The Early Years
The founding of St. Mary's of the Barrens, Perryville, Missouri, predates the founding of the State of Missouri by two years. In 1818 Father Joseph Rosati and a small group of Vincentian Missionaries were sent from Bardstown, Kentucky, to begin the church here. The first structure built at the time of Father Rosati was a small log cabin which is still preserved under a shelter just south of the Shrine. On January 6 , 1827, the foundation stone for the present church was laid, and contributions from Europe helped local efforts to complete and consecrate the structure in October, 1837.
The First College
In 1823 the seminary received its charter from the Missouri Legislature to confer academic degrees, one of the first such charters issued. The seminary is the oldest institution of higher learning west of the Mississippi in the United States. It has among its graduates some of the most learned, saintly, and distinguished clergymen in the long history of the American Church, including many pioneer bishops and missionaries. From here went forth the first bishops of St. Louis, Monterey, Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Galveston, New Orleans, and mission areas of China.
The seminary was closed in 1863 and the students moved to Philadelphia. It was reopened in 1888, and many buildings were gradually added to the campus. The Church itself received a new facade in 1913. The sanctuary was rearranged for Masses facing the people in 1967. It was redecorated several times in its history, most recently in 1980.
The Church Today
The church of St. Mary's of the Barrens continued to function as a parish church until 1965 when it became an independent "public church" in which liturgical services are held regularly. St. Mary's of the Barrens is now a part of St. Vincent de Paul parish in Perryville.