A Brief History of St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church

Original Church and School for St. Martin de Porres

On December 15, 1935, the present day St. Martin de Porres Catholic Church was formed officially when the Most Reverend Emmet Walsh, Bishop of Charleston celebrated the dedication Mass. The original church was founded as Blessed Martin de Porres Mission for Colored Catholics. This church building on the corner of Hampton and Oak Streets in the Historic Waverly Community of Columbia, South Carolina, was a large white three-story Antebellum house. This house was converted into a church, parish school, and rectory. There were also activity rooms in the basement.

The Blessed Martin de Porres Mission was founded upon the request of African American Catholics in Columbia, SC. Bishop Walsh contacted the Dominican Friars in New York to see if they would be willing to minister to this newly formed mission. They responded by sending Father Thomas Weiland, OP as the first priest. Not long after the dedication of the church the parish school was established in 1936.

St. Martin de Porres in 1967

Many priests followed after Fr. Weiland, but it was in 1953 when Fr. O.T. Carl, OP, arrived that a building boom truly began. Fr. Carl built a new church, convent, and under his leadership, a new school building opened its doors on September 13, 1954. On April 20, 2007 Bishop Robert Baker dedicated the new St. Martin de Porres Church, which was built under the leadership of Fr. Paul Williams, OFM. Fr. Paul also purchased a new rectory for the priests to live. The church has plans for the construction of a new parish school in the near future.

In 1997, the Dominican friars left the parish with Fr. Bruce Schultz, OP who was the last of a long line of those noble priests and brothers. Currently the church is a diocesan parish. For the past seven years, the parish has been under the spiritual leadership of the Franciscans of the Order of Friars Minor from Holy Name Province out of New York City. The parish had been blessed with permanent deacons such as Roland Thomas, Albert Freeman, James Hardy, and Wilbur Coleman all of whom have passed on. On May 19, 2007 Deacon Carl Johnson was ordained, and is currently serving with Br. Henry Fulmer, OFM as parish deacons.

Some of the organizations within the parish include the Parish Pastoral Council, Legion of Mary, Rosary Altar Society, Knights and Ladies of Peter Claver, Knights of Columbus, Youth Group, Religious Education teachers, Ministers of Holy Communion, Mass Lectors, Choir Members, Ushers, Maintenance and Grounds Volunteers, Soup and Sandwich Volunteers, and various other social and administrative committees.

Our Parish was named in honor of a Dominican lay-brother named Martin de Porres from Lima, Peru. Br. Martin was the son of an African slave mother and a white father from Spain. Although Br. Martin could have chosen a wealthy man's life, instead, he chose a humble life of caring for others. We at St. Martin de Porres Church are trying to live in accordance to his legacy by welcoming all people, regardless of race or economic status.