Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School

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Our Lady of Fatima Catholic School, originally Immaculate Conception School, was a private Catholic elementary school affiliated with Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church at 630 1st Street South in South Titusville.

Immaculate Conception School was opened for Black children in 1896 by the Sisters of Mercy, with Sister Mary Alfonso Goggin as head of school. When the Society of Saint Joseph sent Father Francis Tobin to establish a Black parish in the city in 1904, it adopted the name of the school. With a $7,000 donation from Katherine Drexel, founder of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception Catholic Church and school constructed new buildings at the corner of 17th Street and 6th Avenue South (then Avenue F) in Five Points South. The school opened with 24 students on March 13, 1905.

By 1906 the school had grown to 80 students, and enrollment increased to 117 in 1907. The parish expanded the school building over the next few years under the leadership of Father Narcises Denis. The Sisters of Mercy were unable to maintain staffing, and withdrew from Immaculate Conception School in 1925. Lay-teachers Amelia Thomas-Baker and Catherine Baker-Wood stepped in, with support from the Daughters of Charity of St Vincent de Paul at St Vincent's Hospital for religious teaching.

In 1937 the Sisters of Notre Dame of the Immaculate Heart of Mary Province of Covington, Kentucky assumed operation of the school and expanded into the upper grades with the founding of Immaculata Catholic High School. That school moved into a new $150,000 building at 1st Street and 6th Avenue South in South Titusville which was dedicated in 1950. Meanwhile, the elementary grades moved into the brick schoolhouse at the corner of 6th Avenue and 14th Street South which was left when Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church relocated from Southside to Homewood following a fire. The parish constructed a new building on the site of the former church across the street for worship. Popular radio host Monsignor Fulton Sheen donated funds for construction, but requested that the church and school be rededicated to Our Lady of Fatima, a title which refers to visions of Saint Mary reported in 1917 by three children in Fátima, Portugal.

By the early 1960s the parish was making plans to expand Our Lady of Fatima School and also seeking a place to relocate the church to allow for expansion of the Medical Center surrounding the University of Alabama School of Medicine. Immaculata High School closed in 1966 due to the desegregation of John Carroll Catholic High School, and the parish took over that site in Titusville for the church and elementary school.

In 1998 the school's administration was assumed by the Philadelphia-based Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, with the Sisters of Notre Dame withdrawing completely by 2001. During the transition, a "Strategic Plan for Development" was drafted with support from the Institute of School and Parish Development in New Orleans, Louisiana with funds provided by the Sisters of Notre Dame and the Raskob Foundation. Nathan Wright was hired as the school's first lay principal in 2005. His successor, Velda Gilyot, increased enrollment and parent participation.

From 2010 to 2015 the school was operated by Beacon of Hope, a local nonprofit established by the Diocese of Birmingham. During that time the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament withdrew and the school was again staffed by lay teachers. By 2017 the school was suffering declining enrollment and hoped to raise $150,000 to help keep the doors open for its 64 (of whom only 7 were Catholic). Since the school closed, parts of the building have been used for religious education programs.

In 2022 the Memphis, Tennessee-based Freedom Preparatory Academy discussed acquiring the former school building for a new charter school. Those plans were opposed by many neighborhood leaders. The opening of the school was delayed to 2024.

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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