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The Story of St. Peter the Rock Parish...

     The Catholic Church has made its presence known in our region of Central Georgia for many years through the establishment of the missions of St. Ann in Barnesville and St. John the Baptist in Thomaston.


     As the missions grew in size, there was a need for more space and facilities. We needed more seats for Mass, more space for the proper religious instruction of our parishioners, and facilities for fellowship and communal gatherings.


     Therefore, with the support of the parishioners at the missions, approval was granted by the Archdiocese of Atlanta to merge the two communities on April 20, 2005. The merger was completed, the communities were combined, and St. Peter the Rock Catholic was constructed in 2005 to attend to the needs of combined community.


   Now we invite you to enter into the history of St. Peter the Rock Parish...


Catholic History In Middle Georgia
           Frank Morgan - a parishioner


1879 The first Mass in the area was celebrated in Griffin, Ga. by Bishop Keiley of Savannah who was on tour at the time and was held at the home of
Mrs. C. Wright. Catholic population: 5 persons.


1910 Sacred Heart in Griffin became a mission of St. Joseph’s Church, Athens, Ga. with Fr. Harry Clark as Pastor. Fr. J.E. King replaced Fr. Clark and Mass was celebrated every Sunday thereafter.


1937-1942 Sacred Heart Mission was under the care of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church of Atlanta. 


When the Redemptorist priests took over the Griffin Mission in May 1942, they subsequently took over the out-lying missions of LaGrange, Warm Springs, Newnan, McDonough, Jackson, Thomaston, Barnesville and Forsyth. Over the years all but Forsyth which was subsequently closed, have been declared independent parishes and were absorbed by the Archdiocese of Atlanta.
(See Forsyth Mission)


When the Archdiocese assumed oversight of the area in February 1999, Fr. Paul Williams was appointed administrator and ultimately Pastor with Fr. Thomas Hennessy taking up residence in Thomaston and served the missions of St. Ann’s in Barnesville, St John the Baptist’s in Thomaston and the Forsyth Mission until its closure.


In 2001 Fr. Thomas Hennessy was assigned as Pastor of Sacred Heart at Griffin with Fr. Karl Duggan serving St. John the Baptist’s in Thomaston and St. Ann’s in Barnesville.


St. Ann Mission, Barnesville


Our Catholic community in Barnesville began an endeavor similar to St. John the Baptist Mission. On March 15, 1961 the first Mass was celebrated in the home of Joseph & Mable Deraney on Stafford Avenue. Over time, the families grew, and the Mass was moved to the Women's Clubhouse also located on Stafford Avenue. The Eucharist was celebrated at this location for 20 years. As the community was still growing it was decided in 1979 to purchase a building from Barnesville Academy where its grammar school was held. Originally, the structure was an automotive shop. Parishioners began renovations and converted it into a church hall and rectory under the care of Father Joseph Majewski, C.Ss.R, where the Eucharist was celebrated. Upon completion of the sanctuary on June 28, 1981, The new
St. Ann’s Church was dedicated by Archbishop Thomas Donnellan, and the first Mass was celebrated. The Church was located at Highway 341 & in the city of Barnesville. Priests served:


     1976 - 1977     Fr. John Fitzpatrick, C.Ss.R

     1977 - 1984     Fr. Joseph Majewski, C.Ss.R

     1984 - 1987     Fr. Raymond Schantz, CSs.R

     1987 - 1991     Fr. Francis Donlan, C.Ss.R

     1991 - 1993     Fr. James McGonagle, C.Ss.R

     1993 - 1999     Fr. Thomas Burke, C.Ss.R


     Feb 15, 1999 St. Ann Mission returned to
     the oversight of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.


     1999 - 2001    Fr. Thomas Hennesy

     2001 - 2005    Fr. Karl Duggan


St. John the Baptist Mission, Thomaston


Oct 15, 1958 Dedicated by Bishop Hyland. Services were held in the area as early as 1948 in the home of Leon Clemson. Masses were held regularly from 1953 in a private residence. Fr. John W. Doherty who celebrated the very first Mass in 1948 returned to celebrate the Dedication Mass at the newly built St. John the Baptist’s Church located in the 400 block of Georgia Ave, Thomaston, GA.


A subsequent move to 2969 McCorkle’s Curve road in the city of Thomaston in 1993 provided not only a larger building for services, but also had separate living quarters for the priest. The building was located on a large wooded lot which not only provided ample parking, but, room for numerous projects such as: 


   - A huge “Grotto” with seating capacity for well over 125 persons. Benches were built by the Knights of Columbus and paid for by parishioners and friends who wished to remember a loved one. Weather permitting, Good Friday and Easter sun rise Mass was celebrated at the Grotto. Other Mass Celebrations were held from time to time when God’s beautiful weather instilled in one the desire to celebrate Mass under God’s Magnificent Dome “the heavens”. During the Millennium in 2000 The late Archbishop John F. Donoghue declared the grotto a Pilgrim Site.


   - Outdoor Stations of the Cross which wound through the woods behind the Grotto. During Easter Archbishop Donoghue would share at least one Friday meal with us after participating in the Stations of the Cross through the woods.  


   - A large pavilion for special events through out the year.                          


   - A Monument “To The Unborn” which also provided a burial site for “still births”, and “miss carriages” for those who wished a sacred burial site for their lost loved ones. All such graves were subsequently moved to an undisclosed site prior to the sale of the property in 2005.  


   - The crucifix that now hangs in the narthex once hung on a cross uphill from the grotto depicting Christ’s crucifixion at Calvary. Priests served:


   1953 - 1955    Fr. Edgar McGurk, C.Ss.R

   1955 - 1961    Fr. Hlavac, C.Ss.R

   1961 - 1974    Fr. Richard Wagner, C.Ss.R

   1974 - 1977    Fr. John Fitzpatrick, C.Ss.R

   1977 - 1984    Fr. Joseph Majewski, C.Ss.R

   1984 - 1990    Fr. Francis Donlan, C.Ss.R

   1991 - 1993    Fr. James McGonagle, C.Ss.R

   1993 - 1999    Fr. Thomas Burke, C.Ss.R


   Feb 15, 1999 St. John the Baptist Mission returned
      to the oversight of the Archdiocese of Atlanta.


   1999 - 2001   Fr. Thomas Hennessy

   2001 - 2005   Fr. Karl Duggan








St. Peter the Rock Catholic Church, The Rock, GA


On April 20, 2005 Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory issued a Decree of Establishment for St. Peter the Rock Catholic Church in the Rock, Georgia from the two missions of St. Ann and St. John the Baptist. The Church is located at 3594 Barnesville Hwy, Thomaston, GA 30286. The new parish was located between the former missions in a little hamlet named The Rock. The first Mass took place on May 1, 2005 in the new parish and Archbishop-emeritus John Donoghue also installed Fr. Karl Duggan as the first pastor.


In 2007, Fr. Stewart Wilber was assigned as administrator until Fr. Neil
J. Herlihy 
has been assigned to his first pastorate as pastor of St. Peter the Rock Parish in June 2008. Fr. Neil was a parochial vicar at St. Thomas More Church, Decatur. He served until July 2013 when he was assigned as pastor of St. Brigid Catholic Church in Johns Creek.

On July 1st, 2013, Fr. Liem Nguyen was appointed pastor and is serving in that capacity as we mark this tenth anniversary of St. Peter the Rock Parish in 2015. Fr. Liem was the Pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Blairsville.

On May 19th, 2017, with the generosity of the late Jim and Betty Lawrence, their family and many benefactors, St. Peter the Rock parish was able to pay off the debt. On August 13, 2017 Archbishop Wilton Gregory came to the parish and celebrated the Thanksgiving Mass and Confirmation. After Mass he blessed the plaque dedicated to Jim-Betty Lawrence, their family and benefactors of
St. Peter the Rock. The plaque hangs in the narthex. 

In June, 2017, Fr. Liem Nguyen and some Scouts leaders, adult volunteers founded the Troop unit 617 and Drew unit 617 of the Boy Scouts of America at St. Peter the Rock Parish.


In 2018, St. Peter the Rock Parish begins a five-year project: build a pavilion on church property for meetings, parties and outdoor events. The project needs $50,000. Parish also wants to build a little outdoor shrine for Our Lady of Guadalupe.

St. Peter the Rock is a small parish. Currently, there are about 220 registered families. However, St. Peter the Rock takes great pride in its parish family involvement in parish ministerial services and activities which include: Holy Mass, Morning/Evening prayer, Rosary, Eucharistic Adoration, Confession, visit the sick, CCD, CCW, KoC, RCIA, Youth Group, Adult Faith Education, Book Club and Bible Study.

St. Peter the Rock is a loving and fun parish family who enjoy numerous social activities during the year: St. Patrick party, Easter Egg Hunt for children, Fall Festival, Pool Party, Our Lady of Guadalupe Festival, Christmas Party, monthly Spanish breakfast, and Wednesday evening meal after Mass offered by the KoC/CCW.

St. Peter the Rock is a well cared parish family. We pray, support and assist people in need regardless they are active members or not. We have been operating some programs such as Winter Jackets, Food for the poor, Baby Bottles, Christmas Baskets*.


We are proud to be members of this wonderful parish: St. Peter the Rock!



*Coupled with cooperating with DEFACS to provide gifts and food baskets to

needy families in the surrounding counties of Lamar, Pike & Upson and families of the parish.









2005 - 2015           10th year Anniversary


of St. Peter the Rock Parish


                     A  Message from our Pastor


Dear beloved Parishioners:

Happy 10th Anniversary! 2015 marked the 10th Anniversary of St. Peter the Rock Parish. At our founding in 2005, we were two missions: St. John the Baptist in Thomaston, and St. Ann in Barnesville both members of the Archdiocese of Atlanta. We give thanks to God for all of the blessings we have been given over the years.


Over the past ten years we have literally ministered to thousands of people. They have come from all over our state, and beyond the state of Georgia. Hundred of people, of all age groups, have given their hearts to the Lord at our altar; countless others have received sacraments in this parish.


Since I arrived in July 2013, I have learned that this parish have many good and holy parishioners, who tirelessly dedicate their time, talent and treasure to the Lord and to the parish. I extend my sincerest appreciation to all parishioners: those with Christ, and those still among us. Without your sacrifices, support, and love - we would not have this wonderful Church today.


We are very thankful for past, certainly the present, but we look forward to the future with great expectation and excitement.

I am confident that the Lord will continue to use St. the Rock parish to gather his people together.


May God continue to bless us in the years ahead as we celebrate our Catholic Faith together and proclaim the Gospel to the world!

                                                    Fr. Liem Nguyen




     Forsyth Mission, Forsyth, Ga.   


Sometime in 1976 Fr. John Fitzpatrick, C.Ss.R initiated a mission station in Forsyth with Mass being said in Dillon’s Funeral Home. Later Fr. Francis Donlan, C.Ss.R secured the use of the Methodist Church in Forsyth for Saturday evening Mass. Several years later a permanent location was secured in what had once been the print shop of Joel Chandler Harris of “UNCLE REMUS” fame.

     1976 - 1977       Fr. John Fitzpatrick, C.Ss.R

     1977 - 1983       Fr. Joseph Majewski, C.Ss.R

     1983 - 1990       Fr. Francis Donlan, C.Ss.R

     1990 - 1991       Fr. John Ferris, C.Ss.R

     1991 - 1993       Fr. Jennings, C.Ss.R

     1993 - 1999       Fr. Thomas Burke, C.Ss.R

     1999 - 2001       Fr. Thomas Hennesy


The Forsyth Mission was closed some two years later.

St. Ann's Mission
St. Ann's Mission
St. Ann's Mission
St. John the Baptist Mission
St. John the Baptist Mission
Fr. Wilbert
Fr. Neil


St. Peter the Rock Parish - GROUND BREAKING


                                            The Georgia Bulletin, August 5, 2004


History was made June 20 in this tiny town with the unique name, as two communities were brought together to celebrate the beginning of a new family.


Archbishop John F. Donoghue was the presider as he broke ground for the forthcoming St. Peter the Rock Catholic Church, which will combine St. John the Baptist Mission in Thomaston and St. Ann's Catholic Mission in Barnesville. Both are missions of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Griffin. The Archbishop remembered the Redemptorist priests who served the communities for years, for their sacrifice and great faith, as well as their dedication to the missions.


"We thank our Father in heaven, that from the sincerity and steadfastness of the priests and the original families of the missions, the growth of the number of Catholics families in this area has been like the yield of rich field, on which the sun and rain of God's power has settled, drawing forth abundant life, producing the means to sustain life, and now, the energy to draw these families together, to make this new parish - this new church.


How fitting, that upon the names of the two who worked to prepare the way of the Lord. St. John the Baptist and St. Ann, this new church will bear the name of that rock upon whom Jesus Christ built His one true Church - the name of St. Peter - St. Peter the Rock Catholic Church."


Along with the Archbishop,  those who dug their shovels into the earth for the ceremonial ground-breaking included Father Karl Duggan, administrator of the missions, Father Philip Ryan, pastor of the mission's mother church, Sacred Heart in Griffin, Deacon T.C. Meuninck, and Doris Grace and Mable Deraney, oldest members of St. John's and St. Ann's, respectively.





    FACTS:   Religious Items from Missions


From St. John the Baptist's:


  • Crucifix in Narthex at top of hill above Grotto

  • Statue of Mary in front of Church came from a convent in upstate New York and stood in the Grotto

  • Stations of the Cross in Day Chapel

  • Statue of Sacred Heart of Jesus in Confessional room

  • Concrete Benches around Church

  • Wooden benches at entrance of Church came from the grotto.


From St. Ann's:


  • Statue of Mary in Narthex

  • Stations of the Cross in Sanctuary

  • Statue of St. Peter in Narthex

  • Crucifix in Day Chapel.


From St. Ann's and St. John the Baptist's:


  • Statues down front in the Church.

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