Yearlong celebration of the church begins Sunday with an outdoor Mass
By ALLISON KENNEDY
The Rev. Tom Weise greets a woman on Broad Street in front of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church. He asks if she got the sweater she was looking for.
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A car comes by and he waves. About an hour before, he visited a teacher from the school in the hospital. The church may house worship services, and space to gather, but the priest knows the church is ultimately not the building. It’s interactions like these with the people.
But the church — and the 20 Catholics in Phenix City who envisioned it — will be celebrated. Beginning Sunday, the church kicks off a yearlong celebration to culminate with its 100th anniversary. An outdoor Mass is at 10 a.m. A special activity or service will take place monthly through next November.
St. Patrick’s began with the Rev. Frank McDonald, C.M., of St. Mary’s Mission — the Vencentian’s southern mission in Opelika. While giving a mission talk at Columbus’ Holy Family, McDonald was reportedly impressed with Phenix City and the possibility of growing Catholicism there.
For St. Patrick’s first nine years, priests from Opelika commuted to the church by train.
In 1919, St. Patrick’s birthed the mission that would become the Missionary Servants of the Blessed Trinity.
“Sisters took their first vows in the sanctuary in 1919,” Weise said, “and they subsequently moved to Holy Trinity (Ala.)” Sisters still live at the community and lead retreats off Ala. 165; and a group of priests, students and teachers lead a church and child development center across the road.
At the retreat center, Weise noted that “mainly Protestant gatherings” are held there.
In addition, St. Patrick’s has had a steady hand in education. In 1916, it started a school, run by nuns and founded by the Rev. Thomas Judge, C.M. In addition to the church celebration this weekend, St. Patrick’s School may begin a capital fund drive for new facilities. An electrical fire destroyed it early year. The K-8th grade students have been meeting in the old three-story convent next door, on 40th Street.
“There will be a campaign in the future,” Weise said.
In 1982, St. Patrick’s dedicated a new parish hall.
At the church’s 50th anniversary celebration, the Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Mobile, the Most Rev. Thomas J. Toolen, presided at a Mass and confirmed 40 children and 10 adults. At the 75th, the Most Rev. Oscar Lipscomb of the Archdiocese presided at a Mass.
In 1944, 33 years after St. Patrick’s was built, Mother Mary Catholic Mission got started. It operates a school as well. Both are on Seale Road.
All told, there are about 1,000 Catholics in Phenix City.