1949 - 1951
In 1949, Father Anthony Keil, SSJ, pastor of Our Mother of Mercy church in Houston, decided to purchase 12 lots of land in the Fidelity area for $2,400. His concern for a Catholic church in the area was prompted by several visits from people in the Clinton Park community. Their concern was that the growing Catholic community in Fidelity, Galena Manor, and Clinton Park could not attend mass at Our Mother of Mercy due to lack of transportation, public as well as private. His prayer was that someday a place would become available close enough.
In January 1950, the Clinton Park Theater was abandoned. An average of 150 Catholics attended the first Mass in this building. AS the mission family grew, the communities of Pleasantville, Galena Manor, and Clinton Park joined the three original communities. Prior to that time, most of the Pleasantville community was attending mass at Our Mother of Mercy or St. Nicholas. Father Cornelius Sullivan celebrated the first mass in the “Clinton Park Theater”. For two years, faithful parishioners participated in the mass in the abandoned theater once a month.
With the help of monetary, physical and spiritual contributions from residents of the six communities, a small temporary mission building was constructed. The chapel was named Our Lady Star of the Sea. The name seemed appropriate since so many of the parishioners were seamen, longshoremen, and dockworkers employed by the Port of Houston.
1952 - 1958
On January 13, 1952, the mission dedicated its first permanent church. There were approximately 140 families registered with 150 children enrolled in the catechism classes, which were initially taught outdoors. The initial First Communion celebration was held in 1953. Ministries and programs were established to raise spiritual awareness and several fundraisers were hosted to raise money in order to continue the expansion of the physical building. In 1954, a hall was built adjacent to the church. This made way for catechism classes to be held indoors.
In August 1957, Our Lady Star of the Sea received full parish status with Father Joseph Lally, SSJ serving as Pastor. The first baptism celebrated in the church was on July 15, 1957. In March 1958, plans were approved for a rectory to be built. With the continued growth of the parish, it became necessary to divide the Catechism classes. Some were held in the hall and some in the church.
Various organizations were established early in the history of the parish. The Holy Name Society, the Blessed Virgin Sodality, and ushers were all open to adults who wanted to participate in the spiritual and temporal life of the parish. In 1957, the Knights of Peter Claver, Council #139 was organized. In 1960, the Ladies Auxiliary, Court #139 was formed. In later years, the Junior Knights and Daughters were formed to give young people many opportunities through the faith.
1959 - 1968
The parish has been blessed with the services of many Josephite priests. Each one came with a multitude of talents and contributed to the continued growth of Our Lady Star of the Sea. The most significant characteristic of the parish has been the influence and cooperation of the assigned priests and the laity, dating back to the cooperation of Father Sullivan in the construction of the church from 1958-1961. Father Joseph Lally, SSJ and Father Robert Sweeney, SSJ served as Pastor and Administrator from 1961-1962. In 1962-1968, Father Francis Fallon, SSJ served as Pastor.
In August 1968, Father Joseph Murphy, SSJ was assigned to the parish. His concern for classroom space for the CCD classes, now called CCE prompted the need for a larger hall. The number of students increased to a total of approx. 165 students. Education has always been an important entity of Our Lady Star of the Sea and it was through the volunteer of 24 teachers opening their homes that the program was able to continue during the renovation of the hall. CCD classes were dispersed into 24 homes between Pleasantville, Galena Manor, and Clinton Park on Mondays for Elementary children and Tuesdays for Middle and High school.
1969 - 1977
In 1971, the small hall was remodeled and expanded to triple in size better accommodating the religious program. The number of kids increased after that renovation resulting in the need to have two days of CCD sessions; one on Saturdays after the 4 pm mass for the elementary students and another after the 10:30 mass on Sundays for the Middle and High school students.
In 1976, Father John Harfman, SSJ was assigned to the parish. During his one-year term, he was instrumental in promoting youth activities, involving himself, as well as the children and parents. Huge Halloween events were held in the hall whereby kids designed and participated in haunted houses. Father Harfman would be on his hands and knees painting etc. He was the priest who initiated the involvement of women as lectors.
In 1977, Father Francis Hull SSJ was assigned as pastor. The original hall was renovated and a new metal addition that could be divided into seven bays was added. The entire building, as a unit, was dedicated on October 1, 1977, as the St. Charles Lwanga Center. Under his direction, the church underwent a complete renovation. Some of the major renovations involved removing the upstairs balcony which was used for the choir and additional seating, carpet installed in the church and the addition of the cry room. Mass was held in the hall for several months.
1978 - 1987
In 1981-1985, Father John McBreaty SSJ was assigned pastor and renovations of the church continued with a new ceiling, air conditioning units and completion of the sanctuary. Father McBreaty also mandated that all baptisms be held on Sundays during mass.
Our Lady Star of the Sea continued to be blessed with wonderful Josephite priests who continued to provide services and use of their talents. From 1985-1987, Father John Carroll, SSJ was assigned, pastor. However, due to an extended illness had to separate from the parish.
In September 1987, Father Rawlin Enette, SSJ, the first African American Priest, was assigned to the Parish. Father Enette was a firm believer that the interior of the church needed to reflect the nature that God created spiritually and physically. He believed in fresh flowers on the altar weekly and not just a few. He believed in the gospel music and made sure that the African American Hymnal was part of the liturgy.
1988 - 1992
From the beginning, Our Lady Star of the Sea Parish family never missed an opportunity to help make the worship facilities and its surroundings more pleasant. Many have worked and continue to work with activities and fundraisers such as the annual bazaar, Zydeco dances, Soul Food Day, fish fry’s, crawfish boils, etc. Without the help of such a devoted group, many financial challenges could not have been met.
In September 1992, Father Louis R. Saparito, SSJ was assigned to the parish. Three-weekend masses continued to be celebrated, one on Saturdays and two on Sundays. A youth choir was established and performed on Sundays at the 10:30 Mass. Mrs. Anita Celestino became the cantor for the 5 pm. Saturday Mass and 8:30 Mass. She along with her daughters and son Michael who played the organ were instrumental in providing music to enhance the liturgy. Ms. Celestino has since passed away, but her son Joseph took Michael’s place and continues to be an important entity to our music ministry. During Father Saparito’ s tenure at Our Lady Star of the Sea, a new addition to the parish grounds “the Shack in the Back” was established. It was the hangout after services for parishioners to gather and fellowship, eating hamburgers, fries, that was prepared by some of our great cooks.
1993 - 2005
In October 2002, Father John O’Rourke, SSJ was assigned to the parish. His stay was short-lived as he passed away unexpectedly in the rectory. Between 2003-2005, Our Lady Star of the Sea was assigned, different associate pastors.
Finally, in 2005, Father Chuck Andrus, SSJ the second African American priest to be assigned to Our Lady Star of the Sea. He informed the pastoral council two months after arriving that he was summoned to the task of area ministry whereby he would be the pastor assigned to Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church and Our Lady Star of the Sea. The task of handling two parishes led to the decision of removing the 5:00 pm Saturday mass at Our Lady Star of the Sea.
2006 - 2012
Throughout the years between 2005 and 2012, Our Lady Star of the Sea has stood its ground as an independent parish. Throughout those years, many parishioners left, but those dedicated parishioners who have remained have worked hard to make the worship facilities and their surroundings pleasant. Many Josephite priests and associate priests from the Missionary of St. Paul were assigned over the years; Fr. Roger Caesar, SSJ; Fr. Fredrick Isek, MSP; Fr. Anthony Bozeman, SSJ; Fr. Romanus Ezeugwu, MSP; Fr. Oswald Pierre-Jules, SSJ, Fr. George Okeahialam, MSP; Fr. Lowell Case, SSJ; Fr. Brian Fox, SSJ; Fr. Francis Asomkase, SSJ; and Fr. Kenneth Uwgu, SSJ.
2012 - 2017
On August 1, 2012, Father Rodney J. Armstrong, SSJ was assigned to Our Lady Star of the Sea. It had been nearly ten years since the church has been assigned its own pastor. Many prayers have been answered and we thank God for the history and future as Our Lady Star of the Sea continues to grow and succeed under the spiritual guidance of Fr. Armstrong.
On August 26, 2017, Storm Harvey impacted the Houston area and its surrounding counties. Our Lady Star of the Sea experienced severe damage to the church rectory whereby Father Armstrong had to relocate living quarters. The church and hall experienced damage as well, but not to the point that Mass could not continue. Many parishioners worked tirelessly to inventory and group damaged goods to report to the Diocese Disaster Relief Administration. In the meantime, it was communicated that a new pastor was being assigned to the parish effective September 1, 2017, and Father Armstrong was being assigned to Our Mother of Mercy Catholic Church, Houston.
On Sunday, October 1, 2017, Father Stephen Sohe, SSJ, an energized, confident young priest from Mobile, Alabama celebrated his first mass at Our Lady Star of the Sea. He spoke of his disappointment of having to be assigned to a parish with no living quarters on the premises, having to travel to and from St. Francis of Xavier located in Southeast Houston. He spoke of his cries to God asking him to give him the physical, emotional, and spiritual strength to move forward with leading this new flock. He made it clear, that he was not complaining, but just explaining.
There is a saying “if you want to make God laugh, just tell him your plans”. As the congregation grew complacent with having mass in the church with some minimal damage in hopes for repairs of the sheetrock and some flooring, another disaster was experienced. On Sunday, January 28, 2017, around 3 pm, after a beautiful Confirmation ceremony with Bishop Schultz as the celebrant, it was communicated by neighbors nearby that Our Lady Star of the Sea was on fire. News traveled fast as parishioners gathered in disbelief, sadness as the HFD continued to put the fire out. Father Sohe sadden and in disbelief. However, he did not hesitate to begin executing plans to move services to the hall. He also began to work with parishioners by assigning many to a task force to keep parishioners updated on the status of renovations and working with a few to meet with officials Chancery with regards to how finances could be retrieved to begin reconstruction.