Greenville, North Carolina Historical Summary
Bishop William J. Hafey, Diocese of Raleigh, invited the Passionists to North Carolina in 1925, the same year he was appointed Ordinary. From then until 1931, four Passionist preachers crisscrossed the state in the Catholic Extension Society’s Chapel Car. They attracted a small number of devout Catholics, assisted in developing Catholic parishes, and explained the faith to non-Catholics.
From the late 1920s until the 1960s, the Passionists served three parishes in the Diocese of Raleigh, often encountering racial barriers. From 1928 to 1962 they served at St. Joseph’s Church, New Bern. St. Joseph’s High School was staffed by the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Scranton, Pennsylvania. It closed in 1962.
In 1928 Father Mark Moeslein, at 74, responded to the request of Bishop Hafey to minister to African-American Catholics at Mother of Mercy Church in Washington. The parishes in the Diocese of Raleigh were not integrated until June 1953. The Passionists departed from Mother of Mercy in 1963.
Passionist Father Maurice Tew arrived at St. Peter’s in Greenville in 1935. In 1937 St. Gabriel’s Church, through charitable donations, was established as a mission primarily to African-American Catholics. Two years later the rectory was built, and by 1940 the parish had grown to 72 members. Locally, the Passionists instituted a weekly radio program. For 30 years the Sisters of Christian Charity, New Jersey, taught at St. Gabriel’s. The Passionists left Greenville in 1964 when Father Tew’s health declined.
The Passionists returned to the Diocese of Raleigh in 1987. The care of the parishes of St. Gabriel and St. Peter, along with the Newman Center at East Carolina University, all in Greenville, was given them. Besides these ministries, Passionists serve a growing Spanish-speaking population, the parishes in Tarboro and Farmville, and other evolving ministries.