St. Benedict the Moor
Catholic Church
St. Augustine, Florida
Federal Writers Project WPA
The Church of St. Benedict the Moor located on Central Avenue (now Martin Luther King Avenue),
celebrated its Silver Jubilee in 1936.  Before its erection, the Negro Catholics received necessary
ministration from the Cathedral Clergy and the Good Sisters of St. Joseph. This was before the
arrival of the Josephite Fathers in 1914; a few folks still living recall the period immediately following
the War Between the States with high praise for the spiritual attention of the priests and frequently
refer to Bishops Verot, Moore and the Saintly Father Clavreul.

In 1890 the property on Central Avenue was deeded to Bishop Moore by Mlle. Stella Dumas, an
elderly French lady who came from Charleston, S. C. The Bishop's’s plan was to erect a church,
school and other buildings whose income would support a resident priest. The school was erected
1898 at a cost of seven thousand, five hundred ($7,500) dollars, Five thousand ($5,000) being
donated by Mother Catherine Drexel (now Saint). It is still being used and many converts have
emerged from it to the church and it may rightly be called the Nursery of St. Benedict Church.

The cornerstone of St. Benedict was laid by the Most Reverend Bishop William J. Kenney and the
actual construction was under the then Rector of the Cathedral, the lamented Bishop Maurice P.
Foley. He was appointed Bishop of Tuguegaro and was on his way to the Philippines when the
church was dedicated, February 5, 1911, by the Most Reverend Bishop W. J. Kenney. From then
until 1814, it was a mission in charge of the Cathedral Clergy.

In 1914, Most Reverend Michal J. Curley, Bishop of St. Augustine invited the Josephite Fathers to
take charge of St. Benedict, but Archbishop Curley did not cease his activities with the Negro
Catholics and as Bishop of St. Augustine kept us his interest in the people.

The Most Reverend Bishop Patrick Barry who had been assistant at the Church of the Immaculate
Conception in Jacksonville took charge of the See of St. Augustine and for fourteen years was a true
and loyal friend of St. Benedict and the members now consider him a Spiritual Father in a real and
true sense.

The first rector of St. Benedict was Father James B. Albert, S. S. J., whose work still bears fruit in St.
Augustine. In 1916, Rev. John Lyons was appointed pastor and labored zealously until 1920 when he
passed during the "“flu"” epidemic. In 1920 Reverend Francis L. Linton, S. S. J., was appointed
pastor and served until 1924; during his pastorate, he erected the bell tower, placed and stained the
glass windows. In August 1924, the late lamented Father Edward A. Knight became pastor and a
great sadness fell on the church when he left St. Augustine to go North on a well-earned vacation and
met a tragic automobile accident. He did much to beautify the church and improve the parish
buildings. During Father knight'’s pastorate, he erected St. Joseph’s Mission in West St. Augustine
for the convenience of the Catholics who live in West St. Augustine. Mass is held there once each
week, but many of the parishioners worship at St. Benedict, also. This mission is now about seven
years old and is under Father Blasius.

The present rector, whose jurisdiction is solely over the Negro Catholics, Reverend Edward J.
Blasius, S. S., was appointed September 1, 1931. He testifies to the loyalty of his flock during the
years of the depression and although having met with many setbacks they have always been ready to
make sacrifices for St. Benedict. He is assured of their sympathetic understanding and co-operation.

St. Benedict the Moor has a membership of three or four hundred people. Some of these members
were originally connected with the Cathedral, and when the membership became so large, the
Bishop was petitioned and permission was given to erect a Negro Catholic Church.

Many of the parishioners were servants in the homes of the early Spanish Settlers whose faith was
Catholic; they thus took the faith of their masters as they were taken to church by them – others have
emerged from the Catholic Schools; some dissatisfied with the laws, taxes and rulings of the
Protestant Churches.

Many of the older Catholics and those who live near, now worship at the Cathedral just as they did
before the Negro Church was established. Hundreds of whites worship at the Negro Catholic Church
each week.
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