Our Lady of Perpetual Help.  A Josephite Parish.  Ninety-Three and Counting

Matthew 28:18-20: The Commissioning of the Disciples


  Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power iin heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go,
therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of
the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always,
until the end of the age.”

As far back as 1911, after years of having to sit in the last two pews of the church, being excluded from an active role in the Mass, participating in church organizations or having religious education for their children, the “Colored” Catholics of St. Teresa Church decided they wanted their own parish church.

For several months people gathered in one of their homes to pray the rosary, sing hymns and hear words of encouragement. When Father Bart, the pastor of St. Teresa, learned what they were doing and why, he wrote a letter to the Archbishop requesting the formation of a parish community for the “Colored” Catholics. Mr. Louis Cooke and Mr. Charles Edelin, with the letter from the Pastor, set out for Baltimore to see Cardinal Gibbons. At that time, the District of Columbia was included in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. The early beginnings of the parish were slowly being formed.

Words to Live By

Job 8:8-10 - For enquire, I pray thee, of the former age, and prepare thyself to the search of their fathers. Romans 15:4 - For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

Our Story -

Fast forward a couple of years and the hopes of many years began to be realized, and plans began to take shape. On Sunday, April 30, 1916, the first High Mass was sung in the remodeled church basement of St. Teresa, which served the newly formed “Colored” Catholic Community of Anacostia. On May 11, 1918, Cardinal Gibbons granted permission to purchase property for a church to be built and appointed Fr. Schneeweiss as Pastor.

The men of the parish worked feverishly and cleared away the underbrush in about 6 weeks. A cross of about 25 feet with a shrine in honor of Our Lady at its base was erected on the grounds. On Sunday, June 20, 1918, the new church grounds were blessed and services closed with a Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament.

On a beautiful Sunday, October 3, 1920, the Elks band led a procession from St. Teresa up “The Hill” to lay the cornerstone for Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church. Bishop Thomas J. Shaha, D.D, Rector of Catholic University, officiated and the Sanctuary Choir of St. Augustine’s Catholic Church provided the music. The Very Reverend John Cavanaugh, CSC, former President of Notre Dame University preached the sermon.

Seven months later on May 8, 1921, the church was blessed with an overflowing crowd for the occasion of its first service, a Solemn High Mass. The dream was now a reality. The formation of a strong Catholic community was taking root upon “The Hill.” The first field Mass was celebrated on the grounds of our church on September 24, 1922 and all the organizations from the Black parishes in the city attended.
The year 1928 was full of excitement; the first celebration of the Sacrament of Confirmation was administered to a class of 52 candidates; the convent was remolded; and many active parish organizations were established. The parish organizations were the Holy Name Society, Knights of St. John, the Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Ladies Auxiliary of the Knights of St. John, Missionary Guild for the Women, the Children of Mary, Boy and Girl Scouts, and the Junior League for the younger children. Parish life was becoming more and more vibrant.

And so Our Legacy continues. A Luta Continua.

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