St. Jude Catholic Church
Published 7:31 pm Monday, May 1, 2023
St. Jude Catholic Church, in Franklin, on Sunday, April 23, celebrated its 75th year of existence. Sunday, April 25, 1948, was a great day for Catholics of Southampton County. Awaiting their use on that date, for the first time, was an attractive brick edifice in West Franklin — known at that time as St. Jude Mission. It was their new Church home – the first Catholic Church ever to be built in Southampton County.
St. Jude Mission was pioneered by Father Julius O. Schmidhauser, pastor of St. Mary of the Presentation Church in Suffolk, who also served as the first pastor at St. Jude. Invitations to the dedicatory exercises were issued by the Rev. Schmidhauser. On Sunday morning at 11 o’clock, Catholics and non-Catholics alike were welcomed to the services. Heretofore, area Catholics had been worshipping once a month, in Franklin, either at the Fourth Avenue Armory Hall or at the W. J. M. Holland Funeral Home on Second Avenue. But, thanks to the untiring efforts of Father Schmidhauser and his enthusiastic co-workers, their parish church had become a reality.
The most Reverend Peter L. Ireton, D. D., Bishop of Richmond, officiated at the laying of the corner stone and, at the Mass, preached the dedicatory sermon. The Very Reverend Robert O. Hickman, Chancellor, acted as master of ceremonies, and Father Schmidhauser expressed his appreciation to all those who had contributed in any way to the fulfillment of their long-cherished dream.
Taking part in the services was a joint choir composed of the St. Paul’s Altar boys and high school girls’ choirs, under the direction of Father Leo J. Creamer and Mrs. James Watson. The Guard of Honor was made up of members of the Tidewater Fourth Degree Assemblies, Knights of Columbus.
Following the services, a special luncheon for the clergy was served at the “White House” restaurant on Smith’s Ferry Road (Route 258 south) – through the courtesy of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Monahan.
St. Jude Mission, the parish church for Catholics of the Franklin, Courtland, Capron and Sebrell area, at that time accommodated 160 worshippers. It was a project of St. Mary’s Catholic Church of Suffolk. Following the first appeal for funds, in August of 1947, 455 donations were received, including gifts from non-Catholics. At that time, the building was 15 feet longer than it originally was planned, and a lot with a frontage of 75 feet had been purchased as the site for a rectory to be constructed in the future.
The interior of the church was marked by simplicity and dignity. Its high ceiling, beams and pews were finished in dark oak. Its walls of cinder block construction were relieved by leaded windows in steel frames. The altar of golden oak included a statue of St. Jude. A Sunday School section for use as a meeting place for the parishioners and a kitchen for church suppers, was placed at the rear of the sanctuary.
Chairman of the building committee was Charles Cigler with Mrs. Lawrence F. Mattraw as vice chairman. Other committee officers were Mrs. John Scott, secretary, and B. M. Hawa, treasurer.
Saint Jude was named a parish on May 1, 1955. At St. Jude’s 25th anniversary in 1973, the Holy Mass was celebrated by the Most Reverend John J. Russell, 10th Bishop of the Diocese of Richmond, along with Father Edward Marroni, the 16th pastor.
In the spring of 1987, additional classrooms were built, a commons was added to the front of the church, and the parking lot was expanded. The Most Reverend Walter F. Sullivan, Bishop of the Diocese of Richmond, dedicated the new construction. During the construction period, the church went through the process of RENEW, a program of spiritual renewal.
The present-day worship center was constructed in 1994 – to replace the original sanctuary which was turned into the fellowship hall. The pews with kneelers from the original sanctuary were replaced with oak chairs.
Over the years, many men have served as pastors at St. Jude. The very first one, starting in 1948, was Father Julius O. Schmidhauser, followed by 24 others. In more recent times, the following have served as pastors. Edward L. Marroni (1972-1975), Norman Murphy (1975-1980), Paul Gallagher (1980-1983), Albert Pereira (1983-1985), Eugene Teslovic (1985-1991), Carl De Souza (1991-1998), Martin E. Lavin (2002-2005), Charles Saglio (2005-2021); Emanuel Mensh, the current pastor, joined St. Jude’s in July of 2022.
St. Jude serves a good part of the western Tidewater Virginia area. Its mission church, The Shrine of the Infant of Prague, is located in Wakefield, Virginia.
Acknowledgement: Emile Vautrinot
CLYDE PARKER is a retired human resources manager for the former Franklin Equipment Co. and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.