Our History

ImageoldchurchSt. Augustine parish was formed by the Most Reverend William Hickey on July 16, 1929 although it was not until March of 1930 that Bishop Hickey named the new parish in honor of St. Augustine the fourth century theologian. This Bishop named Father Thomas A, Robinson the founding pastor. On July 29, 1929, just thirteen days after being named pastor, Fr. Robinson purchased a house to serve as the parish rectory as well as an adjacent plot of land to be the site of the future church. The first Holy Mass of the new parish was offered on Sunday, August 4, 1929 in the auditorium of LaSalle Academy which would serve as the temporary church until December 24, 1930.

Building the church was a priority for Fr. Robinson. An architect was engaged and designs were drawn for a church which would seat four-hundred people, have a large front vestibule, and two entrances. Ground was broken on May 5, 1930 and the first Mass was offered in the new church at midnight on December 25, 1930, sung by a choir of twenty men and women. The new church was considered temporary. The intention was to build a school atop the basement church and then a larger church would be built on the opposite side of Elmcrest Avenue. However, Fr. Robinson after further deliberation, Fr. Robinson realized more land would be needed for the new church but he was unable to purchase adjacent property so the plans for the larger church were put on hold.

Plans for a parish school were well established. With these plans in mind, Fr. Robinson purchased a house on Homefield Avenue to serve as the convent for the sisters who would staff the school. The building cost $4,200 plus an additional $2,200 in renovations.

While all this building was being planned and constructed, the life of the parish continued. In 1934, the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary assumed responsibility for organizing and direct the catechism programs for the growing parish. The Franciscan Missionaries of Mary would continue to be responsible for these programs for the next fifteen years. The parish Rosary and Altar Society was organized and various social functions were organized such as the parish carnival and ham-and-bean suppers.

During its first decade, St. Augustine grew from 210 families to over 500 families and was quickly outgrowing its basement church. In the 1940’s Midnight Mass was so crowded that tickets had to be issued and only adult ticket holders could attend. On June 4, 1949, just shy of his twentieth anniversary of being named pastor, Fr. Robinson retired to his family home due to health reasons. The Rev. Joseph O’Gara, the assistant pastor, was named temporary administrator until September of 1949 when the Rev. John McConnell was named the second pastor. Shortly after Fr. O’Gara began his administration, Bishop McVinney invited the Sisters of St. Ursula to staff the proposed school. The sisters accepted the invitation and agreed to teach catechism in the parish until the school was built.

In July of 1950, a plot of land of Mt. Pleasant Avenue was purchased and an architect hired to develop the plans for the school. Bishop McVinney gave permission for the parish to spend $600,000 to build the new school. Although its opening was planned for September of 1951, construction delays would cause a one-year delay, until September 7, 1952, for Bishop McVinney to dedicate the school. At its opening, St. Augustine School had nearly 300 students in grades one through six with seven Sisters to staff the school and Mother Marie Edward serving as principal and convent superior. Fr. McConnell served as pastor until his death in 1954. Rev. Thomas Gilfillan succeeded Fr. McConnell as pastor of St. Augustine parish.

One of the pressing concerns facing Fr.Gilfillan was the need for a larger church. By this time, the parish had grown to the point that additional Masses were held in the school auditorium. The plot of land which had been purchased for this purpose was determined to be too small so, with the bishop’s permission, Fr. Gilfillan sold this property. Initial estimates for the new church and rectory were $650,000. Permission was granted for fundraising and borrowing to purchase two parcels of property adjoining the school property. In the meantime, estimates had risen to $900,000. Ground was broken for the new church and rectory on August 18, 1961. The church is combination of contemporary design and traditional religious motifs. The stained glass windows were commissioned from New York glass designers. The limestone statue of St. Augustine over the front entrance of the church is the most striking exterior feature.

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The rectory was completed in the Spring of 1962 but the church would take an additional year to complete. On August 18, 1963, Bishop McVinney dedicated the new church, followed by Holy Mass. The new church was now serving the spiritual and sacramental needs of the parish and the school was serving the educational needs.

By 1970, Fr. Gilfillan’s health was deteriorating and he retired and the Rev. Edward Egan was named the fourth pastor of St. Augustine parish. By this time, the parish had over two thousand families whose spiritual needs had to be provided for. Fr. Egan faced a debt of $626,000 from the construction of the new church and rectory. By April of 1979, the debt had been paid in full and the parish was continuing to thrive.

Monsignor Egan would continue to serve as pastor until his retirement in 1991. At that time, the Rev. Barry R. L. Connerton who had previously been served St. Augustine parish as an associate pastor was named the fifth pastor of the parish. The parish has continued to grow in number and in faith now numbering over three thousand families.