History of our Parish

In 1881 Mr. and Mrs. Charles W. Lohmann, Sr., along with thirty other Catholics who gathered for worship in their home at 201 23rd Street, established St. Vincent de Paul parish as a mission of St. Mary’s, Ft. Monroe (the first Catholic parish on the Peninsula). On March 30, 1890, parishioners petitioned Bishop Van de Vyver for a priest, and in April 1890, Rev. Richard A. Drake was assigned to the Mission. He would travel from Richmond on the first and third Sundays of the month, saying Mass first at Johnsons’ Hall and later in the original Baptist chapel which stood at the northwest corner of Washington Avenue and 30th Street. In November 1890, Rev. Charles E. Donahoe succeeded Father Drake as the Missions’ first resident pastor.

In February 1891 construction of the first church was begun on Washington Avenue near 34th Street. The first Mass was celebrated on Sunday, April 5, 1891, and the church was officially dedicated on July 19, 1891. By 1900 there were approximately 1000 members in the parish with 100 children in Sunday School. The need for a new church was recognized because the congregation had increased so rapidly.

In May 1916, ground was broken for our church on 33rd Street. The complex (church and rectory) was completed and Mass offered for the first time on Sunday, May 27, 1917. Father David Coleman celebrated the first Mass in the new church building and served the parish for fifteen years. Because of Father Colemans’ extraordinary vision, astute business sense and administrative skills the church grew as well as the church schools that were constructed in the early 1900’s. Father Coleman died December 16, 1932 and was buried alongside the rectory where the Sacred Heart statue now stands, by Newport News City Council “special ordinance”.

In the fall of 1970, St. Alphonsus Mission merged with St. Vincent. While St. Alphonsus was established in 1944 as an Apostolate to Negro families, which was never strictly segregated. The merging of St. Alphonsus into St. Vincent has proved a happy union for both parishes. The Social Action Center, which was partially funded by the sale of St. Alphonsus property (orginally located at 30th Street and Jefferson Avenue), was established to provide assistance to the disadvantaged through counseling to youth; a summer program for children of the inner city; mental health assistance; food for needy families and many other programs for the elderly, shut-ins and disadvantaged.

St. Vincent de Paul continues its ministries to the needy through the Back Door ministry which has been feeding a hot lunch to people every day, Monday through Friday, since 1976, and through the Social Action Center by providing groceries for needy families with referral from government and religious agencies.

When Rev. Lloyd Stephenson, a native son, was assigned here in 1997, he was the first black priest in Newport News. He was known for his lively homilies and his passion for the Back Door ministry. He died in March 2004.

In 2011, the Bishop assigned Monsignor Walter Barrett as the Pastor of three parishes, St. Vincent, St. Joseph, and St. Mary Star of the Sea, which became known as the Peninsula Parish Cluster. While still a part of the Cluster, Father Jacinto “Jet” Garcia was assigned as Pastor of St. Vincent in July 2013.

 

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