Our Lady of Consolation, Charlotte's only African-American Catholic parish, was founded in 1955, but its history traces back to 1941 when Bishop Eugene McGuinness invited the Redemptorist Fathers to reach out to the African-American community. In those early years, it is noted that thirteen black Catholics gathered in celebration with Father Petrach at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church on Oaklawn Avenue, where there were both living quarters for the priests and social rooms for the members. After the priest and people began spreading the faith, the congregation grew and a second parish was established, Saint Mary's, which was located on McDowell Street. Masses were held at each site.
On December 15, 1955, the Most Reverend Bishop James J. Navagh, D.D., Auxiliary Bishop of Raleigh, came to Charlotte and merged the two parishes, creating Our Lady of Consolation, Charlotte's fifth Catholic parish. By 1956, four buildings (a church, rectory, school and convent) were erected on Statesville Avenue, a location specifically chosen to serve the predominately black congregation. The church, rectory and convent were occupied by January 1957. The Oblate Sisters of Providence from Baltimore, Maryland with Mother Mary Angela, O.S.P. as Superior and Principal operated the school, which later closed in 1988 due to financial problems.
On March 25, 1957, the church was dedicated by Archbishop Amleto Cicognami, Apostolic Delgate to the United States, who described the church and its mission to the community as "the gateway to heaven." Reverend Father Clarence Howard, S.V.D., the first black North Carolina native to be ordained as a priest, delivered the homily. In 1964, Bishop Navagh, who was now over the Diocese of Ogdensburg, New York, returned to Charlotte to dedicate the parish hall. Monsignor Charles Gable, who was pastor at the time, acquired the building as a gift from Miss Elizabeth Stewart of Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Monsignor Gable remained with Consolation until his retirement in 1970.
Due to a lack of Diocesan priests, Bishop Vincent S. Waters asked the Consolata Missionary Society (Consolata Fathers) to take on the pastoral and missionary responsibility of Consolation. During their tenure, Fathers John Radaelli, Julian Reginato, Eugene Coroesero and James Rocca served as pastors along with their respective assistants. Father Rocca was the parish's last Consolata pastor.
In July 1979, a Diocesan priest, Father Wilbur N. Thomas, again assumed the pastoral leadership. Father Thomas was the parish's first, and to date only, black pastor. Under the leadership of Father Wilbur and the late Mrs. June Chavis Davenport, The Perpetual Hope Gospel Choir was formed. This group has played an important role in the growth of Our Lady of Consolation by spreading the Gospel through song to many area churches in North and South Carolina.
Monsignor William Pharr arrived in 1986 and served as pastor until 1991 when Father Cecil Tice became pastor. Father Tice remained at Consolation until 1998. Father Eric Houseknecht was assigned as the new pastor with Father Matthew Leonard as parochial vicar. After a year of service, both Father Houseknecht and Father Leonard left for other assignments.
Since July 8, 1999, Consolation has been blessed through the presence of Capuchin Friars who embrace a strong tradition of community outreach and evangelization, mirroring the parish's mission to become a beacon of hope and strength in the community through outreach concerns and sharing of time, talents and treasures. Father Jude Duffy was the first Capuchin pastor, and served until 2009. At that time, Father Martin Schratz took over.
In July of 2012, Fr. Carl Del Giudice, a Diocesan priest, assumed the duties of pastor. Father Carl had served Our Lady of Consolation more than 30 years earlier as a seminarian and deacon.
Over the past 17 years, Consolation has been blessed with three African-American permanent deacons. The Rev. Deacon Paul Watson and Rev. Deacon Charles Knight were assigned in 1983 and Rev. Deacon Curtiss Todd in 1988. Deacon Knight still attends Consolation and serves as a retired permanent deacon.
The parish continues to be a Catholic community that celebrates the rich heritage of both Roman Catholic and African-American traditions as well as being a parish committed to community outreach. Without a doubt, the Spirit is at Consolation and with the help of God, its members will continue to harness this force to touch the lives of others in and around its community.