Ray City Catholics served by St. Theresa’s Parish

The August 25, 1945 edition of the Augusta Bulletin newspaper relates that Ray City was a mission station of St. Theresa’s Church at Albany, GA.

The construction of St. Theresa’s Church began before the Civil War.  The bricks were handmade by slaves on the Barbour Plantation near Newnan, GA. During the war the building was used as a Confederate hospital.

St. Theresa's Church, Albany, GA.

St. Theresa’s Church, Albany, GA.

“In 1859 work was begun on the erection of the little brick church within whose hallowed, ivy-clad walls, the Catholics in Albany still gather to worship before the Alter of God. In 1861, war between the North and the South came to cause a delay in the completion of the edifice, but when the Conquered Banner of the Confederacy had been furled, the grey-clad warriors had trod the weary miles back home and with their unconquered courage they began to rebuild their lives, the task of completing the interior of the church was taken up again.”

The first resident pastor of St. Theresa’s Church was Father Stephen J. Beytaugh, appointed in 1875 by Reverend William H. Gross, Bishop of Savannah.

“Father Beytaugh had been in Albany just about a year when he died from yellow fever, contracted while administering the Last Sacraments to a member of his mission parish in Americus. Father John Murphy, who succeeded Father Beytaugh, died in less than a year after going to St. Theresa’s as pastor. In 1879, Father P. H. McMahon, of blessed memory, went to Albany as pastor, but the rigorous hardships on the many missions attached to the parish impaired his health, and he was succeeded by Father Charles Clement Prendergast, who was pastor in 1882 when St. Theresa’s Church was formally dedicated by Bishop Gross.”

In the following years, “the far-flung mission territory of Albany embraced an area of 15,000 square miles in extent, covering about one-third of the whole State of Georgia, and including forty-one counties. There were churches at Albany, Alapaha, Americus, Bainbridge, Fitzgerald, Moultrie, Thomasville, and Willacoochee, and in other places Mass was offered in private homes. In visiting their mission stations, the priests traveled by rail, on trains, good, bad and indifferent, by mule-drawn vehicles, and by T-Model Ford, which last method of transportation made possible the celebration of two masses at two different places on a Sunday. Mission stations were Adel, Andersonville, Arlington, Cordele, Cuthbert, Cecil, Dosia, Dupont, Dawson, Douglas, Golden, Hahira, Iron City, Milltown, Naylor, Nashville, Ocilla, Quitman, Rhine, Ray City, Sylvester, Sycamore, Stockton, Tifton, Valdosta, and West Green.”

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