Salvatorian parish and school receive award
Honored for the role it played in the historical integration of Holy Family School in 1963, our Salvatorian-led parish of St. Joseph Church and Holy Family School in Huntsville, AL received "Catalyst for Change" awards on December 8. In recognition of Rosa Parks, who at the beginning of the civil rights movement was a catalyst for change, Fr. Joe Lubrano SDS, Pastor, accepted the award on behalf of St Joseph parish for its openness to integration. Principal Billy Roy received for Holy Family School, for education.
It all began when a Salvatorian priest was assigned to Huntsville in 1950 to establish an all-black mission; St. Joseph's Church was born. By September 1952, records indicate that approximately 18 black parishioners attended the first Mass. By May 1953, the first wedding took place, and in the mid-'50s, the first children and adults were baptized. Holy Family School opened in 1956 as an all-black mission with 61 students. By 1963 it quietly became integrated as the first white students entered the classrooms, despite high racial tensions throughout Alabama at the time.
"On the morning of St. Joseph's integration, when a dozen white grade school students began taking classes alongside their 100
African-American classmates, there was no fanfare, there were no photographers or reporters present to record this "history in the making" moment. It just happened – quietly and calmly," wrote Mike Marshall, in an article for the Huntsville Times newspaper on September 3, 2003. “Fr. Mark Sterbenz SDS, the pastor, said, 'All we're doing is teaching religion ... to whites, to blacks, to anybody who comes. It's living the gospel, plain and simple.'”
"Many black students said the significance of that day eluded them because they had seen white priests and nuns at the school since its foundation in 1956. Many whites say they were unmoved by St. Joseph's integration because their parents had taught them tolerance in a time when there was little in Alabama."
"St. Joseph's School - Now Holy Family - Became Integrated Early, Quietly" by Mike Marshall / Huntsville Times / September
FIFTY YEARS AGO – 1963 "THE QUIET INTEGRATION IN HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA / Salvatorian Archives