St Peter Parish History (Page 4)

I n   1968,   plans   were   made   for   the   parish   of   St.   Peter’s   to   build   a   new   church   rectory   and   parish   hall. This   new   structure   was   to   be   built   on   the   former   site   of   the   antebellum   rectory.   The   new   complex, completed   in   1969,   reflected   the   Spanish   design   of   the   historical   church. The   parish   hall   was   named Francis   V.   Cusack   Hall,   in   honor   of   Father   Cusack   who   was   responsible   for   the   building   of   the   new complex   and   served   as   both   assistant   pastor   and   pastor   for   a   period   spanning   17   years. At   present   a conservation   effort   continues   to   insure   proper   maintenance   of   the   historical   church.   In   July   of   1990, restoration   began   on   the   towers   to   repair   leaks   and   repaint   the   twin   structures.   The   parish   continues to    provide    for    and    strive    towards    the    preservation    of    the    history    and    beauty    that    St.    Peter’s represents for all Catholics of Alabama. Although   Father   Pellicer   was   an   excellent   administrator   and   fund   raiser,   the   priest   was   also   noted for   his   dynamic   spiritual   direction   of   the   parish.   He   ardently   preached   the   doctrines   of   the   Church, as   well   as   having   a   compassionate   heart,   for   all   citizens   of   Montgomery,   Pellicer’s   ability   for leadership   would   be   particularly   useful   at   St.   Peter’s   during   the   Civil War   period. The   primary   issue in   Congress   was   the   slave   question.   Many   time   the   issue   divided   Congress   but   compromise   always seemed   to   prevail   and   preserve   the   Union.   However,   by   the   1860   Presidential   elections,   the   issue   of slavery   was   the   primary   concern   to   all   candidates.   The   favorite   to   win   the   election,   Abraham Lincoln   of   Illinois,   was   opposed   to   allowing   any   more   territories   into   the   Union   as   slave   states. This,   of   course,   outraged   Southern   slave   owners   who   at   the   time   were   expanding   their   agricultural economy   into   the   new   frontiers.   It   was   decided   by   Southern   politicians   that   if   Lincoln   was   elected President, that the Southern States only alternative was secession from the Union. In   Montgomery,   54%   of   the   white   male   only   voters   cast   ballots   supporting   the   State   Rights’ candidate,   John   C.   Brenkenridge   of   Kentucky,   while   only   8%   of   the   voters   supported   the   national Democratic    party    nominee,    Stephen    A.    Douglas.    Lincoln    was    not    even    on    the    ballot    in Montgomery,   as   was   the   case   in   most   Southern   States   (Flynt   p.   29).   While   the   state   of   Alabama favored   the   State   Rights’   candidate,   the   majority   of   the   voters   in   the   Union   cast   ballots   for   Lincoln. With   this,   the   Southern   states   prepared   for   secession.   In   February,   1861,   delegates   from   Alabama, South   Carolina,   Mississippi,   Florida,   Georgia   and   Louisiana,   met   at   the   Capitol   in   Montgomery   to organize   a   government   for   the   Confederate   States   of   America.   On   February   18,   1861,   Jefferson Davis   of   Mississippi   was   inaugurated   on   the   steps   of   the   Capitol.   Montgomery   would   remain   the Capitol   of   the   Confederacy   until   delegates   voted   in   May   of   1861   to   move   the   Capitol   to   Richmond, Virginia. Although   there   is   not   a   record   to   verify   that   any   parishioner   at   St.   Peter’s   was   involved   in   any debate   taking   place   just   a   few   blocks   from   the   church,   it   should   be   noted   that   most   Catholics   in   the South   and   Montgomery   agreed   with   the   majority   of   Southern   Whites   on   the   issues   of   slavery   and secession   from   the   Union.   A   few   parishioners   from   St.   Peter’s   even   owned   slaves.   Father   Pellicer kept   a   separate   Baptismal   record   for   slaves.   The   record   was   titled   “Baptismal   record   for   Colored People”    (Baptismal    records,    St.    Peter’s    archives.).    In    his    many    entries    into    this    record,    he documents   the   names   of   the   slaves   baptized   as   well   as   the   owners   of   the   slaves.   There   were   168 slave baptisms recorded at St. Peter’s from December 15, 1861 through 1865 (Smith, p. 64). The   Bishop   of   Mobile,   John   Quinlan,   was   present   during   the   Battle   of   Shiloh   (April   6-7,   1862). Over   24,000   Confederate   and   Union   soldiers   were   lost   in   the   battle.   One   Confederate   solider   killed in   this   horrific   battle   was   buried   by   Father   Pellicer.   The   record   of   burial   records   the   following: “Eighteen    hundred    and    sixty    two,    A.D.,    on    the    16th    of    April,    I,    the    undersigned    pastor    of Montgomery   (St.   Peter’s)   interred   Major   Robert   Armsted,   age   about   35   years,   who   was   killed   on the   battlefield   (Shiloh)   on   the   16th   of April.   Surprisingly,   'A.D.   Pellicer'   (record   of   burial,   p.   25,   St. Peter   Archives)   is   the   only   entry   into   the   burial   record   that   indicates   the   burial   of   a   soldier   killed during   the   Civil War.   In   discussing   the   burial   records,   it   should   be   pointed   out   that   on April   6,   1863, the   City   Council   of   Montgomery   sold   to   the   Catholic   community,   a   section   of   land   to   be   used   for Catholic burials (History of Oakwood Cemetery). 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