Farming is life for Marty and Barb Schneider. Hand-in-hand, though, is parish life. “It’s the people,” Barb said of what makes their parish, Holy Rosary Parish in Warrenton, special.
Schneider was one of 17 children of Maurice and Marie Schneider, dairy farmers in St. Peters. “I was stuck under a cow when I was 5 years old — milking cows,” he said.
Marty and his wife, Barb, herself one of 13 children, raised their 10 children on a farm northwest of Warrenton, where they movde in the late 1980s. They get help from their sons farming cattle, corn, soybeans, wheat and clover on more than 100 acres in Holy Rosary Parish.
Holy Rosary Parish traces its beginnings to 1865 as a mission of St. Patrick Parish in Jonesburg, with a Jesuit priest serving mostly farm families.
Today, the parish of 857 registered English-speaking families and about 150 Latino individuals who come to Sunday Mass in Spanish still serves farm families and other rural and urban residents in its more than 400 square miles of territory. It covers most of Warren County, except for an area to the south that is served by St. Ignatius Loyola Parish in Concord Hill or St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Dutzow. The parish is “a combination of small towns — Warrenton, Wright City, Foristell, Pendleton, Truesdale and Truxton,” said Msgr. Francis X. Blood, parish pastor. On a recent day, he traveled 60 miles visiting just four parishioners. The rectory is in Truesdale and the church is in Warrenton, though they are next to each other.
“We have farms, large and small,” Msgr. Blood said. “Some farms are 3,000 acres. Some are only 100 acres. We also have the resort community called Insbrook in our parish boundaries.”
Barb Schneider cited some of the other farm families in the parish, including the Mikus family, who operate the Mikus Farm — a cattle operation on 80 acres and pumpkins, gourds and squash on 190 acres for their Pumpkins Galore fall attraction.
Ardell Mikus, whose husband, Leroy, grew up on a farm that’s been in the family since 1941, said the parish has visitors who spend weekends at Insbrook or elsewhere who comment on their enjoyment of the parish activities and “the country feel of the area. We’re right on the edge of urban sprawl.”
She feels close to parishioner families who visit their farm, she said. “We’ve watched their children grow up, and now they’re bringing their own families out. We enjoy seeing the church grow and the younger families getting married and having children.”
The farm families join others from the parish in two big fundraisers at Holy Rosary — a fall sausage and turkey dinner and spring kettle beef dinner with what she estimated was 800 pounds of beef cooked in six to eight kettles. “They’re big pieces that they brown and put in a kettle. They cook it in seasoning and water, get it out, slice it, put it back in the broth and cook it some more. It’s delicious,” Barb Schneider explained.
Some of it is set aside for funeral lunches, she noted.
The fall dinner also is a large undertaking, with about 1,500 people served, Msgr. Blood said. And the Knights of Columbus have a St. Patrick’s Day dinner.
The rural component is a unique feature of the parish, Msgr. Blood said. When he learned about the state forests in the boundaries, he asked which one is best to visit. The advice he received was, simply, “Don’t go during deer season,” he repeated with a chuckle.
Also a new experience for Msgr. Blood was having a destructive raccoon take up residence underneath the parish office.
Joyce Hollaway, a member of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul conference at Holy Rosary, said parishioners respond generously to the needs. Especially helpful is a warehouse that a local business allows the society to use to store furniture and other large items. The food pantry receives donations from parishioners and the Caring and Sharing organization in Wentzville. Help is provided to people with utility bills and car repairs. Some of the farm families and parishioners with large gardens donate produce to the pantries.
Holy Rosary Parish
• Historic parish in Warren County is on a road marked out by Daniel Boone in the late 1790s.
• Operated as a mission of St. Patrick Parish in Jonesburg until the Jefferson City Diocese formed in 1956.
• Cornerstone for the first parish church was laid on Nov. 1, 1868, a one-room frame structure.
• The present church, the fourth one for the parish, was dedicated in 1965. The school was established in 1952.
• The RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) has a vigorous team. The parish has two catechumens this year: one adult and a junior in high school along with one candidate who will profess her faith as a Catholic. About 20 people help give talks through the nine months of RCIA.
• The grade school, led by principal Lori Racine, has 125 students in grades K-8 and 25 students in preschool. The school grew by 13 students the past year.
• A growing Hispanic ministry was formed in the late 1990s. It was begun by Father Gene Brennan, a former pastor. Msgr. Francis X. Blood is the first pastor to speak Spanish. Until recently, he was assisted by Father Brian Harrison about two Sundays per month in celebrating a Mass in Spanish. Father Harrison is pastor of St. Mary of Victories Parish in Downtown St. Louis and has helped at Holy Rosary for 10 years. During Lent this year, a bilingual evening Mass was celebrated on Wednesdays.