Our Lady of Perpetual Help was formed in 1937, the second parish to be created in Chattanooga and the daughter parish of Sts. Peter and Paul. About 100 families living east of Missionary Ridge formed the initial congregation. The first pastor was Father J. Harold Shea, a Knoxville native and brother to Francis Shea, who was ordained the bishop of Evansville, Indiana in 1970.
The parish’s name was chosen in thanksgiving after Father Shea recovered from an illness.The church was built on about 40 acres of land – the former Anderson Farm – on South Moore Road in East Ridge. The community’s Masses were celebrated at Brainerd Junior High School until the church was completed in September 1938.Our Lady of Perpetual Help School was also launched in 1937 after Bishop William L. Adrian of Nashville invited the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Dubuque, Iowa, to Chattanooga. Four sisters answered the call, teaching kindergartners through eighth-graders in the eight-room Anderson farmhouse.
The first principal was Sister Mary Emanuela, and 60 children were enrolled that first school year.In 1946, after the parish paid off its property and building costs, plans were made for a new brick school and convent. The buildings were completed in September 1948. Inscribed on the school’s cornerstone is the Latin text “Per ipsum et in ipso,” which means “For from him and through him and in him are all things.” The construction site was blessed by Bishop Adrian in January 1948.OLPH School’s Stagmaier Gym, named after benefactor John Stagmaier, was constructed in 1953 to accommodate athletic events and Scouting activities. In December 1948 Father Shea was transferred to Memphis, and Father Walter Bush became pastor, serving until 1962. In 1956 the parish conducted a $200,000 fundraising campaign and built a covered passageway connecting the church and school.The campaign also made possible an enlargement and remodeling of the front of the church and the conversion of three tall Gothic windows into one large rose window. A balcony to seat 250 was added to the church and space reserved for an electric organ. Four rooms were added to the south end of the school, the cafeteria was doubled in size, and a football field and stadium were built. In 1960, as the Catholic population in the area grew, OLPH was divided to establish St. Stephen Parish.When Father Bush was moved to an assignment in Memphis in 1962, Father James D. Niedergeses – who in 1975 would become bishop of Nashville – was named pastor of OLPH.
Father Niedergeses, known for his ecumenical work and community concern, was made monsignor while serving at the Chattanooga parish. In 1973 Monsignor Niedergeses was transferred to Sts. Peter and Paul. He was succeeded by Father Albert Siener that year and Father Vincent Hines in 1974. A Chattanooga family, the Sieners gave four priests to the Diocese of Nashville (which included Knoxville until September 1988). OLPH’s Father Albert Siener was the nephew of Monsignor Albert Siener of the cathedral parish in Nashville.Father Hines served the parish until 1983 and was followed by Father Joseph Brando.By 1983 the church community had grown to about 1,000 families, and a parish life center was built. A third school building was added in 1987, with space to house a computer lab, a library, and four classrooms.
In 1986 Father Brando took an assignment at St. Patrick Parish in Morristown, and Father Al Humbrecht, later elevated to monsignor under Bishop Richard F. Stika, became pastor of OLPH. During Father Humbrecht’s 10-year tenure, the parish paid off its building debts. Father Humbrecht was actively involved in campus ministry at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and on 1992 he oversaw the start of the community’s Hispanic ministry program. Father Mike Nolan was pastor from 1997 to 2009. During his tenure the parish raised more than $1.2 million for various capital projects: the renovation of classroom space in Madonna Hall, the replacement of the athletic field seating and gathering area, and the construction of Holy Family Hall – an addition to the church building. The hall was dedicated in June 2008 and is used for gatherings before Masses as well as weddings, funerals, school events, Bible studies, and religious education .In 2009 Father Nolan was assigned to St. Dominic in Kingsport. He was succeeded by Father James Vick. OLPH celebrated the 75th anniversary of both the church community and school in October 2012. The parish is now home to about 970 families.
501 South Moore Road Chattanooga, TN 37412 (423) 622-7232