A Celebration Of Faith On Village Drive
Within the confines of this eloquent cathedral along Village Drive, you will find Mary Claire Kosterman.
Saint Patrick Catholic Church has been a part of her life since the late Joe Kosterman and his bride arrived in this city more than 70 years ago.
“I’m from St. Louis, and met him on an old tennis court when he hit me in the leg with a tennis ball,” Mary Claire Kosterman says. “We got married on December 31, 1949, and came to Fayetteville.”
They were a young couple of the Catholic faith and found their way to Saint Patrick Catholic Church, when it was then the small red-brick church along Arsenal Avenue, and today Mary Claire Kosterman is the longest member of the church that on August 6 will celebrate its 200th anniversary.
“It has meant everything to me,” she says.
This is where Mary Claire Kosterman has taken part in the Christmas Eve midnight mass, taken Holy sacraments of communion, seen her children wed, bade farewell to her husband and more recently her closest friend, and above all, praised her Lord and savior.
“I came from a very Catholic community from St. Louis and there were not many Catholics here,” she says. “But then the military started staying here, and it became different.”
Today, the church is a congregation of 1,500 registered members, with 1,300 parishioners attending Sunday mass, and many will be on hand for the 6:30 p.m. service and celebration on August 6, 2021, of the oldest Catholic parish in North Carolina.
“The Aug 6, 2021 celebration will be conducted by the Bishop of Raleigh, The Most Rev. Luis Rafael Zarama, along with The Most Rev. Bernard E. Shlesinger, Auxiliary Bishop of Atlanta, and The Most Rev. Robert E. Guglielmore Bishop of Charleston, South Carolina,” says Harry Doody, the church historian.
‘Commence A Church’
History of Saint Patrick Catholic Church reaches back to 1821, according to Doody, where there were no Catholic churches or parishes in North Carolina, and only about 15 Catholics in the state. Catholics met in private homes, government buildings or churches of other faiths, and occasionally were visited by itinerant priests. Establishment of the Catholic Church in North Carolina began when Bishop John England of the then newly-established Diocese of Charleston, circa 1820, visited this state in 1821.
“Commence a church,” he called on leaders in towns to include cities to include Wilmington, Fayetteville and other eastern North Carolina towns and communities.
The first Saint Patrick Catholic Church was on Bow Street downtown, according to Doody. It was a converted house and members included John Kelly, Dr. James Moffet, Hugh Mcguire, Dillion Jordan, Laurence Fitzharris and Daniel Kenny. As the Catholic membership in this community grew, Bishop England often would visit and preach at the Market House, and at his February 4, 1824, visit, the bishop placed the church and parish under protection of Saint Patrick.
The original Saint Patrick Catholic Church was destroyed by the “Great Fire” downtown in 1831. A second church was built in 1832 and remained the Catholic worship place until 1937. The church later moved to Arsenal Avenue in Haymount at what today is Archangel Michael Maronite Catholic Church and was dedicated on March 18, 1938.
In 1960, with the membership of Saint Patrick Catholic Church flourishing, five parish families took out mortgages on their homes to purchase property along Village Drive, and in 1963 a new Saint Patrick Catholic Church was constructed with 1,050 pews, according to Doody. The building was dedicated by Bishop Vincent S. Waters on October 12, 1968, with 640 members on the membership roll, and 70% percent were military.
In 1976, the parish had 1,100 families, which formed a 4,000-member congregation, and in 1981 the renewal of the interior was completed.
Saint Patrick Catholic Church was rebuilt in 2014 and today towers tall along Village Drive with a spacious sanctuary, fellowship hall and not to forget its Saint Patrick School with certified faculty teachers, including a preschool, kindergarten and all grade levels.
‘My Spiritual Home’
You’ll find good Catholics there from Dick Lewis, Vance and Lauren Townsend and Joe Quigg, who married his wife, Carol Quigg, on March 17, 1962. Father Edward O’Sullivan, he says, conducted the ceremony.
“It has been my spiritual home,” Joe Quigg says.
A place of worship, too, for families such as Kris and Keith Clayton, Bob Giraurd, Jim and Beth O’Leary, Dick Lewis, Bob and Jean Theobald, Kay Owen, and the McCoy’s’ the Maloney’s, the Pechman’s, the Jiamachello’s, the Izurieta’s, the Loreck’s, the Frank’s, the Swan’s and the Illiucci’s.
“It’s been a close-knit family,” says Kay Owen, a church member since 1959. “I have met many, many friends through the church to include Lillian Pechman and my close friend Dolores Beck. Fortunately, I am still able to drive and I hope to be there for the 200th anniversary celebration.”
Bob and Jean Theobald have been members since 1986.
“It’s home and family and religion, and not necessarily in that order,” Jean Theobald says. “We enjoy being there.”
And let us not forget, Mary Claire Kosterman, who is the oldest member on the church membership rolls.
“I hope to be there,” she says about the celebration on Aug. 6 that has been proclaimed as “Saint Patrick Catholic Church Day” by Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin. “Saint Patrick Catholic Church means everything to me.”
Bill Kirby Jr. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or 910-624-1961