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Early Years of the Parish

Father Patrick Moore remained pastor until January of 1883 and was then replaced by Father Mark Gross, pastor of St. Peter's Catholic Church in Charlotte. He also attended to the mission in Salisbury and St. Peter's from 1883 until 1886. Father Gross would offer Mass in Salisbury on the third Sunday of every month at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. In January of 1886, Father Walter Leahy became pastor of Salisbury and held that role for a year. He still only said Mass in Salisbury once a month, on the second Sunday. Father Leahy established the first Catolic Library in Salisbury. There were only 50 books and they were kept in the church sacristy. Frances Fisher taught catechism classes in the sacristy and each week books were exchanged. In February 1887 Father Leahy left the congregation and Father Hill was installed as pastor.  In October of 1887, Father Hill performed the first marriage to be celebrated in this small mission church between John Roueche and Margaret Taaffe. Later, their daughter Teresa would become Sister Mary Xavier for the Sisters of Mercy (1913) and their son John Roueche would be ordained a priest (1933).

The first official Catholic school in Salisbury was opened in September 1887, originally named St. Anges' School*. Miss Alice Monaghan, of Fayetteville, was the first teacher in charge. Miss Monaghan was a cultured, and refined lady, and remained in Salisbury for one year. It was also in 1887 that the Benedictines of Mary Help of Christians Monastery took over the Salisbury mission. It was through their efforts that Miss Monaghan came to Salisbury. Abbot Haid, Abbot of Mary Help of Christians Monastery (founded in 1882) even defrayed a part of the expenses in support of the school.

*Sadliers' Catholic Directory, and Ordo: For the Year of Our Lord 1890,  p403

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Rev. Mark Gross

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Rev. Walter Leahy

The Benedictines

In December of 1887, a distinguished honor was bestowed upon Abbot Leo Haid; the Holy Father, Pope Leo XIII, appointed him Vicar Apostolic of North Carolina. The consecration took place in the Cathedral of Baltimore with Cardinal Gibbons officiating. From this point forward, the Benedictines were to oversee the Catholic faithful in Salisbury. At the beginning of 1888, Rev. Charles Mohr, O.S.B. was the first Benedictine priest to serve the mission.

Rev Mohr "was a handsome man, tall and well built, with a princely bearing. His hair was black, slightly greying at the temples; his manner was polished and genial, and is humor delightful. He endeared himself to everyone, and was a faithful devoted priest. Always cheerful, and even playful, he had a 'way' with children, and they in turn, adored him. On his monthly visits to Salisbury, he would call at Miss Monaghan's school and spend an hour with the children, joking and asking them questions; always sending two of the girls, Eva Burke and Blossom, to buy confections for the school. Invariably, when he left, he asked Miss Monaghan to give them half a holiday, and with a bright smile as he put out his hand, would bid each child good-bye. Rev. Mohr only served as pastor in Salisbury for one year but no priest who ever came after him quite filled his place in the heart of his people."* Rev. Mohr later (1902) become the Abbot of St. Leo's Abbey in Florida.

In January, 1889, a new pastor, Father Francis Meyer, O.S.B., was installed at Sacred Heart. He was greatly interested in the Catholic school, and once brought Bishop Haid to see the children. Fr. Francis was an eloquent speaker, and his listeners were transported with joy and inspiration when he preached. He had a charming way with old people. Father Francis remained in Salisbury one year; typhoid fever forced him to take a long rest, and he was sent back to Belmont Abbey to recuperate. The monks organized prayers for Father Meyer's cure and promised to build a grotto in honor of Our Lady of Lourdes if he were healed. Father Meyer was, indeed, miraculously healed from his illness and the brothers were sent out to haul granite. The Grotto to Our Lady of Lourdes was built at the Abbey in 1891 in thanksgiving for this miracle.

Then in 1890, Reverend Father Gerard Pilz, O.S.B, was the next priest to make monthly visits to Salisbury. He was a very talented man and a most entertaining conversationalist. He was ordained to the priesthood at Saint Vincent Archabbey in 1859. In 1869 he went to Europe and graduated in the Royal Art Gallery, at Munich, in 1872. He spent several years working at missions throughout Florida before he was transferred to Mary Help of Christians in Belmont. He only served Salisbury for a year and unfortunately passed away shortly after his time as pastor to Salisbury. He died on September 20, 1891. Also in 1890 the catholic school was unfortunately closed due to lack of students.  

*Grandmother Dear, by Agnes Roueche Harris, p113

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Abbot Leo Haid, O.S.B (1885)

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Abbot Charles Mohr, O.S.B.

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Rev. Francis Meyer, O.S.B.


Grotto at Belmont Abbey

Rectory, Resident Pastor, and School

In 1892, after Father Gerard left, Rev Joseph Mueller, O.S.B. became the pastor. For several years, Father Mueller would travel from Greensboro to serve those in Salisbury on a monthly basis. However, in 1898 Father Mueller became the first resident pastor in Salisbury, having built a rectory and a small chapel in Spencer. At this time there were only six Catholic families within Salisbury. Father Mueller offered Mass every Sunday at 10:30 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., with Sunday School being held at 3:30 The chapel was later abandoned after the popularity of automobiles made it possible for Catholics to attend Mass in Salisbury. The tabernacle that adorns the high altar was selected by Father Mueller as well as the statues of Our Lady and St. Joseph, which were purchased from Paris. Father also re-opened the Catholic school in September of 1899 and was the teacher for two years. In 1901, Miss Lila Locke, a convert and a woman of high esteem in the community, took charge of the school. She remained for two years. Then Julia Roueche taught for a year, followed by Margaret Loughrey from 1903-1904, and then Miss Mary Schultice in 1905. 

Also in 1905, Father Leo Kunz, O.S.B became pastor. At this time, the congregation was growing. Several new, Catholic families had made Salisbury their home and desired a better school for their children. Father Leo went to Belmont to confer with the Sisters of Mercy.  Mother Theresa Sullivan came to Salisbury, investigated, and  purchased a lot connected to the Church property. Within a short time a convent sprung up. "The crowning glory of Father Leo's ministrations in Salisbury, was the erection of Sacred Heart Convent."* The Sisters purchased land from Frances Tiernan for $4,000 (about $121,000 today). The Sisters of Mercy took charge of the school in September 1910. Sister Mary Patricia Barrett was the first superioress. Father Leo was pastor in Salisbury until 1916. He was popular among non-Catholics, and his engaging personality endeared him to many. He retired due to his failing health and he passed away in March of 1917.

Rev. Anthony Meyer, O.S.B was the next appointed pastor, remaining until 1919.  He soon won the love and esteem of the congregation and became quite popular. Father Anthony labored with untiring zeal for the spiritual advancement of his parish, urging the frequent reception of Holy Communion, and attendance at daily Mass. He also purchased and placed in the church tower, the sweet-toned bell that daily called the people to prayer at the Angelus Hour.  The beautiful ceremony of the Blessing of the Bell, took place on September 2, 1917. Rev. Felix Hintemeyer of Belmont Abbey assisted Father Anthony. Father Anthony was succeeded by Rev. William Regnat, O.S.B who served until 1924. However, Father Regnat would return to Salisbury in 1928 and it was under his leadership and guidance that the new church would be built in 1940.

*Grandmother Dear, by Agnes Roueche Harris, p118

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Rev. Joseph Mueller, O.S.B.

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Rev. Leo Kunz, O.S.B.

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Rev. Anthony Meyer, O.S.B.

Rev. William Regnat, O.S.B.

The Diocese of Raleigh

Long before the death of Abbot Leo Haid on July 24, 1924, there was much debate and tension over who should be the local ordinary/bishop for the state of North Carolina. The secular priests of North Carolina, led by Father Thomas Price being the main proponent of a change, wanted the state to be proclaimed an official diocese with a bishop. However, the monks and Abbot Leo Haid had no desire to give up the honor, as the United State's first Cathedral Abbey, of which they were bestowed. For many years, there were letters written back and forth between Cardinal Gibbons, and Father Thomas Price and Father Christopher Dennen in support of a secular diocese , and Abbot Leo Haid and Father Felix Hintemeyer, prior of Belmont Abbey, in support of the Cathedral Abbey. The history of this tumultuous time period has been best portrayed in the book My Lord of Belmont which can be read online. As Abbot Leo Haid even acknowledged in one of his letters to Father Felix, "You historians [will] have a big job before you if you wish to get history straight." So for the purposes of this website, this history will be left to the true historians. 

However, after a long controversy, and after the death of Abbot Leo Haid, it was ripe time for a change. On December 12, 1924 the Diocese of Raleigh was erected by Pope Pius XI to replace the Vicariate Apostolic of North Carolina. On the same day, Abbot Vincent Taylor received his confirmation from Rome as the second abbot of Belmont Abbey, without the title of bishop. Even though there would be a new Bishop for the Diocese of Raleigh, encompassing the entire state of North Carolina, Belmont Abbey would still oversee several parishes throughout the Diocese. Belmont Abbey did not hand over their final parishes until 1977, after the Diocese of Charlotte had been created. Sacred Heart would remain under the territory of Belmont Abbey until 1942 when Father Cletus Helfrich will be named the first Diocesan Pastor. On April 6, 1925, Bishop William Hafey was installed as Bishop of the newly formed Diocese and would remain the bishop of Raleigh until becoming bishop of Scranton in 1937. At this point in time, with the creation of the Diocese of Raleigh, there were an estimated 6,000 Catholics across the entire state.

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Rev. Felix Hintemeyer, O.S.B

Bishop William Hafey

First Bishop of the Diocese of Raleigh

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Coat of Arms

Diocese of Raleigh

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