Parishioners at St. Vincent de Paul Church in Nashville have been gathering stories as they prepare to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the church’s founding in September.
“I’ve been here 35 years, and it’s nice to go down memory lane,” said Pauline Wilson, the chair of the 90th anniversary celebration committee. “We have a lot of history … and we want to honor those whose shoulders we stand on.”
St. Vincent de Paul Church and School in North Nashville was founded in 1932 by St. Katharine Drexel to serve the African-American community. An heiress, St. Katharine founded the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament and used her fortune to establish churches and schools to serve African-Americans and American Indians.
In Nashville, she also founded Immaculate Mother Academy, a high school.
Before St. Vincent School closed, it educated generations of students, Catholic and non-Catholic, whose parents, many of whom worked for the nearby colleges of Tennessee State University, Fisk University and Meharry Medical College, appreciated the excellent education they received at the school.
“The school was superior, and they wanted their children to be a part of that,” said parishioner Loren Gaiters, a member of the 90th anniversary celebration committee and a Louisiana native who moved to Nashville in 1968 to work at Tennessee State.
The committee is collecting memories and photos of the school and church, including events, weddings, birthdays, installations, individual parishioners, priests, religious sisters, and others, over the years to include in a commemorative coffee-table book. Parishioners are encouraged to share what they have including photographs and newspaper clippings.
“We’ll be collecting stories,” Wilson said, as the parish moves toward its main celebration on Sept. 25.
Celebration organizers are reaching out to priests who have served at the parish through the years and former teachers at the school to be a part of the celebration in September, Wilson said.
Also for the celebration, the church has adopted a new motto, “God is our rock.”
The anniversary is a time to celebrate St. Vincent’s past, but also its present.
The church remains active, serving not only the Catholic community but the whole North Nashville community, Wilson said.
“We have a very robust outreach program,” providing assistance to people in the community, and the church was able to offer homework and tutoring classes for neighborhood school children, she said. Parishioners are getting excited about the 90th anniversary celebration, Wilson said. “People are most excited about their stories.”
Anyone who has something to share for the coffee-table book can email firstname.lastname@example.org.