Saint Joseph Alexandria


Founding Pastor: Fr. Joseph J. Kelly, SSJ
Parish Founded: 1915
Church Dedication: 1916

What Makes This Parish Unique?

Saint Joseph is an historically black Catholic parish that maintains its black identity and African American liturgical style and is open to all people of any racial group or nationality. Since Saint Joseph's founding, it has been a welcoming and warm community of faith that treasures its Catholic and African American traditions.

School Information:

Saint Joseph School (Closed in 1969)
Founded: October of 1916
Founding Pastor:  Fr. Joseph J. Kelly, SSJ

Parish History:

Because of racial discrimination at Saint Mary Catholic Church in Alexandria, black Catholics petitioned the Diocese of Richmond for their own parish. The bishop granted their request, but they had to raise the money to purchase the property and build the church. Bake sales, dinners and dances provided some money, but not enough, from the already impoverished black community, so parishioners solicited funds from the Indian and Negro Mission Collection Fund, which helped with some money, and from the Blessed Sacrament Sisters' founder, Mother Katharine Drexel, and donors from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who provided the most money. Mother Katharine's signature appears on the deed to the land. Up to the founding of this new parish, Josephite Fr. Charles F. Hannigan traveled when possible from Richmond to Alexandria to minister to and teach catechism to the black Catholics who assembled at Saint Mary's Lyceum building. Mr. Thomas Blair, a sexton at Saint Mary, organized the black Catholics in 1913 to petition for their own parish. No sooner was the church opened than a school was started in the church basement in October 1916, staffed by the Oblate Sisters of Providence of Baltimore, who would commute by bus everyday from Good Shepherd Parish in Washington. The permanent four-classroom school was built in 1931. The first pastor, Father Kelly SSJ, lived in the work-sacristy of the church until the present rectory was built in 1921. Since its founding, Saint Joseph has welcomed all people, regardless of race or nationality, and has maintained its African American style of liturgical expression and a warm friendly embrace of all. The Josephite Priests and Brothers founded the parish and have served it ever since.

Saint Joseph has no parish cemetery, but some members' relatives are buried in the Alexandria's Contrabands and Freedmen's Cemetery.

To learn more about Saint Joseph Catholic Church, visit