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St. James the Less

Deanery: Savannah
Mass Times: Saturday Vigil: 5:00 PM | Sunday: 7:30 AM, 9:00 AM, 11:30 AM
Year Established: 1956

Phone: 912-355-1523

8412 Whitefield Avenue
Savannah, GA
County: Chatham

The roots of St. James go back to 1874. The Savannah Morning Newsreported “the arrival of Benedictine Monks who would erect a school on a tract of land on Skidaway Island for the education of colored members,” (Priest Landing), and on the Isle of Hope a novitate and chapel (Our Lady of Good Hope Chapel) were established on land donated by Doctor Stephen Dupon. Yellow fever took the lives of all but one of the monks nine months later.

The Benedictine Fathers returned in 1877 to Our Lady of Good Hope Chapel, and served the community until 1888. The monks returned again in 1908 to the chapel, and staffed it until the early 1970′s when diocesan priests assumed responsibility. The chapel was renovated on its 100th Anniversary by the parishioners, and is used for special occasions.

Due to the post-war growth of the City of Savannah, Father Terrence Kiernan, OSB, a teacher at Benedictine High School and priest in charge of Our Lady of Good Hope Chapel recognized the need for a church closer to newly developing suburbs. Thus in 1949 the Diocese of Savannah-Atlanta purchased the land with a legacy left by Father Louis Rice of Philadelphia. Father Terrence blessed it on July 25.

A surplus Air Force chapel was moved to the site and the first Mass at the Mission Chapel of Saint James the Less was celebrated on Christmas Day in 1949. The chapel was razed in 1989 to clear the land for building the present church.

Saint James was officially established as a parish on August 15, 1956 and Fr. John Toomey became the first pastor. In the succeeding decades many pastors have served the Saint James parish and have moved on to assume other important duties in the diocese. The chapel at Isle of Hope was designated a mission of Saint James. This historic chapel is now used for Mass on the first Sunday of each month.

Families mean children, and Sunday School classes were taught by the Saint Joseph Sisters from Sacred Heart beginning in 1951. In September, 1956, a school and convent were built, staffed by the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters under Mother Marie Antoinette, with an enrollment of 215 students. In June of the same year Father John D. Toomey was appointed the first pastor, and the parish of Saint James was officially established on August 15, 1956, the Feast of Assumption.

In that same month and year, a dream became a reality. Saint James Catholic School opened as four sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, arrived and began their pioneering efforts in Savannah. Dedication of the school and convent took place in January 1957.

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