St Mark's Catholic Church (Thomas)

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St Mark's Catholic Church, also known as St Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church, was a Catholic church at 1010 16th Avenue (formerly 15th Avenue West) in Thomas.

St Marks was founded on January 20, 1905 by Father John Canepa of Genova, who had been sent to Alabama by Pope Pius X at the request of Bishop of Mobile Edward Allen to serve the fast-growing community of Italian immigrants working in the Birmingham District. He was initially assigned as chaplain at the East Lake Orphanage and thus St Mark's, the first Italian congregation in the Diocese of Mobile, began as a mission of that institution.

The Republic Iron & Steel Co. donated land near its newly-enlarged Thomas furnaces for the first church building, a frame structure which was constructed by parishioners and dedicated on March 18, 1906. By 1913 Canepa had established another mission from St Mark's which became St Joseph's Catholic Church in Ensley. In the early 1920s, St John's Catholic Church in East Lake was also founded by Canepa.

In 1926 the congregation of St Mark's began raising funds for a larger building, but progress was delayed by the Great Depression as well as by local labor disputes. The new church, constructed stone salvaged from the furnaces' former beehive coke ovens, was completed in 1939 and dedicated by Bishop Thomas Toolen on Columbus Day, October 12, of that year. A 10-sided raised baptistry was later constructed adjacent to the church. A marble plaque above the northern entrance memorializes six parishioners who died in service to the United States in World War II.

Canepa died in February 1954. Malcolm Riera was appointed to take his place later that year.

A re-dedication mass was celebrated at St Mark's on December 11, 1977.

The church was closed in 1997. The stained glass windows and much of the interior decor was removed to be re-used in the new St Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in Shelby County, which was dedicated in 1999.

The former church building in Thomas is presently used by Holy Trinity World Outreach Ministries.


External links

  • Photo album at website of St Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church


  • Lovett, Rose Gibbons (1980) The Catholic Church in the Deep South: The Diocese of Birmingham in Alabama, 1540-1976 Birmingham, AL: The Diocese of Birmingham in Alabama
  • White, Marjorie White; Betsy Hunter & Madge Barefield (1988) "Thomas Historic District". National Register of Historic Place nomination form - listed January 27, 1989