ST. PETER THE APOSTLE

Catholic Church

1715 Telephone Road, Pascagoula, MS  39567

A Josephite Parish in the Biloxi Dioceses
Serving the African American Community for more than 125 years!




                                                                           HISTORY


The earliest mention of Black Catholics in Pascagoula, then probably known as Scranton, was a letter to Bishop Elder, Bishop of Natchez, from Reverend Joseph Wise in April of 1873.  In that letter Father Wise says, “The Negro population seems to be generally Catholic and I intend to devote a great part of my time to them.” 

In 1883, St. Peter’s Chapel at Creoletown served the needs of the Negro community, though the records indicate that Colored Catholics also attended Stella Maris Chapel on the beach, as well as the main Church of Our Lady of Victories. 
In 1887, Reverend Victor Bally held weekly services at St. Peter’s and Stella Maris.  The Colored attendance at Stella Maris in 1895 numbered 25 persons; in 1896 numbered 35 persons; and in 1897 numbered 70 persons.  In 1900, 84 Colored attended Our Lady of Victories Church, while in 1904, 155 attended Mass at St. Peter’s at Creoletown. 

A tropical storm on September 26 and 27, 1906, destroyed both St. Peter’s and Stella Maris as well as the Colored Catholic School.
When the Sisters of the Most Holy Sacrament arrived in Pascagoula, in 1882, to open a day and boarding school for White children, they laid plans to building a school for the Colored children.  A notice in the local press about that time says:  “Catholics wish to purchase a lot on which to build a Colored school.”  The school was finally erected on a lot north of the present Church of Our Lady of Victories and opened its doors under the direction of Sister Eulalia, MHS to 30 pupils in January, 1883.
Bishop Janssens purchased a new site on the northwest side of the church in 1888 and the school was transferred to that site.  Forty three pupils attended the school in 1891, and this number increased to 55 in 1893.  The records show that two Sisters of the Most Holy Sacrament staffed the school in 1896.  By 1900, there were 84 students.  From 1902 to 1911, Sister Eulalia was in charge of the undertaking (the school).
St. Peter’s Cemetery also known as the Colored Catholic Cemetery in Creoletown was organized in approximately 1894 and is owned by St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church.
On January 12, 1907, the Josephite Fathers took over the Catholic Negro work in the city.  Reverend Samuel J. Kelly, SSJ, was appointed to organize the new Negro parish.  Father Kelly built the rectory to accommodate several priests, because the Josephite Fathers wished to use it as a Mission Center to house priests who would give missions in various parishes throughout the South.
 
    


             ST. PETER THE APOSTLE CATHOLIC CHURCH RECTORY – MISSION CENTER

 
The  first of  these missions was given by Reverend John Plantevigne, SSJ, one of the
early  priests of color and Reverend John Albert, SSJ at St. Peter’s.  Reverend William
Murphy, SSJ later served as a missionary with Father Albert after the death of Father
Plantevigne. 
 
A suitable location for St. Peter the Apostle Parish was donated by the Louis “Dutch”
(Leontine Samprea)  Ernest  family  about  one  mile  from  the  Old  Spanish  Trail in
Pascagoula.   Here,  Father  Kelly  built  a small house which also served as a school. 
 
After a brief period, a much larger building was erected, to serve as a Mission
Center.  In due time, a church was ready to serve the needs of the community. 
 
Dedication of First St. Peter’s Church
(From Democrat Star of Pascagoula – November 29, 1907)

 
On Sunday morning next, December 1st at 10 o’clock, the formal dedication of the new Catholic Church in this city will take place with ceremonies befitting the solemn occasion.  This church will be known as St. Peter the Apostle and is located on Telephone Road in Creoletown, and has been built for the exclusive use of the Colored members of the Catholic faith in this parish.  Right Reverend Thomas Heslin of Natchez will be here and officiate at the dedication.  Reverend Samuel J. Kelly, SSJ is the pastor in charge and has done much for the uplifting of the Colored people in this city.  Among the prominent visitors who will be here and assist in the ceremonies will be Very Reverend Thomas B. Donovan, SSJ, Superior General of The Josephite Fathers and Brothers of Baltimore, MD; Reverend Francis Tobin, SSJ; Reverend Joseph Van Baast, SSJ of Mobile, AL and Reverend Matthew P. Morrissey, SSJ of Natchez, MS.  At 4:30 o’clock in the afternoon a special service will be held, at which time the new bell will be blessed.  The church is a neat frame building of modern design and was built at a cost of nearly $3,000.00.
 
Bishop Thomas Heslin dedicated the new St. Peter Church on December 1, 1907.




                   ST. PETER THE APOSTLE CATHOLIC ELEMENTARY SCHOOL  -  1907




                                                                                                      Reverend John J. Albert, SSJ served from 1908-1912, Reverend John Plantevigne, SSJ

                                                                                                      served from 1909-1910 and Reverend William Murphy, SSJ succeeded Father Kelly in 1910.

                                                                                                      On February 13, 1910, the Knights of Peter Claver, Father Charles Uncles Council #4 was 

                                                                                                      founded in Pascagoula, MS at St. Peter the Apostle Parish.  Father Charles Council #4 is
                                                                                                      named after the pioneering African American Josephite Father Charles Randolph Uncles,
                                                                                                      SSJ.  Father Uncles, a native of Baltimore, MD was the first Black American trained and
                                                                                                      ordained a Roman Catholic priest in the United States.  Father Uncles was ordained in
                                                                                                      Baltimore in 1891 by Cardinal James Gibbons.


The KPC organization is named for St. Peter Claver (1581-1654) a Spanish Jesuit priest who for 33 years ministered to African slaves in the New World and tried to stop the slave trade.  St. Peter Claver is known as the Patron Saint of Slaves.

In 1914, Reverend John E. Gaffney, SSJ was appointed assistant to Father Kelly.  The need for an adequate school to house the increasing number of pupils became urgent, so a two story building was erected.



                             ST. PETER THE APOSTLE CATHOLIC ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
















In 1914, Reverend Michael J. O’Neil, SSJ was appointed to the pastorate.  Father O’Neil completed a convent and invited the Sisters of the Holy Ghost to take charge of the education of the Colored youth of the parish. 
 
From San Antonio, Texas, Reverend Mother Mary Evangelist, the Superior General of the Holy Ghost Sisters, sent 3 nuns to do the ground work.  Sister Mary Stanislaus, Sister Mary Barbara and Sister Mary Paschal began St. Peter’s with a student body of 28 boys and 67 girls, grades one through eight.
 
Sister Mary Stanislaus was in charge of the school in 1915.  All grade levels were contained in the newly constructed, three classroom, wooden school until 1955.


In 1916, a storm caused extensive damage.  In August of 1917, a fire completely destroyed the church, rectory and convent.  Undaunted, the people of St. Peter’s parish continued to attend Mass in the school building, and within three years had erected a new church, rectory and convent.
 
On the Vigil of Pentecost, May 1920 Bishop Gunn dedicated the new St. Peter’s Church.















                         St. Peter's Church                                                                                                 St. Peter's  -  Convent
                                    1920

In 1920, Reverend Edward F. Youngkin, SSJ arrived and remained until 1924.  He carried on the good work of his predecessors.  During his tenure in Pascagoula, he said Mass in the then Fails Funeral Parlor, (now Robinson’s Friendly Funeral Home) on Sunday in Moss Point, twice a month, to accommodate the people of Moss Point. 
 
Although plans were made to erect a church in the Moss Point area; the improvement of roads, transportations, etc., led to the decision to centralize the church and school in Pascagoula.  He procured pews for the church and finished the work that Father O’Neil had begun.
 
In 1924, Reverend Bernard A. Lyons, SSJ was appointed pastor and remained until 1928.
 
Reverend William J. Reichmeyer, SSJ came next in 1928, and remained until 1931.
 
On February 3, 1929, the Knights of Peter Claver, Ladies Auxiliary, Our Lady of Lourdes, Court #4 was established in Pascagoula, MS at St. Peter the Apostle Parish.
 
Reverend Joseph E. McKee, SSJ was pastor from 1931-1941 and did outstanding work for ten years. The parish celebrated its 25th (Silver) Anniversary on December 13, 1932, with Most Reverend R. O. Gerow, Bishop of Natchez, pontificating in the presence of numbers of the clergy and laity.
 
In 1941, Reverend John J. Callery, SSJ succeeded Father McKee and within a year, he left because of illness.
 
In 1942, Reverend Andrew J. Eck, SSJ was appointed pastor and remained until 1945.  Father Eck is remembered for his capable administration of all his pastoral duties and the physical repair on the parish plant.
 
Reverend Robert J. O’Connell, SSJ was appointed pastor in the year 1945, and soon endeared himself to all the parishioners.  In little more than a year, all hearts of the parish were saddened, when this Irish tenor, was appointed to the very responsible position, in the Society of St. Joseph, as the Master of Novices of Mary Immaculate Novitiate, Newburg, New York.  Father O’Connell left in 1946.
 
While Reverend Arthur J. O’Neill, SSJ was pastor, from 1946-1947, he did a wonderful job in renovating the convent – to the delight of the good Sisters. 
 
In 1947, the Knights of Peter Claver, Junior Daughter Division was established in Pascagoula, MS at St. Peter the Apostle Parish known as St. Ann, Junior Daughter Court #4.

Reverend Thomas Sheedy, SSJ was appointed pastor in 1947 and remained until 1952.  Father Sheedy had great devotion to the sick and realized the difficulties the Holy Ghost Sisters (Sisters of the Holy Spirit and Mary Immaculate) had to face in the now antiquated old school building, and was determined to have a new school built.  Though unable to complete his plans, he did lay the ground work for the succeeding pastor to carry out the project. 

In 1952, Reverend Edward J. Lawlor, SSJ was appointed pastor to complete the work planned by Father Sheedy – and through the help of God; Bishop Gerow; Father McNamara, the Josephite Superior General; our good parishioners and benefactors – a new school became a reality.  Because Telephone Road has been widened the new brick building was constructed behind the wooden structure in 1955.
A new modern, brick elementary school with six classrooms, library, office, gymnasium, basement, long corridor, cafeteria, stage, dressing rooms, boys and girls rest rooms was constructed in 1955 and dedicated on April 8, 1956, by Most Reverend R. O. Gerow, STD, Bishop of Natchez.  The school attendance in 1957 numbered more than 200 pupils.


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                           ST. PETER THE APOSTLE CATHOLIC ELEMENTARY SCHOOL















Father Lawlor complimented this project with a 40 passenger school bus.  This bus transported students to Our Mother of Sorrows Catholic High School in Biloxi, Mississippi.  This was done in order that St. Peter’s students could continue their Catholic education through High School. 
 
In 1957, the parish celebrated its 50th (Golden) Anniversary.  Father Lawlor was pastor from 1952-1958.
 
Reverend Richard R. Earley, SSJ was pastor from 1958-1961.
 
Reverend Joseph A. Rohleder, SSJ during his pastorate, from 1961-1963, had the new convent built.  It was opened in 1962.

The two succeeding pastors, Reverend Raphael F. Maggiore, SSJ and Reverend John P. Geelan, SSJ, looked forward to erection of a new church, and prepared for it in many ways; with working conditions improving immensely and Pascagoula was taking on the look of a shipyard city with many varied industries. 
 
Reverend Raphael F. Maggiore, SSJ was pastor from 1963-1969.
 
Reverend John P. Geelan, SSJ was pastor from 1969-1971.
 
Reverend Patrick J. Veale, SSJ was pastor from 1971-1979.  Father Veale had an eye to the future, recognizing the time for Reverend Mr. Carl A. Fisher’s, SSJ, ordination to the priesthood was drawing near.  Father Veale began plans for a new church so that Father Fisher might be ordained in his home parish Church.  A special Novena to the Martyrs of Uganda was started and lasted throughout the building’s completion. 
 
Father Veale also began plans to build a new rectory to complete the modern appearance of St. Peter’s. 
 
In 1971, a new church was built and dedicated on June 1, 1973, by Most Reverend Joseph B. Brunini, Bishop of the Natchez-Jackson Diocese.  Reverend Carl A. Fisher, SSJ was ordained to priesthood on June 2, 1973 and celebrated his First Solemn Mass on June 3, 197
3, in his home parish of St. Peter the Apostle in Pascagoula, MS.
 

                                        ST. PETER THE APOSTLE CATHOLIC CHURCH  -  1973
















In 1977, the parish celebrated its 70th Anniversary. 
 
St. Peter the Apostle Gospel Choir was formed during Father’s Veale’s pastorate.  The Gospel Choir’s first practice was October 31, 1978 and they began singing at Mass in January 1979.
 
Reverend Joseph LeFrois, SSJ was pastor from 1979-1980 and Brother Damian Wilson, SSJ was his associate from 1979-1980.
 
Reverend Benjamin M. Horton, SSJ was pastor from 1980-1983 and Reverend George Bowring, SSJ was his associate from 1980-1983.
 
In 1982, the parish celebrated its 75th (Diamond) Anniversary.  Most Reverend Joseph Lawson Howze, DD was Bishop of Biloxi from 1977-2001.  Bishop Howze was appointed the First Bishop of Biloxi on March 8, 1977; installed on June 6, 1977 and retired on May 15, 2001.
 
Reverend Peter J. Kenney, SSJ was pastor from 1983-1987 and Reverend Phillip Tarallo, SSJ was his associate from 1983-1986.
 
Father Kenney used his expertise as Pastor, organist and a gourmet cook.  Father Kenney also enjoyed gardening; he planted flowers, shrubbery and trees and cared for them as well.
 
Other associates were Brother Peter McLaughlin, SSJ, in residence and Reverend Rupert McDonald, SSJ.
 
Reverend Patrick S. Healy, SSJ was pastor from 1987-1991.  Under the direction of Father Healy and Principal, Sister Rosetta Leonard, SHSp, St. Peter’s School established a Pre-School and Kindergarten program that began with the 1988-89 school year.
 
Reverend David P. Frueh, SSJ was pastor from 1991-1997.  Father Frueh immediately started working on conversions and baptisms.  He encouraged the parishioners to take more active parts in the services.  This was a crucial time at St. Peter’s because of low enrollment in the School.

Reverend Robert W. Sullivan, SSJ was pastor from 1997-2003, until his untimely death, as he was preparing to celebrate Mass on July 11, 2003 at St. Peter the Apostle Church in Pascagoula, MS.  Father Sullivan was a passionate supporter of parochial schools in the African American parishes staffed by The Josephites.

Most Reverend Thomas John Rodi, DD was Bishop of Biloxi from 2001-2009.  Bishop Rodi was appointed Bishop of Biloxi on May 15, 2001; ordained Bishop of Biloxi July 2, 2001; appointed Archbishop of Mobile on April 2, 2008 and installed on June 8, 2008.
Reverend Charles E. McMahon, SSJ was appointed Administrator of the Parish from 2003-2004.
Reverend William L. Norvel, SSJ was appointed pastor of his home parish from 2004-2006. 
Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005 destroying both the Church and School buildings and flooding the rectory and convent.  It was decided not to rebuild the school.  Grades 2-6 were transferred to Resurrection Catholic Elementary School in Pascagoula, MS; while P3 – 1st grades remained on the school property until the end of the school year.  At that time, Sister Bernadette McNamara, SHSp was the principal; Sister Sheila O’Sullivan, SHSp and Sister Nora Gavin, SHSp  were teachers.  The school closed its doors at the end of May, 2006 after 90+ years of educating the youth of the Parish. 
Due to Hurricane Katrina, Mass was held on the Church grounds in a tent and at Moss Point High School Auditorium.  Reverend Michael Kelleher and the parishioners of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Pascagoula, MS opened their Church and their hearts to the Parishioners at St. Peter the Apostle inviting them to worship on Sundays with them.  Graciously accepting their invitation, the Sunday Gospel Mass was celebrated at Sacred Heart at 10:00 a.m. 
Reverend Charles E. McMahon, SSJ returned as pastor in August, 2006.    
The first 4:00 p.m. Saturday Vigil Mass on the grounds at St. Peter the Apostle, after Hurricane Katrina, took place on October 6, 2006 in the Chapel of the Education Building.
In August, 2007 Sister Mary Kay Schreier, DC (Daughter of Charity) was named Pastoral Associate at St. Peter the Apostle in Pascagoula, MS.  She worked with the Religious Education Program and served in other ministries.  In September, 2007 the Religious Education Program resumed after Hurricane Katrina.

On the first Sunday in Advent, December 1, 2007 the 100th Anniversary of the parish was celebrated during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass under a tent on the grounds where the new Parish Life Center was to be built.  Most Reverend Thomas J. Rodi, DD was the main celebrant and Reverend Charles McMahon, SSJ concelebrated.  The Ground Breaking Ceremony, during that same Mass, for the Parish Life Center took place under the leadership of the Pastor, Reverend Charles E. McMahon, SSJ. 
On December 2, 2007 Mass was celebrated at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Pascagoula with Very Reverend Roger J. Caesar, SSJ, Vicar General of the Josephite Fathers and Brothers, Main Celebrant; Concelebrants: 

Reverend Charles McMahon, SSJ, and Reverend Michael Kelleher, Pastor at Sacred Heart Catholic Church.  Later that afternoon a banquet and program were held at the LaFont Inn in Pascagoula in celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the Parish.
 
The last Liturgy at Sacred Heart took place on Sunday, November 23, 2008 at 10:00 a.m.  St. Peter the Apostle Parish will be forever grateful to Father Kelleher and the parishioners of Sacred Heart Church for their gracious hospitality for approximately two and a half years. 
 
On the first Sunday in Advent, November 30, 2008, at 2:00 p.m. Christmas came early for St. Peter the Apostle Parish.  It was a joy- filled day.  The 7,000 plus sq. ft. Parish Life Center was blessed and dedicated by Archbishop Thomas J. Rodi and Very Reverend Edward J. Chiffriller, SSJ, Superior General of the Josephite Fathers and Brothers.  This was also the 101 years anniversary; the blessing and dedication provided a sense of permanency for the Parish. Commemorative T-shirts were worn by the parishioners, bookmarks and other memorabilia with the words, “TO GOD BE THE GLORY”, were displayed.
 
All weekend Masses were held in the Parish Life Center.




                

                    ST. PETER THE APOSTLE CATHOLIC CHURCH  -  PARISH LIFE CENTER




















Most Reverend Roger Paul Morin, DD, was appointed Bishop of Biloxi on March 2, 2009 and installed on April 27, 2009.
 
 
Reverend Hyginus Boboh, SSJ was appointed Parochial Vicar and served from August 2013 – September 2014.
 
On the Feast of All Saints Day, November 1, 2016, Reverend Charles McMahon, SSJ offered his last Mass and entered Singing River Hospital in Pascagoula, MS.  Later he was moved to We Care Hospice in Moss Point, MS and died on December 2, 2016.  This was a very sad day for all the parishioners at St. Peter the Apostle Parish.  Consolation was found in the fact that Father McMahon had requested to be buried at St. Peter the Apostle Church cemetery in Pascagoula, MS.
 
On December 4, 2016 a Ground Breaking Ceremony for the new Church was held.  This was certainly one of Father McMahon’s final wishes.  Most Reverend Roger P. Morin, 3rd Bishop of Biloxi, MS, Very Reverend Roderick Coates, SSJ, Vicar General of the Josephite Fathers and Brothers, both presided over the ceremony and were assisted by Deacon Richard Smith from Our Mother of Sorrows Parish in Biloxi.  The following persons were also in attendance:  State Representative, Mr. Jeremy Anderson; Pascagoula Mayor, Mr. Jim Blevins; Pastoral Associate, Sister Mary Kay Schreier, DC; Parish Council President, Mr. Billy Knight, Sr. and Senior Representative, Mrs. Dorothy Gates.

Most Reverend Louis F. Kihneman, III was appointed the 4th Bishop of Biloxi and was ordained on April 28, 2017 at the Cathedral of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Biloxi, MS.
 
Reverend Joseph Benjamin, SSJ was named Pastor, effective February 1, 2017.  Father Joseph was installed as Pastor of St. Peter the Apostle Parish on June 18, 2017 by Most Reverend Louis F. Kihneman, III.
 
Sister Mary Kay Schreier, DC, on August 1, 2017, ended her tenure as Pastoral Associate at St. Peter the Apostle Parish after ten years of service.
 
Under the leadership of Reverend Charles McMahon, SSJ, Pastor (2006-2016), the Parish began working diligently towards the building of a new Church after it was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in August, 2005.  This leadership is now under the direction of Reverend Joseph Benjamin, SSJ, Pastor in continuing to raise funds for the new Church. The plan is to build the new Church on the site of the former school. 
 
With God’s help, guidance and the sacrifices of many, it can be done!  For the honor and glory of God and with the aide of St. Peter, His Vicar, it will be done!
 
St. Peter the Apostle Parish has also provided fertile ground for cultivating religious vocations: Sister Mary Mercedes Ernest, OSP (RIP 1895-1975); Brother Charles A. Douglas, SSJ; Very Reverend William L. Norvel, SSJ, 13th Superior General 2011-2015; Most Reverend Carl A. Fisher, SSJ, DD (RIP 1945-1993); Sister Judith Therese Barial, SHF (Sisters of the Holy Family) and Sister Mary Alexis Fisher, OSP, 19th Superior General of the Oblate Sisters of Providence, Baltimore, MD 2009-2017.
 
As the history of St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Parish continues, progress continues and through the grace of God marches on in a wonderful parish.

 

 
                                                            "TO GOD BE THE GLORY"