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St. Benedict the Moor at 441 East Broad Street, Savannah, GA 31401 US - CHURCH HISTORY

CHURCH HISTORY


The history of St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church is a journey of Faith, “for we have come this far by Faith, trusting in the Lord”.

On May 13, 1874, two Benedictines, Rev Bergier and Rev Wissel arrived in Savannah to devote themselves to the spiritual interest of the African American population. Later that year, they constructed and dedicated a little frame church on the corner of East Broad and Harris Streets. It took only two weeks to construct the church. The site was only four blocks north of the present church. The yellow Fever that hit Savannah in 1876 took its toll upon Savannah and the Benedictines Fathers. Fr. Bergier died as a result of this fever. When the Benedictines withdrew, the parish was placed in the care of the Diocese of Savannah priests. 

 In 1888, the Bishop purchased land and a new church was constructed in 1889. The Benedictines again staffed the parish until 1907, when the parish was turned over to the Society of African Missions (SMA). Rev Ignatius Lissner and Rev Gustave Obrecht, both from France arrived at St. Benedict in 1907. St. Benedict became the “Mother Church” for Black Catholics. Fr. Obrecht served as pastor for nearly forty years Following Fr. Obrecht as pastor were Fr. Feeley, Fr. Harold and Fr. Bane. The 1889 Church was replaced by the current church in 1949. The current church was constructed on the same site of 1889 church. The SMAs left Savannah in 1968 and the Diocese of Savannah priest assume responsibility of the parish.

Diocese of Savannah priests who served the parish from 1968 to 2000 as pastor were Fr. Joseph Otterbein, Fr. Ralph Seikel, Fr. Fred Nijem and Fr. James Mayo. 

 In mid 2000, the Missionaries of St. Paul of Nigeria (M.S.P.) were given charge of the parish. Rev. Desmond C. Ohankwere, MSP was named pastor. Under Fr. Desmond leadership The Windows of Opportunity Campaigned was developed to raise funds to restore the old school building and again provide the opportunity for this building to be used by the parish and the community as “beacon of light”.

On January 3, 2008, Fr. Christian Anosike Alimaji, M.S.P. arrived at St. Benedict the Moor parish and assumed the pastorate of the parish. On June 13, 2008, the church was presented with a Historical Marker, by the Georgia Historical Society, recognizing the rich history as the oldest African American Catholic church in the State of Georgia. Its unveiling ceremony was on October 16, 2008. 

 In July 2012, Reverend Romanus O. Ezeugwu arrived in Savannah and assumed the pastorate of St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church. Under his leadership, the parish continues to be a “Beacon of Light” for the community.

The Franciscan Sisters also hold a special place in the history of the parish. They staffed St. Benedict School from its beginning around the turn of the century until its closure around 1970. They also staffed the orphanage started by Mother Beasley, the first Black nun in Georgia. The Sisters of Mercy also worked in the parish in the 1970’s.

 

 




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