St John the Baptist Catholic Church
As early as 1819, just three years after Tuscaloosa was founded, Catholics were numerous enough to hold meetings to explore ways to bring a priest to celebrate the sacraments. In July, 1830, Bishop Portier send Rev. Mathias Loras, VG, and Rev. Gabriel Chalon on a tour through Central and North Alabama. They visited and administered sacraments to the Catholics in Tuscaloosa, offering Mass in one of the homes. Fourteen years later, Saint John's Parish was established in Tuscaloosa in January, 1844.
Bishop Michael Portier appointed Rev. Patrick R. Hackett as pastor, in response to petitions of a number of Catholics living there. In May 1844, Fr. Hackett formed a building committee. They purchased a lot from Joel White for $300 on 25th Avenue and 8th Street. Messers. Granger and Charles Donoho erected a brick church, 31 feet wide and 55 feet long, at a cost of $2,800. Bricks were hand-made and sun-dried; the lumber was hand hewn pine. Bishop Portier assisted by several priests, solemnly dedicated the church to the honor and glory of God, under the patronage of Saint John the Baptist, on January 25th, 1846.
In 1858, Fr. Michael Dougherty became resident pastor. He died later that year and is buried at the front of the church.
Rev. William F. McDonough became pastor in March 1885. One of the first acts of this 23-year old priest was to accompany Mayor Obediah Berry to surrender the town to the Federal Army on April 4, 1865. Fr. McDonough asked General John T. Croxton to ban robbery, pillage and looting of the church and church property. The Federal Commander placed a guard around the property.
Fr. McDonough made many friends and converts. He was a gifted speaker.In answer to the call for a priest, Fr. McDonough traveled to Birmingham arriving there on October 17, 1871, and offered Mass with 31 members of seven families present. He established a mission and began regular visitations to the area. in 1872, he built a small frame church with was dedicated to the honor and glory of God, under the patronage of Saint Paul the Apostle. At this time there were about 100 Catholics in the area, and from there several other missions were started. Saint Paul's is presently the Cathedral Church for the Diocese of Birmingham.
In 1916, Mary Magdalene Parish for Negro Catholics was established and dedicated. It served the Tuscaloosa Catholic Negro community with not only a church, but also a school. It was closed in 1967 and sold.
Holy Spirit Catholic Church
In 1958, Archbishop Tomas J. Toolen approved a building program for parishioners of St. John's Parish. September 28, 1958 was designated as 'Fund Raising Day' to launch the program to erect a new church, rectory, convent and school at the new loation. Victor Tabaka, Executive Director of the building committee reported a total of $120, 196 including cash and signed pledges. Fred A. Ritter was chairman of the 'Fund Raising Day.' Archbiship Toolen was celebrant of the Pontifical Mass, assisted by Father Edward Berriault, pastor, and Rev. Charles Reiner, O.S.B, of Saint Bernard Abbey, Cullman. The Archbishop spoke of the the rapid growth of the parish in which both church and school facilities were inadequate and asked everyone to make sacrifices to acheive the goal, beginning with God's grace and His blessing.
'Holy Spirit' was the chosen name for the new parish plant. A 25-acre tract of land was purchased by Rev. Edward Berriault in January, 1959. Construction was begun on the new school and all-purpose building, and was completed in 1962. The Benedictine Sisters moved into their new two-story convent and began to teach in the new school in the Fall of 1962. Archbishop Toolen dedicated the buildings on January 27, 1963.
In October 1963, the groundbreaking ceremony for the new church was held. Construction was started on the new rectory. The church was completed in 1964 and Mass was offered on November 8th. Archbishop Toolen officiated at the formal dedication of Holy Spirit Church on January 3, 1965. Very Rev. Vernon Gallagher, C.S.Sp., Provincial of the Eastern Province of the Holy Ghost Fathers, preached the sermon.
A fund-raising drive was started in March of 1978 to finance construction of an addition to the school building consisting of a gymnasium and three classrooms. Work was begun in the summer of 1978 and the first 9th grade class graduated in June 1979.
Fr. John Fallon became pastor in 1985. Holy Spirit Church underwent extensive renovation that included the moving of the confessionals, enlargement of the foyer, and the relocation of the baptismal font to the sanctuary. The parish hall was built in 1989 with four classrooms for a preschool program. In 1992, a youth center with five classrooms was added. In 1993 new stained-glass windows for the church were installed. In 1995 plans were drawn up for a building to be built in three phases that would house a middle school and a high school. Groundbreaking for phase I was in May 1995. Ninth grade students enrolled in the Fall of 1995. The completed Phase I facility was dedicated in January 1997. Phases II and III were began in the spring of 1997. The completed facility was dedicated in December 1997 and in May 1998, the first class graduated from Holy Spirit High School.
Fr. John Fallon became pastor in 1985. Holy Spirit Church underwent extensive renovation that included the moving of the confessionals, enlargement of foyer, and baptismal font moved to the sanctuary. A parish Hall was built in 1989 with four classrooms for Pre-K program; in 1992 a youth center with five classrooms was added, in 1993 new stained glass windows for the Church. In 1995 plans were drawn up for a building to be built in three phases, upon completion it would house a Middle School and High School. Groundbreaking was May 1995 for Phase 1. Ninth grade students enrolled in the Fall of 1995. The completed Phase I facility was dedicated January 1997. Spring of 1997 sees the beginning of construction on Phase II & III. The completed facility was dedicated in December 1997 and in May 1998 the first class graduated from Holy Spirit High School. Holy Spirit is proud to offer quality, Catholic education from Pre-K-12th Grade to all in the Tuscaloosa area. There are 600 students presently enrolled in the schools.
In 1998, Father Jerry Deasy became pastor of Holy Spirit. A building committee was formed in 2000 to discuss plans and options for building a new church. After a survey and study of the alternatives, the decision was made to build a new, larger church in the present location. A Capital Campaign Drive was launched in late 2005. As a result of
that effort our new church was. It seats 1,000 people. Presently there close to 1100 families registered in the parish.
Holy Spirit Church is very active in the community. It has provided materials and man-power to build five Habitat homes. Other areas of outreach are: a growing ministry to the Hispanic population, Meals on Wheels breakfast one Sunday a month to homebound individuals, and support for Caring Days (adult day care center). The parish also provides a building to house the Catholic Family Service Center in Tuscaloosa, as well as food, money, and volunteers for the Center. Our outreach includes an
active prison ministry, Grief Support Group, hospital ministry, Christmas Angel Tree for Bryce/Partlow residents and assistance to the Consolata Sisters in Eutaw.
God continues to bless this community of faith with new members to continue the work began so many years ago.