St Peter Parish History (Page 6)

Many   historians   state   that   Montgomery   fared   better   during   the   Depressions   than   most   communities in   Alabama.   Montgomery   suffered   less   economic   hardship   due   to   the   presence   of   the   Army   Air Corps   at   Maxwell   Field.   The   base   would   further   aid   the   economic   condition   of   the   city   when   under the   persuasion   of   Congressman   Lister   Hill,   the   U.S.   Army   moved   the   Air   Corps   Tactical   School from   Virginia   to   Maxwell   (Flynt   p.   102).   Lister   Hill,   who   would   later   be   elected   U.S.   Senator   from Alabama,   was   baptized   along   with   his   twin   sister,   Amelie   Hill   Laslie,   by   Bishop   O’Sullivan   of Mobile   at   their   parent’s   home   in   Montgomery   on April   28,   1895   (Record   of   Baptisms   1890-1902,   p. 25, St. Peter’s Archives). As   the   nation   slowly   recovered   from   the   great   Depression,   it   approached   entrance   into   World   War II.   With   the   nation’s   entrance   into   the   war,   Maxwell   Field   played   yet   a   larger   roll   in   the   national defense.    Servicemen    throughout    the    U.S.    as    well    as    from    Allied    countries    converged    upon Montgomery.   Maxwell   Air   Force   Base   would   continue   to   play   a   major   role   in   national   defense   in the   post   war   era.   Maxwell’s   presence   in   Montgomery   would   also   bring   an   increased   number   of Catholics to the community, many of whom would retire in Montgomery. Montgomery   had   an   overall   population   growth   in   the   postwar   period.   However,   the   growing   urban population   would   not   locate   in   the   traditional   neighborhoods   around   the   downtown   area.   Rather,   the expanding   population   would   move   into   the   new   subdivisions   located   in   the   South   and   Eastern sections of the city. Most of the Catholic population would follow the trend. The   Diocese   of   Mobile   was   well   aware   of   this   urban   movement   and   in   1955,   Our   Lady   Queen   of Mercy   Parish   was   completed   on   Narrow   Lane   Road   in   southeast   Montgomery. The   most   substantial growth   extended   eastward   along   the   Atlanta   Highway.   By1969,   the   once   missionary   church   of   St. Bede’s   had   relocated   further   east   on Atlanta   Highway.   This   eastward   population   growth   resulted   in St. Bede’s becoming the largest Catholic church in the city. East Montgomery The   eastward   movement   trend   was   further   enhanced   with   the   completion   of   interstate   85   in   the   late 1960's.   The   completion   of   this   massive   artery   through   Montgomery   had   a   two-pronged   effect   upon St.   Peter’s.   It   would   virtually   assure   a   convenient   and   direct   access   to   and   from   the   downtown   area for   those   citizens   living   on   the   east   side.   The   result   was   that   more   families   locating   to   the   east   side from   the   traditional   neighborhoods   which   were   part   of   St.   Peter’s   boundaries.   By   cutting   through the   heart   of   the   boundaries   of   St.   Peter’s,   the   interstate   brought   about   the   lowering   of   property values and destroying many of the beautiful homes that were part of St. Peter’s heritage. Although   the   parish   lost   many   families   in   the   post   war   era,   the   Mother   Church   of   Montgomery continued   to   have   a   steady   influx   of   active   parishioners.   Fathers   Cusack,   McGuiness,   O’Connor and   Dyer   and   Monsignor   Kevin   Duignan   continued   the   rich   heritage   of   providing   excellent   pastoral leadership   to   St.   Peter’s.   The   parish   is   committed   to   insuring   a   continued   Catholic   presence   in downtown   Montgomery.   Though   the   church   of   St.   Peter’s   is   a   historic   building,   it   is   not   a   museum. Rather, it is a living church that reflects on the past in order to proceed into the future. The   parish   of   St.   Peter’s   has   enjoyed   a   long   and   rewarding   experience   in   Montgomery.   One   must never    forget    the    dedication    of    the    first    parishioners    and    priests    of    St.    Peter’s.    Starting    as    a Missionary   church   in   a   Missionary   Diocese,   St.   Peter’s   would   later   become   the   most   important Catholic    church    in    central    Alabama,    with    Missionary    priests    serving    other    central    Alabama communities. St.   Peter’s   would   also   witness   the   expansion   of   the   Catholic   faith   in   Montgomery   as   St.   Andrews (1910),   St.   Bede’s   (1925),   and   Our   Lady   Queen   of   Mercy   (1955)   would   be   direct   daughter   churches of   St.   Peter’s.   Thus,   St.   Peter’s   has   truly   been   a   “rock”   to   which   the   Catholic   faith   was   built   in Montgomery.   The   heritage   of   156   years   of   service   to   our   Lord   is   one   which   we   will   continue   with pride. Works cited: 1) “History of the Diocese of Mobile,” The Catholic Week, special edition for the Sesquicentennial of the Diocese of Mobile, November 23, 1979. 2) Flynt, Wayne; Montgomery. (Woodland Hills, California: Windsor Publications, 1980) 3) Lipscomb, Oscar H., “The Administration of John Quinlan-Second Bishop of Mobile; 1859- 1883" Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia, Mar-Dec. 1967 4) Smith, Alice V., “Survey of Civil War Legislation” (unpublished) August 15, 1985 5) “The Church Organ Fund” - brief description of organ for fund raising: St. Peter’s Church, 1989 6) History of Oakwood Cemetery: St. Peter’s Parish Archives, date unknown