St Anthony
    Catholic Church

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Our Story - The History of St. Anthony Parish

The First Mass.

In 1940, a religious survey indicated that three Roman Catholics were residents in Camdenton. It was not until May 27, 1947 that the first Mass was celebrated in Camdenton. This Mass was performed by the Rev. Daniel Larkin, pastor of Sacrd Heart Church in Eldon, at the home of Louis Deig, one of the first members of St. Anthony. During the summer, he celebrated Mass there twice a month.

On The Court House Lawn.

In August, Rev. Richard Schumacher and Rev. Larkin initiated a "street preaching" program entitled “Open Air Chats on the Catholic Church”.  The talks were given on the Court House lawn on four evenings in August.  By September, the congregation had grown to 30 people.

Decision to Build a Church.

Bishop O'Hara visited the congregation at that time and the decision was made to build a church.  Five acres of land were purchased for that purpose on Highway 54 West.  The land was later traded to Mr. and Mrs. R.W. Vaught for property on 172 N. Highway 5  (the site of the current Ford dealership).

The Move.

At this time, the Army was selling surplus property and an application was made for an Army chapel from Camp Crowder, Neosho, MO. 

Camp Crowder was constructed in 1941-42 as a Signal Corps Training Center for the United States Army. During World War II, the camp trained thousands of men and women with an average population during the war years of about 45,000. 

The massive facility encompassed about 66,000 acres and had about 1600 buildings. There were sixteen chapels with a chaplain for each providing regular Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and Christian Science services.

One of these chapels was moved to Camdenton and refurbished in 1948 to serve the local Catholic community.

Soldiers attending Sunday morning services at one of the Army chapels at Camp Crowder, Neosho, MO.

The inside of one of the Army chapels at Camp Crowder.

The First St. Anthony Mass.

On May 23, 1948, the first Mass was celebrated in the new church (shown in the below picture) by the first pastor, Rev. E.J. Burke. On May 30, 1948, His Most Rev. Joseph M. Marling, Auxiliary Bishop of the Kansas City Diocese, dedicated the church in honor of St. Anthony of Padua.

Two hundred worshipers were present from five states.

Construction of the Rectory.

Initially, there were no living accommodations for Father Burke, so, he stayed in the small room in the rear of the church.  Later he lived next door at Reiter’s Court shown in the picture on the right.

Construction of the rectory began in 1950 and was completed in 1951. The above picture shows the rectory to the left of the church.  There were now about 25 families in the parish

Between 1958 and 1970, the debt was paid off on the church and rectory. Funds were saved for a new church building. During this period, the Catholic tourist population and the number of full-time residents were growing.

A New Church is Needed.

By 1970, the debt was paid off on the church and rectory.  The parish had grown to nearly 100 families and tourist population was also growing.  Fund raising began for a new, larger church.

Construction of the new church began in November 1971 on property behind the existing church.

The first Mass was offered November 1972 and the church was dedicated on May 20, 1973.

Between 1974 and 1982, the Parish School of Religion grew to a staff of 12 teachers, serving the needs of 150 students.

During these eight years, the church debt was paid and a new rectory was built behind the church.  The basement of the rectory contained six classrooms, the parish office, meeting room, and pastor's study.

The picture on the right shows Father Degnan and his housekeeper for 20 years standing in front of the new rectory which was completed in April 1979.

Father said: " This rectory was made possible by the unselfish spirit of many people, our own as well as the many tourists who so faithfully contributed to the support of the church".

Because of the large number of vacationers, and permanent families, five Masses were offered on the weekends in the summer months.

The Rectory Fire.

The rectory, which was completed in April, 1979,was destroyed by fire on December 1, 1987.  Father Starmann suffered only smoke inhalation.


After the fire, the Bishop sent Msgr Gerold Kaiser to serve temporarily.  Msgr. Kaiser was with us two weekends when he was stricken with a heart attack and died December 21, 1987.

The Bishop then sent Father Gregory Higley until a permanent priest could be assigned. The parish rallied around him and meetings were held to plan for the future.

An apartment was rented to serve as a home for Father.  Portable partitions were  sectioned off in the church hall for CCD classes; a meeting room was turned into offices for Father Higley and the parish secretary.

The following year, in July, Father Higley was transferred and Father David Buescher became pastor.  Under Father David's pastorate, the church was able to purchase Reiter's Motel next to the church.  The Motel was renovated into CCD classrooms, pastor's office, and secretaries' offices.  In 1989, a new organ was purchased.  In April, 1990, Father Buescher left for the Netherlands and Father James Fuemmeler became our pastor.

The 1990s Expansion.

As tourism and the permanent community population continued to increase in the 1990s, it became apparent that further expansion was necessary.

When about 75 acres became available just three miles north of the existing church, it was chosen as the site for our new church.  The Education Center was built first, followed by the church, rectory and parish office. The church lower level was used for Mass until the church was completed. Our present church was dedicated on November 19, 2000.

We were fortunate to be able to “burn our mortgage” at our annual parish picnic just 11 years later, in September 2011.

Our parish family continues to grow, with 650 households now calling St. Anthony’s home. We have also become more culturally diverse with a growing Hispanic community, and several Filipino families. Mass is celebrated in Spanish each Sunday evening; enriching our parish life.

We strive to live out our mission to be “....a family following the footsteps of Christ; a community of faith committed to worship, education and service to others while making God’s love real to those in need here in the lake area”.

The beautiful flame in our sanctuary encourages us to pray that the Holy Spirit will bless our parish and “kindle in us the Fire of His Love”.