St. Augustine's Catholic Church

5. St. Augustine's Catholic Church

1501 W. Washington St.


 Photo courtesy of Mike Hartman/ South Bend Tribune

In 1916, several African American families moved to South Bend from Pascagoula, Mississippi. Seeking a place to worship, they found segregation or exclusion at one of the area's Catholic churches which tended to serve a particular immigrant group (examples: Irish, Polish, Hungarian, German, and so forth). In the 1930 Census, South Bend had 3,431 black residents, which included a small black Catholic population.

In 1928, black Catholics found a church home when St. Augustine’s was founded as a mission to African Americans by Father George O'Connor, a Holy Cross (CSC) priest who had been raised by a black family. Founding members included Isabel Blanton, James Buchanan, Jeff Buchanan, Robert Buchanan, Lemuel Joseph, Melvin Joseph and Sadie Smith. Saint Augustine’s was formed in 1937 when the number of parishioners jumped to 60 and the official address was 228 N. Hill St. (the site of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church). But the church soon realized it should move to the West Side and, ultimately, to its present site, where there was a greater African American population. The parish broke ground for a new church building on Nov. 24, 1940. On June 15, 1941, Archbishop John Noll dedicated the church, stressing in his sermon that the 103-member parish had no color limitations. In the 1960s, the Rev. Daniel Peil, pastor of St. Augustine’s from 1961 to 1972, was a chairman of the NAACP education committee at a time when the group was pursuing school desegregation. St. Augustine’s church, which added a community building in 2000, has a diverse congregation with a long-running commitment to human and civil rights.