The Catholic Community of St. Julia in Siler City, NC, celebrated its 50th anniversary June 5, 2011. The Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, Bishop of Raleigh, celebrated a 5 p.m. bilingual Mass Sunday. Reverend James Fukes, O.F.M. Conv., Pastor of St. Julia, and Very Reverend Justin Biase, O.F.M. Conv., Provincial of the Immaculate Conception Province of the Conventual Franciscan Friars, concelebrated, with Fr. Biase preaching the homily in Spanish and English. Also in attendance were Reverend Michael Lorentsen, O.F.M. Conv., Vocation Director for the Immaculate Conception Province of the Conventual Franciscan Friars; Reverend William Robinson, O.F.M. Conv.; Reverend Leandro Teixeira and Reverend Jacek Krzystof Leszczynski, O.F.M., Conv., Parochial Vicar, Blessed Sacrament Parish, Burlington.
The first Catholic Mass offered in Siler City was in 1953 in the home of Mrs. Charles Ellis, a gracious Baptist relative of Rudy and Katherine Dudek. A handful of families, among them the Dudeks, Dugans and McInerneys, eventually acquired several small parcels of land on West Third Street, and a mission church was built there in 1961. The Most Reverend Vincent S. Waters dedicated St. Julia Church that year.
For the first 25 years, the little Catholic community grew slowly. By the mid-1980’s, the mission comprised 40-45 families. As the number of Hispanic Catholics grew, however, St. Julia dedicated itself to ministering to this population. The first Spanish language Mass was offered at St. Julia in 1989. In his homily, Fr. Biase praised the St. Julia parishioners for welcoming immigrants, who often encountered a cold or even hostile reception in the wider community.
In 1990, the Diocese of Raleigh recruited Sister Anita Gutierrez, S.Sp.S., a bilingual Mexican American, as Pastoral Administrator. Conventual Franciscan Friars from Blessed Sacrament Parish in Burlington provided priestly ministry to St. Julia and became increasingly involved in serving the community as it grew.
By the early ‘90s, the original, 123-seat church could not accommodate the growing congregation. In 1996 Agnes and Walter Bunton, church members for more than three decades, donated land just east of Siler City off Route 64 for a new church. St. Julia was designated a parish in 1999. Assisted by its own three-year capital campaign, fundraising by parishes throughout the Piedmont Deanery who took up collections, assistance from the Diocese of Raleigh and several sizeable private donations, a new St. Julia Church became a reality in 2001, when the Most Reverend F. Joseph Gossman dedicated the current church building.
Today, more than 1,100 parishioners celebrate the Eucharist at St. Julia each weekend; 80 percent are Spanish speaking.
Above: Rev. James Fukes, O.F.M. Conv, Pastor of St. Julia, Bishop Michael F. Burbidge and Rev. Justin Biase, O.F.M. Conv., Provincial, at 50th anniversary Mass of St. Julia Church.
Above: Parishioners attending the anniversary Mass with Bishop Burbidge presiding.
Above: Rev. Michael Lorentson, O.F.M. Conv; Rev. William Robinson, O.F.M. Conv., Rev. Leandro Teixeira; and Rev. Jacek Krzystof Leszcynski, O.F.M. Conv. concelebrating at the July 5 Mass.