About Our Parish
Parish Mission Statement
St. Philip Benizi Catholic Church is dedicated to continuing the mission of Jesus Christ in the Franciscan tradition. We are people of many nations united by God's Holy Spirit, who strive to be witnesses of God's love to all people. Answering the call to Stewardship, we embrace the gifts of the Spirit and express the presence of God in liturgy, prayer, community life and social justice ministry. Through a commitment to lay leadership we accept the responsibility of spreading the Good News and creating a welcoming parish filled with the presence of Christ.
About St. Philip Benizi
Philip Benizi was born of a noble family in Florence, Italy on August 15, 1233. He studied medicine in Paris and Padua, where he received a doctorate in medicine and philosophy at the age of nineteen. After a year of practicing medicine in Florence, he joined the Servites at Monte Senario near Florence in 1254, was sent to the Servite House in Siena in 1258, and was ordained there. He became known for his preaching, served as a master of novices in Siena in 1262, was superior of several friaries, and in 1267, despite his protests, was elected prior general.
He codified the rules of the Order and began to have miracles attributed to him. In 1268, when Cardinal Ottobuoni proposed his name as a papal candidate on the death of Pope Clement IV, Philip fled and hid in a cave until a new Pope was elected. He attended the General Council of Lyons in 1274 and helped to reconcile the Guelphs and the Ghibellines in 1279, becoming famous for his ability to mediate between opposing factions and act as a peacemaker.
Philip possessed a deep love of Mary and the crucified Christ and was known for his kindness and concern for the poor, his unique humility and strong zeal for the work of the Kingdom of God.
He attracted many converts to the Church, and reconciled many others. He helped St. Juliana establish a Servite Third Order in 1284 and sent the first Servite missionaries to the Far East. In declining health, he resigned the generalship at a general chapter in 1285, naming his close confidant a longtime friend, Lottaringo Stufa, his successor, and retired to an impoverished Servite House at Todi, where he died on August 22, 1285. He was canonized on August 23, 1671.
In 1957, Father George Daly of St. John the Evangelist Church in Hapeville, Georgia began the campaign to establish a Catholic parish in Clayton County. He was given permission by Atlanta Bishop Francis E. Hyland to begin the process. In 1965, the Hutcheson brothers offered their old drugstore building, located on South Main Street in Jonesboro, to be used as a site for St. Philip Benizi Mission Church. There, on September 12, 1965, Father Daniel J. O'Connor celebrated the first Mass on South Main Street.
It was soon evident that a larger facility was needed to accommodate the overflow of people. A committee was formed to search for a suitable site for a new church, and, in September of 1966, the building committee purchased 23.0 acres of land on Flint River Road. Construction on the building began in January of 1967, and was completed on April 30, 1967. This building, which served as the first church, is now our Parish Hall. The new building was blessed in the Fall of 1967 by Archbishop Paul J. Hallinan.
Membership grew from the original 35 chartered families to 150 families and on June 3, 1967, St. Philip Benizi Mission officially became a parish. The growth of the Catholic community in the Jonesboro area - from its organization in 1965 through the completion of the new sanctuary and for the following two years - was mainly due to the ability and leadership of Fr. Dan O'Connor. He was installed as the first Pastor on July 8, 1967, and moved into the new Rectory (now known as the Friary). Fr. Dan's appealing leadership qualities led many to make a new commitment to the Lord by way of Catholicism. His persistence enabled him to push through a building program that was unique in its day.
In the summer of 1969, Fr. Joseph Beltran was appointed the first full-time Pastor. During his pastorate, the Parish Center, composed of a Fellowship Hall and ten classrooms, was built. Fr. Alan Dillman followed as the next Pastor in June of 1971 and was responsible for initiating the use of special (lay) ministers of the Eucharist and the publishing of the monthly parish newsletter, the Be-News-Zi. Fr. Dillman also organized the first Parish Festival.
In June of 1975, Fr. John C. Kieran assumed pastoral leadership here and, under his pastorate, St. Philip's was renovated and re-dedicated in 1979. The extensive renovations included rebuilding the entire sanctuary of the church, installing new furnishings and adding a public address system. A special re-dedication Mass was celebrated by Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan in April of 1979.
Fr. James Kelly was appointed Pastor in June 1984 and began the plans for a new church building. Also at this time, Fr. Jorge Cristancho, Parochial Vicar, began the ministry to the growing Hispanic community at St. Philip's.
Fr. Frank Giusta was appointed Pastor in February 1986 and continued the building program for a new church. The church, along with the Parish Hall, Office, and Religious Education renovations were completed and blessed on March 19, 1988.
On May 25, 1991, the Most Reverend James P. Lyke, OFM, then Archbishop of Atlanta, arranged for our parish to be staffed by the Conventual Franciscan Friars of St. Anthony of Padua Province. Fr. Patrick Mendola, OFM Conv. was appointed Pastor and, together with Fr. Julio Martinez, OFM Conv. and Fr. John A. Koziol, OFM Conv., began their service to St. Philip Benizi Church on August 15, 1991. Fr. Patrick was officially installed as Pastor by Archbishop Lyke on October 21, 1991.
On May 18, 1995, while on a trip to California, Fr. Patrick unexpectedly passed away. Fr. Patrick's legacy at St. Philip's includes the starting of the Life Teen Program and finalizing plans to complete the landscaping of the church grounds. Fr. Julio was appointed Acting Administrator until a new Pastor was named.
On September 11, 1995, Fr. Gregory J. Hartmayer, OFM Conv. was installed as the eighth Pastor of the parish. His installation was celebrated in conjunction with the 30th anniversary of the first Mass celebrated in the parish.
On August 27, 1998, St. Philip Benizi parish purchased 5.5 acres of adjacent property which included a 2,084 square-foot structure. Extensive renovations were made to the house and additional parking was created. A new entrance and exit was added on the west end of the parish property. The new house was dedicated and named the San Damiano House and is used for Adult Faith Formation.
During the summer of 2000, a Bell Tower and carillon was constructed. The structure was dedicated in memory of +Faith Adamson and +Michael Gecik on October 7, 2000.
During the summer of 2001, St. Philip Benizi Church underwent a major renovation project that included the addition of a balcony to the rear of the church, a new Baptistery near the present sanctuary, and new altar appointments. The entire interior of the church was repainted and cleaned, and the ventilation and sound systems were upgraded. After a two-month period, the major part of the renovation project was completed on September 29, 2001, at which time the parish celebrated their return to the "new" church with a multi-cultural Mass and a meal of various ethnic foods.
With the growing number of registered families, groups and activities, St. Philip Benizi Parish was in need of additional classroom and meeting space. In December of 2003, under Fr. Gregory's leadership, the parish began a Capital Campaign to build a new Religious Education Building which was completed and blessed by Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory on September 9, 2006, in conjunction with the 41 year anniversary of the parish.
The church family of St. Philip Benizi has grown considerably since its humble beginning - from 35 families to its current 2100+ registered families. We thank God for all the blessings He has showered upon this community!