On Sunday, April 15, 2012, St. Bernadette Parish in Fuquay Varina celebrated its 25th anniversary with a Mass of Thanksgiving celebrated by the Most Reverend Michael F. Burbidge, Bishop of Raleigh. In a Diocese which has experienced rapid growth in the last two decades, St. Bernadette is perhaps one of the most vivid parish examples.
Catholicism came to southern Wake County around a century ago, when North Carolina’s first native born priest, Fr. Thomas Price, bought land in Holly Springs for the small Church of St. Mary. Mass was celebrated once a month there by a priest who traveled by horse and buggy from the orphanage in Raleigh.
After the First World War, most of the Catholics in the area moved away in search of jobs, and St. Mary’s closed. Early in 1987, though, Fr. Albert Todd of St. Mary in Garner began saying Mass at Fuquay-Varina’s Trinity Episcopal Church. This new mission was christened St. Bernadette. Thanks to donations of land and money by church members, a multipurpose parish center was built in 1990. Sr. Elizabeth McNeill, R.S.M., was appointed Pastoral Administrator of the mission parish. That year also marked the beginning of the Raleigh Deanery Hispanic Ministry, which was headquartered at St. Bernadette.
A woman who did migrant ministry there in the early ‘90s remembers the area as “like a jungle, all trees and narrow roads and camps.” Development and population growth was rapid, though, and in less than a decade, St. Bernadette was a full-fledged parish with a new church building.
The parish has expanded rapidly in the last decade, adding a parish office and classroom facility and enlarging the seating capacity of its church, which still has overflow crowds on weekends.
In his homily, Bishop Burbidge expressed “thanks to the Lord for the precious gift of our holy Catholic faith and, in a special way, for the blessings He has bestowed upon your parish throughout these years.... I offer thanks to your pastor, Father Torres, for his priestly service and dedicated pastoral leadership, and to all of you, dear friends, for the countless ways you live out your baptismal call.”
Above: St. Bernadette Church in Fuquay-Varina. (Click photo to view larger.)
(Other pictures marking anniversary to come.)