In 1916, the home of Johanna Ennis served as the site for the Celebration of the Eucharist in Kinston. Five years later, Holy Trinity Church grew brick by brick on the corner of Vernon Avenue and Perry Street. Modeled after 13th century Gothic churches, Holy Trinity presented the city with an impressive landmark.
On the other side of town, the first Catholic Church for blacks, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, opened over a grocery store on East Bright Street. Later, the Franciscan Order of the Society of Atonement sent Father Michael Shugue to Kinston in order to establish a mission for blacks. Ironically, Father Michael also opened a chapel over a grocery store on East Bright Street. In 1938, Father David Gannon succeeded Father Michael as pastor of the black mission. Considered the founder of Our Lady of the Atonement, Father David supervised the erection of the various buildings on the five-acre site on East Washington Street.
Over the years, Holy Trinity responded both to the history of Kinston and of the world in its distinctive fashion. For example, Father Thomas Williams rendered outstanding service to displaced and transient persons during World War II. As new industry and military services swelled the local population, Holy Trinity expanded. The post-war growth culminated with the September 3, 1950 opening of Holy Trinity School for 150 students from grades 1 through 5. In October of that year, the school's name changed to Christ the King. In 1969, the student body and faculty of Our Lady of the Atonement School and Christ the King School integrated with one another which played an important part in the history of Catholic education in the community at large.
Father Daniel Egan, an assistant pastor at Our Lady of the Atonement during 1945, was instrumental in establishing a nurturing religious family which led to bringing a number of converts to Atonement. Also, Father Daniel started what is believed to be the first Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) branch in North Carolina. Like Holy Trinity and Christ the King, Our Lady of the Atonement School was staffed by the Sisters Adorers of the Precious Blood. After the merger of the Catholic schools in 1969, the building that housed Our Lady of the Atonement School continued to serve young people by housing the diocesan youth program. Throughout all these phases, Our Lady of the Atonement School maintained its vital presence in the neighborhood. The service of the St. Martin Guild, the outreach of the Neighborhood Center, and the work of the Catholic Child Development Center were typical of Our Lady of the Atonement's loving involvement, under the direction of Father John A. Wall.
Another part of the greater Kinston Catholic family was St. Jude's in Grifton which, from 1930 until 1981, provided residents in the surrounding communities a country mission dedicated to promoting the values of down-home hospitality and spiritual warmth.
In 1985, Holy Trinity Church and Our Lady of the Atonement Church became more visibly bound in a partnership of love and service. Father Thomas Hadden paved the way for our becoming one Catholic Church and Catholic Community. The Covenant of the Catholic Community called us to grow in a relationship where there would be no distinction based on race, sex, or economic status. From this belonging to one another in God were drawn the resources and the commitment to confront the injustices in our city and our world.
Our coming together under one roof on December 17, 1989, marked another step in the journey implied by our mission as a Catholic Church. Father Jerry Sherba served as pastor from July 1989 through June 1998. On March 2, 1990, twenty acres on Academy Heights Road was purchased as the site for our new parish facility. Father Jerry is credited with developing the plans for the new Parish facility at Academy Heights Road. Father Douglas Reed oversaw the construction of the new combined parishes facility. The multipurpose building was completed in February 1999 and named Holy Spirit Catholic Center. It consists of an administrative wing, with office and parlor, and an education wing, consisting of twelve classrooms and library. There is a chapel, large multipurpose room/social hall, kitchen, and atrium with baptismal pool. Mass continues be held in the former social hall (now the Church, worship space) until the new church is built in the future.
The mystery of the Holy Trinity proclaims the loving communion that gives life and promise to our world. The title of Our Lady of the Atonement proclaims the self-giving of Mary that brings healing and reconciliation to our world. Through the mystery we share, may our histories and our future be one. May our name Holy Spirit tell the story of a new life we create as "Church" under the movement of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and lives calling us to live God's love
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