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Parish History

Parish History

In 1930 there were as few as seven to ten families in the Gloucester/Mathews area. Then in 1931 a number of Richmond people started “coming to the River” (York). Many built summer homes here, especially near Gloucester Point. Masses were only available at West Point at this time and the journey there, a round trip of seventy miles, curtailed activities and relaxation time on the weekends. Several of the summer residents informed the Most Reverend Peter L. Ireton, D.D., Coadjuter Bishop of Richmond, of the need for a Church in the area. Bishop Ireton responded. He directed Father Jakubowski of West Point to offer Mass regularly during the summer months at a central location for the Catholics in Gloucester and Mathews. Father Joseph Leitch was to assist Fr. Jack. Mass was held in the home of Mrs. Edgar Foster in Mathews. The Foster home was far from being a central location. Mr. Brown Farinholt, owner of the Edge Hill Theatre in Gloucester, answered this need. Although a Protestant, he generously made the auditorium of his theater available without charge each Sunday for Mass during the summers of 1937 and 1938.

There were more than forty people at the first service. In spite of rumors that the theater would be boycotted, Mass attendance steadily increased beyond expectations. A church building soon became a necessity. A building committee was formed in 1937 consisting of local and summer residents. After developing a plan, and obtaining the Bishop’s permission, a lot was purchased at Main Street and Route 666 in Gloucester Courthouse from the Chesapeake Securities Corporation. Financing any building project takes large donations and fulfilled pledges. Everyone was surprised and grateful when a large amount was received through the Catholic Extension Society. A donation of about $2,500.00 was given anonymously by a woman on the sole condition that the church bear the name of St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower.

After unrelenting planning and discussions, the cornerstone for the new church was laid in 1938. After years of worshiping in distant churches, various homes, a campground and even a theater, the Catholics of Gloucester, Matthews and Middlesex were proud to participate in the dedication of their own church on May 14, 1939. Today, many Masses and years later, the Catholic Church of Gloucester County proudly carries the name: Church of St. Therese of the Child Jesus (as St. Therese of Lisieux is now known). Since our Church remained a mission to the parish of Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament in West Point for twenty more years, it is fitting that it bears the name of the Patroness of Missions. Later, as a parish, the Church of St. Therese would in turn foster mission communities in Middlesex and Mathews!

With the number of Catholics continuing to increase in this area, Bishop John J. Russell decided, in 1959, to designate St. Therese as a parish in its own right. He asked the Provincial of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales, Rev. William D. Buckley, OSFS, to provide a resident pastor. Rev. Edmond P. McCarthy, OSFS, arrived as the first pastor of the new parish on October 31, 1959.

No parish functions without the active participation of its members, and St. Therese has been particularly blessed in this regard. Some of the parish groups available are the Theresians, the Knights of Columbus, Religious Education, Cursillo, Sojourners, Justice & Peace. Although all are called to participate in the Celebration of the Eucharist groups such as Lectors, Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, Altar Servers and Mass Coordinators make the celebration run smoothly.