Amazing milestone: New Bern church celebrates 200-year anniversary

New Bern

NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) — Saint Paul Catholic Church has seen a lot over the past 200 years.

From the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement, to the Great Depression and multiple pandemics, the congregation has stood the test of time.

“Running a parish wasn’t easy 200 years ago, it wasn’t easy 50 years ago,” said Kathy Bascom, a volunteer at the church.

Saint Paul’s history is deeply intertwined with New Bern’s. Bascom, along with Delesa Conway are working to bring that history in to the light as the church celebrates its historic moment in time.

“We started to put this together when it was just a seed, and a thought, it was kind of like a snowflake and it developed in to a snowball, then it was huge,” said Conway. “We didn’t know how to break it up and how to get it all in.”

The two spent the last year organizing a bicentennial celebration.

“I think all of us working on this have a new sense of pride, a sense of respect for the past of this parish,” said Bascom.

Saint Paul’s is the oldest Catholic Church in North Carolina. Bishop John England established the church on a visit to New Bern in 1821. He practiced the first mass inside the Coor Gaston Home.

The first physical site of Saint Paul’s was a small white church on Middle Street. Construction of the building finished in 1841 and could only hold around 30 people.

The parish quickly grew expanding to a rectory and school on both sides. In 1980, parishioners moved to their current spot on Country Club Road.

“It’s insane how many times we heard about yellow fever in our research and now we’re going through COVID,” said Conway. “We still have parishioners that aren’t back in their homes because of the flood.”

The core beliefs of this church haven’t changed, along with their commitment to the community.

“What we want to let people know in Craven County and all of New Bern is we’re here for all of you, good, bad and ugly,” said Conway.

Saint Paul’s already kicked off 2021 by focusing on a different chunk of the church’s history each month. The church is planning 10 days of events to celebrate the bicentennial starting on Saturday with a visit from the Bishop of the Diocese of Raleigh.

For more information on how you can get involved, and to keep up with the celebration throughout the year, visit the church’s Facebook page, here.

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