picnic and its origins.

“Father Felix J. Johnson came as pastor in 1937 and died in 1960. Among other things, he installed electric lights in the church and opened the new cemetery. He was quite creative. He built the parish hall, the new brick school, a new convent, a new rectory, and laid many of the bricks and concrete blocks himself. He was a carpenter/builder for sure! I don’t know if Father Johnson started the picnic, but I do remember going to the picnics from 1950 until his death in 1960 so they were started before 1950. I can remember seeing him in the new fenced cemetery, where he raised sheep, carrying buckets of feed or water. It was quite ingenious. He did not have to pay to mow the cemetery and guess what was one of the main features on the picnic menu? Mutton (mature sheep)! The huge iron pots where the mutton was cooked over wood fires are still used today to cook beef. It was THE social event of the year and well attended. Back in the 1950s, I can remember the days when a new car was being raffled off each year at the picnic! I suspect Father Johnson may have started the parish picnics around 1947 when he built the present parish hall, otherwise there would have been no place to hold the dinners except in a tent or in the lunchroom of the old St. Theresa Academy building. The area where they cooked the mutton is directly behind the parish hall which would have been convenient for serving. It makes sense to me that he would have started a fund-raising event like the picnic to help pay for the new parish hall and all the projects he was about to build! Just a thought!”

Come on out and bring your family and friends to St. Theresa’s on Saturday. You will enjoy a day at the picnic, have fun playing games, looking at classic cars, bidding on auction items, and spending time socializing with friends.

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