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Parish History


For the most part, southern Wake County has been like North Carolina as a Whole; the Catholic population has been sparse and isolated. Around the turn of the century, however, Fr. Thomas Price purchased land in Holly Springs for the Small Church of St. Mary. Mass was said once a month by a priest who traveled from the orphanage in Raleigh by horse and buggy. In those days the maintenance of the church was wholly the responsibility of the laity. The family of Sebastian Scholl, father of our own Myrtle Hopson, kept up the church building, even painting it whenever the family home next door was painted. Flowers for the alter and plantings for the grounds were furnished by another family, the Coudons. In the aftermath of World War I, most of the Catholic families moved away in search of better jobs. The parish property was sold and the building dismantled, the materials were used in Dr. Cozart’s house, which still stands in Fuquay-Varina. St. Mary’s in Holly Springs has left behind an exemplary tradition of lay involvement in the life of a parish and outreach to the community as a whole. Although the Catholics were a tiny minority, they were respected for their Christian charity, especially in caring for the needs of the poor. Often the monthly masses and even the catechizings of the visiting priests were attended by non-Catholics.

Early in 1987 Fr. Albert Todd, pastor of St. Mary’s in Garner, began offering Mass in Fuquay-Varina at Trinity Episcopal Church. Shortly thereafter Catholics in the community gathered together and, at the urging of John Byrne, selected the name St. Bernadette’s for the new mission, thus recalling the town’s past as Fuquay Springs. In June of 1987 Myrtle Hopson wrote Bishop Gossman and offered to donate ten acres of cleared farm land as a site for the church. In addition to the donation of the land an anonymous donor contributed $100,000 to the parish building fund with the stipulation that an additional $50,000 be raised by the members of the parish. This donor, later to be learned after her passing, was Myrtle Hopson herself. Thank you to the original 36 founding members/families of St. Bernadette Catholic Church. 

What the parish needed most urgently was a multipurpose building to secure it’s continued growth. Such a building would provide our own place for mass and other worship services, with the possibility of a more flexible and convenient schedule. Even more important, it would provide a place for CCD and other parish gatherings. This facility was necessary to attract families concerned about the religious education of their children and common parish activities, for it is on the support of such families that the existence of a parish depends.

Fr. Albert Todd retired in July of 1989. He died on November 3, 1989. He donated a lovely statue of the Virgin Mary to the congregation of St. Bernadette’s. It will remind the people who knew him of his quiet support. May he rest in peace.


A small group met to study building options and make preliminary plans. It was a frustrating learning process for this young parish without experience related to diocesan regulations or the complex business of church construction.

The appointment of Sr. Elizabeth McNeill in June, 1989 as Pastoral Administrator finally got things moving. After some debate and set-backs, Bobbitt Associates, Inc. was chosen as the design builder and construction plans were finalized. Groundbreaking ceremonies were held on February 4, 1990 for the St. Bernadette Catholic community Parish Center.

Sr. Elizabeth McNeill and Parish Council Members took formal possession of the building in July 1990. Dedication ceremonies were celebrated September 16, 1990, marking the culmination of a tremendous effort put forth by the Catholic community. It was accomplished by the sacrifice, dedication and unselfish work of parishioners of St. Bernadette’s, Fuquay-Varina.

In September 1990 Sister Kitty, who was assigned to our parish as the administrator for the Hispanic community of the Parish, started the migrant ministry. She officially began her operation of the “ Raleigh Deanery Catholic Hispanic Ministry”, using St. Bernadette’s as her home base on July 1, 1991.


Father Charlie retired in 1998 at the age of 75 and Father Richard Doherty was our new Parish Priest.

In 1994 Sister Claudia Bronsing was assigned to our parish as the new Pastoral Administrator after Sr. Elizabeth moved back to New York State to be closer to her ailing sister. Fairly soon Sr. Claudia saw the need for our parish to grow again and a new Construction and Architectural Committee was formed and a Capitol Campaign was underway to take pledges for our new Church building. On April 2, 2000 the Parish had its Ground Building Ceremony. Balzar and Associates was chosen as the Architect for the project and McDonald York Construction was chosen as the building construction company to build our magnificent Church.


On July 14, 2001 Bishop Gossman came to our parish for the Dedication of our new Church building. Sr. Claudia received the keys to our parish from Bishop Gossman during that ceremony.


In July, 2003, Sr. Claudia accepted another assignment to Infant of Prague Parish in Jacksonville, NC and Father Richard’s time with our parish had come to an end when Father Doug Smiley was assigned as the first Priest to be our Pastor. Even though he was with us a short time- Father Doug was a great inspiration to the Parish.

Father Doug was re-assigned in June of 2004 to Sacred Heart Cathedral in Raleigh and Father Mark J. Betti was assigned as our second Pastor. Fr. Betti is also very fluent in spanish as a second language ( along with several other languages) and is of great spiritual guidance to our parish. During the winter of 2005 our Parish was assigned an Associate Pastor, Fr. William Rodriguez. He has helped Fr. Mark with both the English and Spanish masses. In early 2006, Fr. William Rodriguez was re-assigned to Sacred Heart Cathedral in Raleigh. On July 10, 2007, Fr. Marco Antonio Gonzalez-Hernandez was appointed Parochial Vicar (Assistant Pastor).

We find ourselves, again, at or over full capacity during all weekend and holiday masses (as of January 2006 we have 862 registered families and approximately 700 Hispanic families) and during our faith formation classes ( currently 867 children), as do the majority of the parishes in the Diocese of Raleigh. What a welcome change from the “early” days. So we continue to find new solutions to encompass all the faithful who have chosen St. Bernadette’s Parish as their Church family. Our goal is to meet all the spiritual needs of parishioners who call our Parish their “spiritual home”. It takes the work of the entire Church community to make that happen. The latest count of registered families as of January 2008 is 1700.

Important Dates in St. Bernadette History

Feb - 1987 - 1st St. Bernadette’s Mass ( Trinity Episcopol Church - Fr. Todd)
April - 1987 - First Baptism ( Kellie Wieskamp )
June - 1987 - Myrtle Hopson donates 10 acres of land for first St. Bernadette’s building
September - 1987 - First CCD Classes ( Michelle Dexter)
April - 1988 - First mass of St. Bernadette Mission Church
June 16 - 1988 - First Bulletin Published by Margaret Beaver
1988 - Women’s Guild formed
1988 - Men’s Guild formed
August - 1988 - 1st Parish Council elections and meeting
October - 1988 – St. B’s first Fun Festival
September 17 - 1988 – First Holiday Bazzar
November - 1988 - First Thanksgiving food Baskets
December - 1988 – First Giving tree
February - 1989 - First Valentines Dance
March - 1989 - St. Bernadette’s Library established
June 12 - 1989 - First meeting of Building and Real Estate Commision
June - 1989 - Sister Elizabeth McNeil becomes Pastoral administrator
May 6 - 1989 – 1st First Holy Communion
May 13 - 1989- First Confirmation from Parish
July 1 - 1989 – Fr. Charles Mullholland becomes our parish Priest
September - 1989 - Construction begins on multi purpose building
December - 1989 - First Convert- Nada McNabb
February 3 - 1990 - Ground breaking ceremony for St. Bernadette’s Community Parish Center
June 24 - 1990 – First mass in St. B’s new building
July - 1990 Sr. Elizabeth takes formal possession of the Parish Center
July 29 - 1990 - First Parish Picnic
September 1990 – Migrant Ministry starts- Sister Kitty Bethea
September 16 - 1990 - Dedication Ceremony for the Parish Community Center
July 1991 - 1st vacation Bible school
July 1991 - The Raleigh Deanery Catholic Hispanic Ministry begins at St. Bernadette’s
1994 - Sister Claudia Bronsing becomes our Pastoral Administrator
September 8 - 1995 - Sunday masses go to 2 masses
December 7 - 1997 - Knights of Columbus Council #12119 is chartered by the Men's Guild of the Parish
1998 - Fr. Richard Doherty becomes our Parish Priest
April 2 - 2000 – Ground breaking ceremony for new Church
June 9 - 2001 - Church landscaping day
July 14 - 2001 - New Church Dedication
July 2003 - Fr. Doug Smiley becomes first Parish Pastor
July 2004 - Fr. Mark J. Betti becomes second Parish Pastor
January 2005 - Fr. William Rodriquez is assigned as St. Bernadette’s Parochial Vicar
July 10 - 2007 - Fr. Marco Antonio Gonzalez-Hernandez is appointed Parochial Vicar
July 2008 - Fr. Luis Angel Hurtado is appointed Parochial Vicar
August 2008 - Sr. Mary Margaret Filan, IHM is appointed Pastoral Minister
January 2009 - Fr. Robert Staley is assigned In Residence
February 2009 - Fr. Jim Dull assigned as Parochial Vicar
March 22 - 2009 - Ground breaking ceremony for the John Paul II Family Learning Center
April 2009 - Fr. Kamil Alchouefati is assigned In Residence
July 2009 - Fr. Robert Staley is assigned as Parochial Vicar
July 2009 - Fr. Francisco Javier Garcia-Gonzales is assigned as Parochial Vicar
May 2010 - Church expansion begins to double the size of the church
July 2010 - Fr. Fernando Torres becomes third Parish Pastor
December 4 - 2010 - Masses resume in our newly expanded 1200 seat church
September 2013 - Fr. Roch T. Drozdzik is assigned as Parochial Vicar
May 2014 - Dcn. Tomás Rafael Jiménez has been appointed to serve in our parish.
June 2014 - Fr. Gregory A. Anatuanya is assigned as Parochial Vicar

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