St. Augustine Catholic Church
Backstory and Context
In 1916, several African American Catholic families moved to South Bend from Pascagoula, Mississippi. Seeking a place to worship, they found segregation or exclusion at one of the area's Catholic churches which tended to serve a particular immigrant group (examples: Irish, Polish, Hungarian, German, and so forth). In the 1930 Census, South Bend had 3,431 black residents, which included a small black Catholic population.They looked for a church to worship, but were not allowed at one of them.
Father George O'Connor, a Holy Cross priest who had been raised by a black family, established a black parish in 1928 so these families would have a place to worship. By the 1930s, the number of parishioners jumped to sixty. It was time to find a permanent home. Since most of their members were on the west side, they chose this site on West Washington Street. On June 15, 1941, Archbishop John Noll dedicated the church, stressing in his sermon that the 103-member parish had no color limitations.
For about seventy years, St. Augustine’s has welcomed a diverse congregation and led actions for civil rights.