Over 100 years ago, the faith of Sophie Courtney, an Irish Catholic lass, changed the course of the Catholic Church in rural Alabama. In 1905, Sophie, a stenographer and cashier, moved from Montgomery to Clanton. On Sundays, she returned to Montgomery for Mass and the sacraments. In 1913, Sophie married Hugh Jones, and the newlyweds invited Father O'Conner from Montgomery to celebrate Mass in their home. This was the first known Mass in Chilton County. Though small in numbers, the Catholic community grew as other Catholic families, like the Leary's who arrived in Thorsby in 1912, moved into the area. The Jones family and the family of Claude and Eleanor Craig would alternately host Mass for the area's faithful.
In time, Father Cazalas was sent to Montgomery to serve as a missionary for the Southern missions and offered to come to Clanton on the first Fridays of each month. Through his efforts the small Catholic congregation grew. During this time, Celeste Parr, her husband, and her son Harold, moved to Clanton. Harold, our first altar server, is now our parishioner of longest standing.
During the 1930's and 1940's several priests would take turns saying Mass in Clanton. Among them were Father O'Conner, Father Dan Kelly, Father Cazalas, and Father Frank Wade, who would celebrate Mass many times for us over the years. During this time, the Resurrectionist priests in Montgomery were serving the school and the Monastery in Marbury, and they let it be known they would like to also serve Chilton County. Bishop Toolen gladly took them up on their offer. A former dance studio was rented and the facility was used for Mass on Sundays. The first Mass in this facility was celebrated on Easter Sunday in 1943, with Harold Parr as altar server. Harold served 9 more years until 1952 when he left to serve his country in the Army.
In 1959, Father Joseph Furmanek, a Resurrectionist priest from the Marbury Monastery, was appointed pastor. In June 1961, Father Joe asked for and received permission to purchase the Assembly of God church on First Avenue, our current location. The building was completely renovated, with Father Joe doing most of the work himself. The first Mass in this building was celebrated on Palm Sunday, April 15, 1962. The church was named "Resurrection Catholic Church" in honor of the Resurrectionist order and this Mass. The church continued to flourish under Father Joe's leadership. The Clecklers, Scotts, Haydens and Crocketts could all be found working around the new church on Saturdays, preparing it for Sunday service. This was truly their first church.
In 1969, the Diocese of Birmingham was established and Resurrection Church became part of the new diocese, although it continued to be served by the Resurrectionist Fathers in the Mobile Diocese. When in 1984 Father Joe was recalled because of his health, the Bishop sent a letter announcing that the church would be closed. The parishioners stated their objections via a letter writing campaign, but to no avail. However, Clyde Crockett would not take no for an answer. He visited the Bishop's office every afternoon after work. Gradually through Clyde's persistence, the battle to keep the church open was won. In October of 1984, Father MacPaul Abraham and Father Ted Hill were appointed administrators.
In July, 1985, Father Philip O'Kennedy was appointed pastor of St. Thomas the Apostle Church in Montevallo and, with Father Hill's recommendation, Bishop Vath assigned Father O'Kennedy to the role of pastor of Resurrection. With Father Phil's hard work and guidance, the congregation grew. The "after Mass donuts" in the church led to expansion. Land and the house adjacent to the church was acquired, and a fellowship hall, with classrooms, office and kitchen was planned. A building committee was appointed, consisting of Harold Lewis, Walter Hayden, Sr., Wyona Crockett, Susan Hilyer and Ron Morrison. The Parish hall was completed in the fall of 1987, and rapidly paid off, thanks to the generosity of parishioners and Catholics across the diocese.
In the next project was renovation of the church building. Hands on participation - stripping and refinishing the pews - fell to the parishioners, with help from the Knights of Columbus in Montevallo. In 1987, Sister Deborah Kennedy RSM joined the parish as Pastoral Assistant, residing in the renovated house and assuming the duties of running the parish. The first Parish Council was formed in February 1989, and consisted of Jim McLaughlin, Clyde Crockett, Walter Hayden, Jr., Ellie Gore and Dee Dee Edwards. The first finance committee members were Harold Lewis, Wyona Crockett, Ron Morrison, and Jack Nelson.
Sister Deborah remained in Clanton until August of 1991 when she was assigned to Campus Ministry in Montevallo. At this time, Tom and Liz Germanson assumed the position of administrators.
In July 1993, with a sad farewell to Father Phil, who was assigned to Good Shepherd in Huntsville, the parish next welcomed Sister Veronica Ryan OSB as new administrator. By this time, the Hispanic community was growing and more classrooms were needed. Under Sister Veronica's leadership, the corner house across the street was purchased for classrooms, and once again, parishioners went to work and renovated the building. To prepare for the future of our growing church community, 38 acres of land were purchased on Popular Springs Road.
1999 saw more changes. Sister Veronica was called to become the Prioress of Sacred Heart Convent, and Sister Maria Dena Puddu MC was assigned as Parish Administrator. With the Hispanic community growing by leaps and bounds, once again additional room was required. The house directly behind the church was purchased for this purpose. Sister Maria worked tirelessly with the Hispanic community, and also started the first adult bible study program which continues to this day.
In July of 2008, Father Bruce Bumbarger was assigned to Resurrection Church. He is the first pastor in residence and his Spanish speaking abilities are a welcome gift with our burgeoning Hispanic population. Our current Mass schedule includes one English and two Spanish Masses. The house across the street was swapped for an adjacent property to eliminate the need for our children to cross the street. Another house was also purchased on 2nd Avenue to be used as the rectory.
Father Bruce took on the current building project to create more classrooms, enlarging the fellowship hall and renovating the church. The classroom building, the parish hall and the church are now all interconnected. The enclosure includes a new gathering space, classrooms, lavatories, kitchen, vestry, storage space and a cry room - all welcome additions.
Over the past century, Resurrection Catholic Church, with its many leaders and parishioners, has seen an abundance of blessings, changes, and growth. As this brief history recalls, it becomes evident that the Good Lord has his plan in progress in Clanton. How generous are His blessings! How wise His ways! He is our God and we are His People, ever thankful for the faith of those who have traveled before us.