Mr. Fritz Sitterding donated the lot at the southwest corner of Second Avenue and Fourqurean Lane for the future church building. In early 1925, the cornerstone of the church was laid. The building was designed by William H. Rhodes, a parishioner, and by the architectural firm who employed him. The stained glass window of St. Elizabeth of Hungary was donated by Joseph Heye, an architect with the same firm. The first Mass in the new church was celebrated on Christmas Day, 1925 by our first pastor, Rev. Louis A. Rowen.
The year 1930 saw the establishment of the first school at 925 Fourqurean Lane. This school was staffed by three Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. In 1936, during the Depression, the school was closed and the children were transferred to St. Paul’s School, that was located not far away in Barton Heights. The Church purchased a school bus that transported the St. Elizabeth children to and from St. Paul’s School every day.
However, by 1948, plans for a new parish school were coming to fruition. It was arranged that the Sisters of Mercy of Merion, Pennsylvania would staff the school. The rectory, at that time located on Fourqurean Lane, was given to the sisters as a convent. The present rectory was purchased in 1949. Ground was broken for the much needed school in May of 1950 and classes began in the new building on January 2, 1951.
After the late 1940’s, the church was painted, redecorated and modernized several times and eventually received air conditioning and new lighting. During 1978, under the pastorship of Fr. Michael Schmied, the sanctuary and the church hall were renovated according to the liturgical restoration called for by Vatican II and new parish ministries began to flourish. The result expressed the needs of a racially and economically diverse Catholic community in an urban neighborhood. Our parish motto of “Unity/Umoja,” which we adopted during this period, expresses our conviction that a multiracial parish family can work together to build God’s Kingdom.
Also, during this time, the St. Elizabeth Gospel Choir was formed to enhance our parish worship celebrations. Over the years, the choir has become an important unifying force that has bound our parish family together especially during times of hardship for the parish.
In 1982, the school closed and the students moved to the newly named All Saints School, formerly St. Paul’s School. The old convent was destroyed by fire in September of 1983 and a year later, the school building was sold.
St. Elizabeth was one of the first parishes in the Diocese of Richmond to be assigned a Pastoral Coordinator. Sister Cora Marie Billings, RSM. who was also Director of the Office for Black Catholics at the time, served from June 1990 until December 2004. Sr. Cora was the first African-American woman to serve as a Pastoral Coordinator in the United States Catholic Church.
In 2006 – 2007, the church again underwent major renovation and restoration after the ceiling in the sanctuary collapsed, destroying the altar and its surroundings. With monetary help from all over the country and the encouragement and support from our parish family, we were able to overcome the challenges of these daunting repairs and by Holy Week of 2007, we were once more able to worship in our sanctuary. As Scripture continually reminds us: “With God, ALL things are possible.”
PASTORS & PASTORAL COORDINATOR OF ST. ELIZABETH CHURCH
Rev. Louis Rowen, 1923-1937
Rev. Michael J. Cannon, 1937-1947
Rev. Thomas A. Mitchell, 1947-1950
Rev. Leo J. Massei, 1950-1959
Rev. J. Louis Flaherty, 1959-1961
Rev. Joseph W. Hirsh, 1961-1966
Rev. Robert E. Nudd, 1966-1969
Rev. Rev. James L. Rizer, 1969-1972
Rev. Robert Howe, 1972-1977
Rev. Michael Schmied, 1977-1987
Rev. J. Stephen Hickman, 1987
Rev. Matthias Newell, 1987-1990
Sr. Cora Marie Billings, RSM, 1990-2004, Pastoral Coordinator
Rev. James Begley, 2004-2005
Rev. Robert Brownell, 2005-2006
Rev. Andrew Sagayam, 2006-2007
Msgr. Walter Barrett, 2007-2008
Rev. Andrew Sagayam, 2008-2010
Rev. Francois Babulu, 2010-2012
Rev. James Arsenault, 2012-present