Saint Benedict the Moor (Original), Uptown

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Hill District

Parish History

St. Benedict the Moor was established on July 28, 1889, as an African American parish.  This was actually the third attempt by the diocese to establish a parish for the city's African American community.  The first attempt occurred a few months after the diocese was created.  On June 30, 1844, a rented frame building was blessed as the Chapel of the Nativity.  Unfortunately, the number of Catholic African Americans was too small to support an independent mission and the chapel closed within a year.

The second attempt by the diocese occurred in 1867.  The second Plenary Council of Baltimore, held in 1865, urged the bishops in attendance to make a special effort to reach out to the newly freed slaves.  Upon returning to Pittsburgh, the bishop entrusted the task of organizing an African American congregation to the pastor of St. Brigid, as the majority of African Americans in the city lived in the Hill District.  He purchased land, built the first story of the church and installed a temporary roof.  The church was named St. Joseph and was dedicated in 1867.  The church remained a mission of St. Brigid.  The parish survived for nine years, but the economic hardships following the financial panic of 1873 spelled the end of the parish.

In 1888, one of the Holy Ghost Fathers teaching at Holy Ghost College (now Duquesne University) took the lead in organizing a new African American congregation.  After conducting a survey of the community, he rented a building to serve as a temporary church in the spring of 1889.  The upper floors of the building were converted to classrooms and the lower floor to a church.  The building was blessed on July 28, 1889.  On December 20, 1890, land was purchased for a combined church/school building.  Work on the new church began shortly afterwards and the church/school was dedicated on October 25, 1891.  The ground floor served as the school while the church was located on the second floor.

In 1906 the Holy Ghost Fathers turned over responsibility for the parish to the diocese.  From 1906 until 1918, diocesan priests served as pastors of the parish.  In 1918, the parish was again returned to the Holy Ghost Fathers. 

Beginning around the middle of the century the congregation began to drop.  In 1962, responsibility for St. Benedict was turned over to the pastor of St. Brigid.  However, the parish was still officially independent.  This situation changed on May 14, 1968, when St. Benedict the Moor was merged with St. Brigid to form the new St. Brigid-St. Benedict the Moor.  Rather than maintain two churches, the decision was made to close St. Benedict the Moor Church.  The church was closed and torn down in September of 1968.

Photos From the Diocesan Archive:

St. Benedict the Moor Church, 1933
Main altar of St. Benedict the Moor, 1933
Side altar of St. Benedict the Moor, 1933
Choir loft of church, 1933
Interior of church, 1957

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