cross background

Parish History

Parish History

Although North Carolina became an Apostolic Vicariate, or mission, in 1868, it would be almost 100 years before the people of Garner had a church of their own. When Pope Pius X created the Diocese of Raleigh in 1924, it covered almost the entire state of North Carolina. Only 31 priests and 84 religious women served the 54,000-square mile area where 6,193 Catholics resided. The new Diocese contained 21 parishes, 40 missions with churches, and 60 stations or locations where priests celebrated Mass as often as they could, oftentimes in private homes.[1] St. Mary, Mother of the Church shared this humble beginning as well.

The first Mass for parishioners in Garner was celebrated in a rented former beauty shop on Garner Road in April, 1964. Recognizing the need for a permanent church, the Diocese of Raleigh purchased 12 acres on Vandora Road for $30,000 in July 1964. On August 29, 1965, the church building was dedicated by Bishop Charles B. McLaughlin, Auxiliary Bishop of Raleigh. Our church was the first church in the United States given permission to have the title, “Mary, Mother of the Church.” A flock without a shepherd, St. Mary’s remained a mission without a pastor until the parish was established in 1967 and Father Charles Mulholland served as first pastor. Prior to the establishment of the parish, St. Mary’s was attended by Father Ralph Lawson, Monsignor James McSweeney, Father Ralph Monk and Father Ronald McLaughlin. 

The first resident priest, Father Gerald Lewis (now Monsignor) moved from the rectory of Sacred Heart Cathedral to the apartment built for him within St. Mary’s in 1970. Monsignor Lewis recalls his apartment within the church, “We divided the choir area and original Sacristy into two rooms – the back one was the bedroom and the front one became the parish office. The original Sacristy became the sitting room. The lavatory was converted into a full bathroom with shower. Thus, we had a complete apartment without a kitchen. On the other side of the Altar was the cry room. We moved the wall out, even with the church wall and made this the parish hall with kitchen appliances. I made many visits to the Blessed Sacrament, going from the living space to the kitchen. I was certainly careful to genuflect at each crossing.”[2]

In 1970, when the Catholic population of North Carolina grew to 67,000, Bishop Vincent S. Waters split the Diocese in half, creating the Diocese of Charlotte. In a pastoral letter announcing the new Diocese in 1971, Bishop Waters wrote, “When the family of God grows and matures in any place, in the plan of God a new family is set up. Rejoice with me at this Good News.”[3]

The Sisters of Notre Dame served the parish in 1972. In late the 1970s, the Sisters of the Good Shepherd began serving the faith formation needs of the parish. In 1990, St. Joseph Hall was built and in 1992 the chapel as added to the church wing. In 1996, we added the outdoor Marian shrine. In 1999, we added meeting and classroom space to St. Joseph Hall. On May 31, 2003, we celebrated our first Misa en español.

In 1994 the Knights of Columbus (The Fr. James Keenan Council 11266) was issued its charter by the Supreme Council and continues to serve the Church and the Garner area faithfully. In 2014, a Circle of the Columbian Squires was chartered and in 2015, a Columbiette Auxiliary was granted. 

St. Mary, Mother of the Church now has over 1,200 families and continues to grow yearly. Her faithful community of lay ministers, catechists and army of volunteers serve tirelessly and are physical signs of God’s enduring love.

Pastors, Administrators, Priests and Deacons

1967 – 1968                Fr. Charles Mulholland

1968 – 1970                Fr. Gerald Lewis

1970 – 1970                Fr. Michael Shugrue

1970 – 1973                Fr. James Keenan

1973 – 1975                Fr. Robert Lawson

1975 – 1977                Fr. Raymond Donohue

1977 – 1978                Fr. Joseph Drane

1978 – 1984                Fr. James Waters

1984 – 1985                Fr. Jeffrey Ingham

1985 – 1987                Fr. Kenneth Parker

1987 – 1989                Fr. Albert Todd

1989 – 1996                Fr. Charles Mulholland

1992 – 2014                Deacon Leopold Tapler

1995 – 1996                Fr. J. William Long

1996 – 2000                Fr. Francis Maloney

2002 – 2012                Fr. Robert Schriber

2001 – 2005                Fr. Joseph Yaeger

2006 – 2007                Fr. Joseph Ntuwa

2007 – 2012                Fr. Roger Malonda

2010 – Present            Deacon Ronald Soriano

2012 – Present            Fr. David Chiantella

2012 – 2016                Fr. Chesco Garcia

2016 – 2017                Fr. Jaime Perez Restrepo

2017 – Present            Fr. Amaro Vasquez

 [1] "Our Diocese at 90." Our Diocese at 90 | Diocese of Raleigh. Accessed July 22, 2017. http://dioceseofraleigh.org/90anniversary.

[2] "Interview with Monsignor Gerald Lewis." Interview by author. June 30, 2016.

[3] "Our Diocese at 90." Our Diocese at 90 | Diocese of Raleigh. Accessed July 22, 2017. http://dioceseofraleigh.org/90anniversary.

Revised August 2017