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1950 (Church, Rectory Dedicated in Salisbury).jpg

Our Lady of Victories

Founding a Mission Parish

Our Lady of Victories, "the colored mission in Salisbury"*, was established in December, 1941, by Bishop Eugene J. McGuinness, the Bishop of Raleigh. The American Province of the Holy Ghost Fathers, under the direction of the Very Rev. George J Collins, C. S. Sp., were asked to take on the mission. Very Rev. Collins received an anonymous donation of $10,000 from a couple in New York after they had heard about the opportunity for the Holy Ghost Fathers to found a mission in Salisbury, North Carolina. It was the couples desire to remain "hidden with Christ in God" but they made a request that the new parish be under that patronage of Our Lady of Victories.** (Later in 1949, it was revealed that the first donor to the mission was a member of the Drexel Family.) The Holy Ghost Fathers had missions throughout the South, in Puerto Rico, and in East Africa. The first pastor, Rev. Joseph A. Griffin, C. S. Sp., arrive in Salisbury in February, 1942, and made is residence at the rectory of Sacred Heart with Father Helfrich. However, soon after Rev. Griffin's assignment, he enlisted in the Army Chaplains Corps.


** Our Province: Provincial Report, 1950, p92






 The Rev. James J. Bradley, C. S. Sp., came to Salisbury in October of 1942 from Dayton, Ohio to succeed Father Griffin.  As the United States' engagement in World War II continued to set in, it became near impossible to obtain building materials and it was necessary to abandon plans to build. Fr. Bradley also moved in with Father Helfrich. Shortly after arriving, Father Bradley rented a small frame store at 1122 West Horah St. An altar was erected and the necessary renovations were made to convert it into a mission chapel.


The altar was an old piece that was in use for many years in the Sunday school room behind the main altar of the old Sacred Heart church. Masses were said on the altar from time to time for special occasions.  When the old church was torn down in 1940, the altar was stored in Sacred Heart school. It was from the school that it was taken and moved to the new mission chapel. The first Mass of the mission was said there on Christmas morning "amid surroundings mindful of the poverty, humility, and simplicity of the first Christmas morning".* Mass was then offered in this humble chapel each Sunday at 9 a.m.

*The Bulletin, Nov. 25, 1944

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Rev. Joseph A. Griffin, C. S. Sp.

Catholic Chaplains among the recent class to graduate from the Army Chaplains' School at Harvard University, Cambridget, Mass.

The Observer, (Sunday, December 6, 1942)

Rev. James Bradley

Rev. James J. Bradley, C. S. Sp.

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Rented store at 1122 West Horah St.

Altar used to celebrate Christmas Mass

Just months after the first Mass was celebrated on West Horah St. the store was sold and the mission was required to relocate. Just five months after the first Mass, the last Mass in the chapel was said on April 25, 1943, Easter Sunday morning. Unable to find accommodations, arrangements were made to continue to offer Mass in the home of one of the parishioners, William Ferron. However, William Ferron died just a few months after, on October 13th, 1943. This was a very sad day for this small community. The requiem Mass was celebrated by Father Bradley at Sacred Heart. With the death of William, this small community, again, did not have a chapel to celebrate the Mass. Another attempt was made to build toward the end of 1944 when it seemed the restrictions on building materials would be relaxed, but it remained impossible to begin construction.

In the mean time, a generous donor, Mr. Dan Nicholas, a non Catholic, offered the use of a house at 216 South Craige Street, in the mission section of Salisbury, to serve as a rectory and a chapel, rent free. After the necessary renovations were made and one of the rooms was converted into a chapel, Mass was offer for the first time on Trinity Sunday of 1945. The mission continued to grow and flourish in their humble dwelling on Craige Street for the next 4 years. Carmen Mendoza, a student of Livingston College, was the first of the mission to receive the sacrament of baptism April 26, 1946. The first marriage was performed on June 16, 1946. Father Bradley remained pastor during this time serving the people of his parish. 

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House at 216 South Craige Street

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Parishioners Carmen Mendoza, Jean Gaither?, Evelyn Conyen?, Virginia Flemming, Harrold Flemming, Billy McKenzie, and Bettie McKenzie standing on the front steps of the chapel in 1946.

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Altar used at Craige Street

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Carmen Mendoza with her godfather, E. J. Gallagher. Carmen was baptized at the Craige St. Chapel on April 26, 1946.

New Pastor, New Church

At the beginning of 1948, Father Bradley began to suffer from Marie Strumpell arthritis, better known today as ankylosing spondylitis. His condition was severe enough that he was required to take a medical leave to Philadelphia. On July 2, Rev. Dayton D. Kirby, C. S. Sp. departed from his parish of St. Mark's in New York City, where he had served for 6 years, to take his new assignment at Our Lady of Victories in Salisbury.  Shortly after Father Kirby arrived he start making preparations to build a church and rectory. The project began in June of 1949 and was dedicated in May of 1950. The chapel and rectory were built for approximately $23,000 and were located at 122 South Lloyd Street. The chapel was erected of brick and cement blocks and were of a Colonial design and had a 26 foot copper steeple. The bell located in the steeple was an old locomotive bell that was presented to the church by the Southern Railway Company. The interior contained the altar and oak seats for about 120 people. The sacristy was located at the rear of the Chapel and the choir loft was on the second floor at the entrance. The rectory, which adjoins the chapel was also of colonial design and was constructed in brick as well. It had six rooms, which included two bedrooms. At the time, there were long range plans to build a school and a convent on the same site. 

The dedication took place on May 25th, 1950 by the Most Rev. Vincent Waters, the Bishop of Raleigh.  Father James Bradley was also able to be present at the dedication along with 40 other clergy. After the dedication, Our Lady of Victories averaged about 18 parishioners at Mass each Sunday. But, they were also able to baptize nine individuals on June 1, a great testament to the growing parish. Father Kirby has made many friends for the mission by his devotion to the work of the Rowan Memorial Hospital.

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Our Lady of Victories Church and Rectory

122 South Lloyd Street

In the summer of 1951, Father Kirby was assigned to a new post at Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he became a director of a junior prep school for boys who were studying for the priesthood. Father Julius F. Zehler, C. S. Sp. was installed on August 5th, 1951, as the new pastor. Father Zehler was a native of Philadelphia and that year, 1951, Father Zehler was celebrating his Silver Jubilee, having been ordained for 25 years. Father Zehler had the honor of preparing the first Confirmation class. 12 individuals received the Sacrament of Confirmation on February 3rd, 1952. In 1952, Our Lady of Victories celebrated their 10 year anniversary. For their anniversary, an excerpt from the "Mission News" magazine of the Holy Ghost Fathers was published. Below is a small excerpt from the publication.


"The following is the statistical data for the parish from 1942 to 1952:




First Communions...15



The statistics look lean; the facts are fat and full of glory for God and victory for Our Lady who got her priest and her people over the path of closed doors to the open country of stability. Now they can begin to fatten those statistics."

The 4 page publication can be read in its entirety in the slide show below.

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Rev. Dayton D. Kirby, C. S. Sp.

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February 12. 1949

Father Kirby received his first converts to the church at Our Lady of Victories. Mr. and Mrs. Norman J. Wilson and their 9-year old daughter Nellie, were all baptized into the Catholic church in the chapel on Craige Street. 

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Bell donated by the Southern Railway Company

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Dedication of Church by Bishop Vincent Waters

Open Country of Stability

Over the next couple years, Our Lady of Victories carried on as any other Catholic Church would. The parish participated in the 25th Anniversary of the death of James E. Kwegyir Aggrey. Father Zehler wrote regular letters to the parish about feast days, liturgical events, and other parish matters. His closing statement of his letter dated January 26, 1953 is still very relevant today:

"Finally I call upon each and everyone of you to become deeply interested in your church and the Catholic religion. You can do something to help spread the faith by your good example, by passing on the papers and magazines, by visiting the sick and especially praying for the conversion of others. You can help your church by other means too. Try now to do your part however small. God will bless and reward you in a special way for even the slightest things you for for Him. Act now."

A beautiful example of this can be seen in The Pioneer newspaper dated March 28, 1953 in an article titles "It's a Lulu". A religious studies student from Catawba College visited Our Lady of Victories and wrote a wonderful article about her experience. The article is quoted in its entirety below.

"Getting serious for once, I'd like to tell you about a visit I, as a Protestant, made to a Roman Catholic mission for a period of instruction. Dr. Whiston made all the arrangements with Father Zehler to have our Religious Education class visit the mission chapel of Our Lady of Victories and learn a little about how another side lives. Most of us labor under a great many illusions about Roman Catholicism. Some of them are so false as to be ridiculous, others as to be dangerous, others have some basis in distorted fact. All in all, though, the Catholic Church, even the simple mission we saw, possesses an aesthetic beauty which inspires unconscious reverence. As soon as we stepped into the chapel, we all experience a feeling of awe in the presence of the quiet dignity of the sanctuary. The priest was quiet spoken and kind -- the Hollywood image of the saintly priest come to life. He explained the symbolism of the Mass, the vestments, the candles, and altar fittings in a clear and objective way with no attempt to persuade. We stayed about two hours; it seemed much shorter. We left with a respect and a better understanding of what Roman Catholicism is. Its reverence and beautiful service of worship might well be borrowed for our own worship experience. Let us, during this Lenten season, consider the idea of religious tolerance."

In 1954, Pope Pius XII proclaimed a Marian Year in honor of the centenary of the definition of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary. Within the Diocese of Raleigh many things were planned in honor of the special year. Bishop Waters requested that a triduum for consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary be conducted during the month of May. The Charlotte Deanery also set up pilgrimages each month to a different Marian church: May to Greensboro, July to Albemarle, August to Charlotte, and October to Salisbury to Our Lady of Victories Mission. 

They hosted an outdoor celebration on Sunday, October 4th on the lawn surrounding the church. People attended from various parts of the state, with approximately 350 in attendance.  The Revered Egbert J. Figaro, C. S. Sp., professor at Holy Ghost Missionary Seminary, Ann Arbor, Michigan was the guest speaker.  Father Figaro conducted a series pf devotions over a period of three days, including Mass on the 8th and 9th.  In his pilgrimage sermon he traced Our Blessed Lady's greatness through the prominent prototypes in the Old Testament.

In May of 1955, Our Lady of Victories Mission sponsored the visit of the Catholic Motor Chapel to come to Salisbury. The chapel was driven by Father Thomas Kerin of New Grove. Salisbury was the first stop of a summer tour around the State. Father Kerin offered Mass every evening and then visitors were invited to enter the chapel after Mass. During the motor chapels stop in Salisbury, Father Kerin also gave a talk on "Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal" as well as showed several movies, including "The Life of Christ" and "The Lord's Supper". The motor chapel was an evangelization effort, to spread the Catholic faith throughout the state. The Catholic Motor Chapel returned the following summer as well, in August of 1956. This time, the chapel remained in Spencer/Salisbury for two weeks. (see the flyers below).

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Father Zehler (left) and Father Kirby (right)

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Father Egbert Figaro, C. S. Sp.

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