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To the Memory of Saint Monica’s Church

A historical marker for the former Saint Monica’s Church was dedicated on Aug. 27 on Arctic Avenue between North Carolina and Mansion avenues in Atlantic City.

The Knights of Saint John Commandery 287, founded in Atlantic City in 1919, salute the historic plaque unveiled to remember the former Saint Monica Church. Photos by Jim McBride

Saint Monica’s Church was built at 108 N. Pennsylvania Ave. in 1949 as the culmination of the work of Emma Lewis to serve Catholics of African descent in the Atlantic City area. Affectionately known as Mother Lewis, she was an African-American convert to Catholicism who came to Atlantic City in the first years of the 20th century.

Father Jon Thomas, pastor of the Parish of Saint Monica, Atlantic City, speaks at the plaque dedication for the former Saint Monica Church on Aug. 27.

The church is therefore historically significant for two reasons: a Catholic congregation established more than 100 years ago by a black laywoman to serve black Catholics.

The last Mass was celebrated in the church in September 2016. Although the church building has been sold to the Friends of Jean Webster, who plan to re-purpose it, the mission to serve black Catholics continues in the new citywide Catholic parish bearing the same name.

The brief dedication ceremony included remarks by civic and parish officials, the unveiling of the historical plaque, and concluded with prayer and song. The plaque is located near the sidewalk on the bayside of Arctic Avenue, between North Carolina and Mansion avenues.

The marker, under the heading “To the Memory of Saint Monica’s Church,” reads in part: “Despite facing bigotry from other Catholics, our Black ancestors persevered and shared with us the Catholic faith. Their dedication built the first and only Black Catholic Church on Absecon Island. In honor of their great faith, the Black Catholic Ministry of the new citywide Parish of Saint Monica dedicates this memorial. Saint Monica, pray for us.”

The Parish of Saint Monica serves all Atlantic City. It is the union of the city’s previously independent five Roman Catholic churches: Saint Nicholas of Tolentine, Our Lady Star of the Sea, Saint Michael, Holy Spirit, and (Old) Saint Monica.

To learn more, go to: http://accatholic.org/