St Stephen Catholic Chapel

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St. Stephen the Martyr Catholic Church, December 2002

St Stephen the Martyr Catholic Chapel is a Roman Catholic chapel of the Cathedral of St. Paul. It houses Catholic Family Services and the Birmingham Catholic campus ministry and is located at 1515 12th Avenue South adjacent to the campus of UAB.

St Stephen the Martyr Catholic Church was founded in 1991 as a non-territorial parish for Catholic ministry under Father Frank Muscalino. It was as an outgrowth of an existing campus ministry operated out of a house on the site.. Initially it primarily served mostly foreign nationals working as graduate researchers or staff at UAB Medical Center.

When Muscalino was reassigned to St Patrick Catholic Church in Adamsville in the early 2000s, the parish was joined for two years with Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church and served by Fathers Greg Bitner and Bryan Lowe. After this its parochial status was removed and it became a chapel of the Cathedral of St. Paul. From 2018-2021 the chapel was led by Father Joshua Altonji. With the appointment of the Bryan Jerabek, rector of the cathedral, as campus minister in summer 2021, Sunday masses ceased to be celebrated at the chapel. Weekday masses, on Thursday, continue. The last Sunday mass was celebrated on August 15, 2021, by Fr. Justin Ward.

Sunday mass, in the late afternoon, was resumed at the chapel at the beginning of the 2023-24 academic year.

The chapel is unique among Birmingham Catholic churches in that the altar is in the middle of church. Initially the congregation sat around the altar on all sides. Also initially there were no kneelers in the church. The congregation stood for all prayers. This reflected the progressive liturgical thought in the Roman Catholic Church in the decades after the Second Vatican Council. Fr. Muscalino also explained it reflected the congregation’s international character, since kneeling was not as common in many countries as it was in the United States. Later, after it was merged with the cathedral parish, the tabernacle was moved in front of the organ and kneelers were provided.

From the 1990s into the 2010s, a distinctive crucifix known as the “Christ of the Nations” was suspended over the altar. Its four sides depicted Jesus as multiple races.

In fall 2001, a pipe organ was installed in the chapel, opus 61 by Cornell Zimmer. The Very Reverend Francis Kline, OCSO, played the dedicatory recital on November 27, 2001.


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