Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church

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Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, originally Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, is a predominantly African-American Roman Catholic parish church at 708 1st Street South in South Titusville.

Bishop Jeremiah O'Sullivan of the Diocese of Mobile first appealed to the Society of Saint Joseph, a Catholic organization in Baltimore, Maryland dedicated to serving Black communities, to send a priest to Birmingham in 1890. In 1896 the Sisters of Mercy established the Immaculate Conception School for Black children.

When the Josephites answered in 1904, they asked Father Francis Tobin, then working in Montgomery, to visit Birmingham. He found a handful of Black Catholic families in the city and led the group to acquire an existing wood-frame building for use as a church, rectory and schoolhouse. He led the first mass for the parish in that building on October 1, 1905.

Meanwhile, in January 1905 Katherine Drexel, founder of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, donated $7,000 to the Diocese of Mobile to support construction of a new church building at the corner of 17th Street and 6th Avenue South (then Avenue F) in Five Points South. When completed in 1906 the new school had an enrollment of 80 students. The new facilities were expanded within a few years to accommodate rapid growth.

In 1948 Immaculata High School moved to a new building at 1st Street and 6th Avenue South in South Titusville. In March 1949 the White Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church lost its building at 6th Avenue South and 14th Street South to fire. That congregation decided to rebuild in Homewood, and Immaculate Conception Catholic Church took the opportunity to build on that site and take up use of the undamaged rectory and school building across the street. At the request of benefactor Fulton J. Sheen, the church and school were rededicated at that time to Our Lady of Fatima, a title which refers to visions of the Blessed Virgin Mary reported in 1917 by three children in Fátima, Portugal.

The expansion of the Medical Center associated with UAB necessitated that the church find a new home. Plans for the move began in 1962. With Immaculata High School having closed in 1966 due to the desegregation of John Carroll Catholic High School, the parish took over that site for the church and elementary school.

It broke ground for its present building, designed by Jim Adams of Cobb, Adams and Benton, in 1968. The $172,000 church was designed for 250 congregants and was the first in Birmingham to have upholstered pews. Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church held its first services in the new building in 1969. The former church building was demolished in May 1971 and became the site of Children's Hospital.

Also in 1969 Pastor Eugene Ferrell led public efforts to desegregate Elmwood Cemetery, based on the wishes of parishioner Bill Terry, who died in service to the United States in the Vietnam War. After a court ordered that his family be allowed to purchase a lot, he officiated at Terry's requiem mass in January 1970.

A Parish Life Center was added to the church campus in 1997.

In 2023 Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Parish incorporated as a single member non-profit religious corporation. The Diocese of Birmingham transferred the 5-acre church property, valued at $3.48 million, to the nonprofit in June of that year.



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