Many mostly Italian and Irish immigrants who lived in Bessemer and the surrounding areas organized Saint
Aloysius Catholic Church in the fall of 1886. Rev. Patrick A. O’Reilly offered the first Mass in the old Montezuma
Hotel. Fr. O’Reilly later became pastor of the Cathedral of Saint Paul and also was founder of Saint Vincent’s
Hospital and the East Lake Orphans Home. After fire destroyed the hotel, Associate Pastor John Daley began
offering Mass twice each month in Leonard’s Grist Mill on 5th Avenue North in Bessemer. On January 25, 1888,
the church was deeded land from the Bessemer Land Company along 5th Avenue North and 17th Street North.
Catholic men from the local rolling mill erected a frame building on the site.
Bishop Edward P. Allen appointed Rev. Joseph A. Wright, the first resident pastor, in 1899. Fr. Wright brought the
Sisters of Mercy to staff the parish’s school in late 1900. Fr. Malachi E. Kitrick replaced the old frame school with a
modern brick building in 1912, the first of its kind in North Alabama. Fr. Michael Hourican erected a brick church
beside the school in 1924. Several renovations and improvements were made to the church and school buildings
over the years.
In 1935, Joseph A. Durick, a seminarian and Saint Aloysius parishioner, was in charge of the CCD summer
religion classes. In 1955, Msgr. Durick was consecrated Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Mobile by Archbishop
Thomas J. Toolen. Bishop Durick was the first American bishop of Slovak origin, the first priest to be elevated to
the Episcopate in Cathedral of Saint Paul, and the first to be named Auxiliary for the diocese. He later became
Bishop of Nashville.
Rev. Francis T. Coyle served the longest period of time of any priest at Saint Aloysius. He was appointed pastor in
1938, retired in 1947 due to ill health but remained at Saint Aloysius as Pastor Emeritus assisting his successor,
Rev. John H. Stack, until shortly before his death in 1971.
In 1981, the Sisters of Mercy discontinued their work to Saint Aloysius School after over 80 years of service.
Church members honored the sisters with a reception.
Rev. Desmond Regan and Associate Pastor Gerard Kitts, OSB, saw the parish grow and prosper under their
leadership in the late 1970s through the late 1980s. Bishop Raymond Boland, the second bishop of the
Birmingham diocese, appointed Rev. Louis Giardino pastor in 1988. After fire destroyed the church on December
21, 1989, Mass was offered in the school’s gym. Many donations and fundraisers later, property was purchased
on Academy Drive, just off I-20/59, and a new church was built and completed in time for Christmas services in
Rev. Patrick P. Cullen, who is also Director of the Apostolate With Mentally Retarded Persons, currently serves
Saint Aloysius Catholic Church as pastor. Associate Director of the Apostolate is Sr. Mary Vernon Gentle, a Sister
of Mercy, who has returned to her order’s “home.” The parish has approximately 620 registered families and 178
students enrolled in our school.
|Saint Aloysius Catholic
Destroyed by fire on December 21, 1989
Burned out shell of the old Saint Aloysius
New Saint Aloysius Church building
located on Academy Drive on Saint
Old Saint Aloysius School. Building still
exist near 17th Street North in Bessemer.
New School was built and is located next to
the Church on Saint Aloysius Way off of
Academy Drive in Bessemer, Alabama.
Picture dated June 21, 1938