Our Church History​​

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St. Benedict the Moor Catholic Church was established in 1940 to serve African American Catholics living in the Winston-Salem East Winston community.

The church was named in honor of St. Benedict the Moor a Franciscan Friar who lived a holy life of prayer and charity. The saint is also the patron saint of African Americans. 

The church was founded by Bishop Eugene McGuiness, Bishop of the Diocese of Raleigh. The church was placed under the direction of the Order of Friars Minor, better known as the Franciscans. The bishop welcomed Franciscan Father Ronald Scott as the founding pastor.

A local attorney and his wife, Mr.  & Mrs. Hosea V. Price and approximately 11 Black Catholics assisted Father Scott in establishing the parish. The first Masses were celebrated in the home of Mr. Price and his wife and as the congregation grew the Masses were moved to Robinson Funeral Home. The first Mass was celebrated at the funeral home on November 24, 1940.

The parishioners worked closely with Father Scott to search for a site to build a church. The search found property for sale at the corner of 12th street and Hattie Avenue for a parish hall and rectory. The property was purchased from the estate of Bishop Kyles of the AME Zion Church on April 26, 1940.

The present day church was dedicated by Bishop McGuiness on September 7, 1941 and by August 1943 Father Scott was joined by Father Francis Gorman to assist in ministering the growing church.  The parishioners found spiritual and social opportunities within several parish groups including the Legion of Mary, Third Order of St. Francis, St. Monica’s Guild and St. Benedict’s Men’s Club. Altar servers as boys were trained to assist during Holy Mass and a choir was founded to add to the solemnity of the sacred rites.

Early inscriptions in the Baptismal Registry of families include: Ellis, Guest, Maxwell, Pledge, Crew, Baltimore, Grier, Bitting, Scales, Tucker, Jones and Barons. After eight years the number of parishioners had grown to over one hundred.

Responding to the need and to enhance the educational aspect of the faith the Sisters of St. Francis of Allegany, New York arrived in Winston-Salem to open an academy. They purchased property at the corner of 14th Street and Hattie Avenue and began preparing the buildings to serve as classrooms and dormitories. On September 7, 1946 St. Anne’s Academy was opened.  Bishop Waters dedicated the academy, convent and the residence for the girls on September 29, 1946.

In September 1950 under the direction of the Franciscan Sisters, St. Benedict Grammar School was opened with 116 students. By 1958, 250 students were enrolled in a program that worked toward academic excellence in an environment that called them to a Christian way of life.  Parishioners and neighbors recall the beautiful May Processions, plays, carnivals, championship basketball teams of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. The school closed in 1979 because of dwindling enrollment and the increasing cost of offering a quality education.

In 1969 St. Benedict the Moor assumed responsibility for its first mission. Our Lady of Fatima Chapel was opened in downtown Winston-Salem N.C. as a “chapel of ease”. Our Lady of Fatima Chapel is now a mission of Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church in Winston-Salem, N.C.

In 1970 Catholics to the east in Kernersville became the second mission of St. Benedict the Moor until 1973 when it was raised to the status of a parish and became Holy Cross Catholic Church.

In August 1987, Jesuit Father Thomas Gaunt was named pastor of St. Benedict the Moor Church in Winston-Salem and Good Shepherd Church became a mission church and remains a current mission.

In 1990 the church observed its 50th Golden with a banquet on Saturday, November 3 with a Mass on Sunday, November 4. Mass was celebrated by then-Bishop John F. Donoghue (now Archbishop of Atlanta). Among the celebrants were the pastor Jesuit Father Lawrence Hunt, Father Francis O’Rourke and Father Thomas Gaunt who were former pastors.

In 1990 the support to the Hispanic community started which was also known as the “migrant ministry”. The migrant ministry referred to the Yadkin County migrant population who worked the tobacco farms and agricultural seasonal work. The church dispensed food and clothes to the families including having an amnesty program which allowed those in the country illegally to gain legal status. In 1999 the first Mass was celebrated for the Latino community under Father Larry Hunt.

In December 2000 the church celebrated its 60th anniversary with a retreat, spring picnic, fall festival and dinner for 150 parish families.

The church has always been committed to serving the community. When St. Anne’s Academy and St. Benedict Grammar School were no longer catholic schools the facilities provided services to the community. The Kyle Heights Apartments is on the former site of St. Anne’s Academy and Convent and the St. Benedict Grammar School became the Franciscans Day Care Center.

The St. Benedict the Moor Resurrection Summer Day Camp partnered with St. Stephen’s Episcopal and Dellabrook Presbyterian to offer a four-to five-week program of activities for children in the community with the purpose of have positive fun activities during the summer for children. 

In the summer of 2004 the Community Knowledge Center was established at the church that was sponsored by Winston-Salem State University that offered classes for senior citizens, tutoring for middle school students and income tax service for the Hispanic community.

The parish also placed a high commitment with its community involvement with volunteering at Crisis Control Ministry, Red Cross Donor Program, Samaritan Soup Kitchen, Narcotic Anonymous and Community Watch Meetings, Food Pantry and Computer Lab.

The church celebrated 75 years of dedicated service to the spiritual development of Catholic children and adults on Saturday, October 22, 2016 with the theme “We Come This Far by Faith”.

“The spirit of St. Benedict the Moor is the source of our identity and purpose and we the parishioners hold to the sacred hospitality personified in our patron saint, with our African American heritage, European heritage, Latin American heritage and African heritage as a community of Catholics that gives honor to God in different languages and cultures”.