Holy Trinity History

Slavery, Segregation, and Race in Our Parish

We invite Holy Trinity parishioners and others to learn more about the role of slavery, segregation, and race in Holy Trinity’s history. We hope that, in throwing more light on our parish’s past, our work will open doors to reflecting on that past and on its implications for our present, and inspire our daily interactions with others. Members of our group include: Peter Albert, Marilyn Butler, Bernard Cook, Brian Flanagan, Peter Higgins, Ashley Klick, Paul Maco, Mary Moran, Suzanne Noonan, Duane Nystrom, and Linda Nystrom.

Initially, we will post our work in the form of articles, vignettes, brief biographies of early parishioners and clergy, and events and episodes in their lives. Over time, our efforts may expand to include audio and video interviews, oral histories, and discussions.

We begin our effort, as the Archdiocese of Washington celebrates National Catholic Black History Month, with a series of short articles on a painful story from our past – the exodus of Holy Trinity's African American members from the parish in 1923, their creation of the parish at Epiphany Roman Catholic Church, and the reconciliation service held for members of the Epiphany and Holy Trinity communities in 1994.

The Founding of Epiphany Roman Catholic Church (1923-25) and Holy Trinity’s Reconciliation Service with Epiphany Parishioners (1994)

Holy Name Society, Holy Trinity Church, Washington, D.C., April, 1922

A 1960 Account of the Founding of Epiphany Roman Catholic Church by Gertrude Turner Waters

First Choir at Epiphany Catholic Church, 1925.
Photographic copy courtesy of Cynthia Jackson for Black Georgetown Remembered, Georgetown University Library. 

 

Epiphany Catholic Church, Dedication of the Church Bell, 1927.
Photographic copy courtesy of Cynthia Jackson for Black Georgetown Remembered, Georgetown University Library. 

A 1994 Account from Holy Trinity News of Holy Trinity’s Reconciliation Service with Epiphany Parishioners

May Procession at Epiphany Catholic Church, about 1945. Included in the procession were the Knights of Saint John in regalia, and the Banner of the Ladies' Sodality.
Photographic copy courtesy of Cynthia Jackson for Black Georgetown Remembered, Georgetown University Library. 

The Butler Sisters

This book kept a record of deaths of Holy Trinity parishioners from 1818 to 1867. On page 10 (bottom left), Lucy Butler's death is recorded on November 25, 1821 as "Butler Lucy, a colored woman who died the 25th". On page 57 (bottom right), Liddy Butler's death is recorded on January 28, 1834 as "Lidia Butler, a free colored woman, age 80" and also notes that her burial was "gratis" (free).

Holy Trinity Parish and Race: An Overview, Pt. I

Holy Trinity Catholic Church

Holy Trinity Parish and Race: An Overview, Pt. II

View from the south tower of Healy Hall at Georgetown University, looking towards Washington, D.C., with the Washington monument in the distance. Courtesy of Georgetown University Archives / DigitalGeorgetown.

Extracts from the Journal of Fr. John McElroy, S.J.

Parishioner Peter Albert details what we know of Holy Trinity's treatment of enslaved African Americans in the 19th century through diary entries of Holy Trinity assistant pastor and Georgetown procurator Fr. John McElroy, S.J. His papers reveal how commonplace it was to buy and sell enslaved individuals, with each transaction duly set down in the records of the procurator’s office at Georgetown.