Renovations Underway at St. Francis de Sales, Home of FSSP Lexington

St. Francis de Sales in 1892

St. Francis de Sales, the parish church wherein Regina Pacis Chaplaincy, the FSSP presence in Lexington, Kentucky, holds the majority of its Masses, is undergoing some exciting new renovations. The parish dates from 1793 and the current church from 1820 – the second-oldest Catholic church in Kentucky. The first priest ordained in the United States, Fr. Stephen Theodore Badin, served as pastor here until 1795. To learn more about the parish, we caught up with Fr. Mark Fischer, chaplain of Regina Pacis, who told us about the fascinating history of St. Francis de Sales and the exciting plans for the church’s restoration.

The steeple of the old church

The church is primarily used by Regina Pacis, which holds Mass there every day. The parish itself has one weekly Mass there, a Saturday evening vigil that is attended by a group quite devoted to the old church. The parish is a mission of St. John’s parish in Georgetown, though this was not always the case; St. John’s used to be a mission of St. Francis, but due to demographic shifts the arrangement was reversed in 1932. St. Francis is a country parish, and used to own 200 acres of land that helped support the parish in the days when bartering was a more common currency than cash. Up until a few years ago, tenant farmers grew tobacco here. The land was eventually sold, except for 11 acres, and the money used for renovations and the church cemetery.

There is certainly some remarkable history attached to this cemetery. As well as being a resting place for a soldier who fought in the Revolutionary War and one of the parish priests, the cemetery also has some Civil War tales to tell. Kentucky was a swing state in the War, and buried in the cemetery are people of both Northern and Southern allegiance. These allegiances ran so strong that some had themselves buried facing north, others facing south!

After the removal of the pews

In addition to the history of the church, we learned more about the restoration work that has begun. The plan is to make the structure sound for the next 100 years, no small task considering 197 years of water, termites and collateral damage from past work done on the church have accumulated to make the workload quite formidable. If there are sufficient funds, restoring the original Tudor arch ceiling plan, removing some of the paint over the natural walnut wood, and refinishing the pews are also on the docket. However, structural soundness is the main goal. You can see how beautiful the church once was, and the original shape of the ceiling and the look of the altar and woodwork, in the old 1892 photo of St. Francis in the first paragraph above.

If you would like to aid the restoration of the church, you can send donations to the attention of Fr. Fischer at:
Regina Pacis Rectory at St. Francis de Sales
St. Francis de Sales Restoration
4088 Frankfort Pike
Georgetown, KY 40324

Please make checks out to St. Francis de Sales and put “St. Francis de Sales Restoration” in the memo line.

Regina Pacis is doing a fantastic play-by-play of the renovations on its Facebook page, so be sure to like their page to follow all the action!

St. Francis is a beautiful church, and it’s exciting to think what it will look like when restored!

October 19, 2017