Feast of Saint Mark Italian Festival

Feast of Saint Mark Italian FestivalThe Feast of Saint Mark Italian Festival is a one of a kind tradition in Alabama. The 6th annual Feast of Saint Mark Italian Festival (FOSM) was held on April 29, 2017, in Birmingham, Alabama. For years, many people in the community have hoped for such a “festa” or feast celebrating Italian culture in traditional Italian style. After the success of the inaugural event in 2012, anticipation and excitement for each year’s festival has continued to grow. Every year since, FOSM has been a sold out event to an overwhelming 3,000 Italian loving visitors! The festival begins with a 3:00 p.m. Mass (normally held at 4 p.m. on Saturdays) in the church followed by an evening of great food, entertainment, youth activities, and more.
Some of you may remember traditional Italian feasts from your youth, other cities where you lived, or stories of grandparents and relatives. There are close to 400 of these festivals across the United States with the oldest celebrating its 141st year. Many Birmingham residents have Italian roots and remember when the culture was vibrant and active. This feast brings these rich cultural experiences back to the present day. April is a perfect time of year with average temperatures between 75-80 degrees. The feast is held on the beautiful church and grounds of Saint Mark The Evangelist Catholic Church on Hwy. 119, just east of Hwy. 280. This is the Brook Highland neighborhood adjacent to Greystone. Our Parish has a long history dating back to some of the original Italian immigrants to the Birmingham area. The first Saint Mark Catholic Church was built in 1905 in East Thomas near the Ensley area. Reverend John B. Canapa was the first Pastor. The founding parishioners were Italian immigrants, many who labored in steel mills, stoked furnaces, and mined coal and ore. Some were small farmers or merchants who sold produce and groceries along the city streets. As parishioners moved away from the area, the congregation declined, and Saint Mark was closed in 1997. The original building still remains and can be seen at 1010 16th Avenue West in East Thomas.
Upon the closing of Saint Mark, the remaining parishioners were promised that a new Saint Mark would be built in Birmingham. Much of the interior was removed with plans to install it in the future church. Because of the growth in North Shelby County, the decision was made to establish the new Saint Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in that area, with Father Patrick Murphy as the first Pastor. On the Feast of Pentecost, May 23, 1999, Bishop David Foley with con-celebrants Fathers Patrick Murphy, Brian Egan and Crescendo DeFazio, celebrated the first Mass in Greystone Elementary School with the members of this newly formed church.
Father Murphy organized a building committee to begin to consolidate design concepts for the new structure. The church was to be built in the form of a cross, known in architectural language as “cruciform.” The ceiling of the structure is 57 feet high, and the bell tower reaches 105 feet. It was designed to seat 1020 worshipers. Much of the interior came from the old Saint Mark church. The crucifix, statues, Stations of the Cross and small stained glass windows in the high ceiling are all from the original Saint Mark church. The stained glass windows along the aisles are from the Cathedral in Crookston, Minnesota and are well over 100 years old. Above the main entrance is a large rose window that is a reproduction of the rose window at Notre Dame in Paris. The altar, ambo, and lectern are made of Italian marble. The marble carving on the front of the altar is from a convent of the Little Sisters of the Assumption in Ireland. Father Murphy died on September 16, 2000, before the new church was completed.
ROLEXFather Patrick Cullen was appointed Pastor on December 8, 2000, and he continued the construction to its completion, celebrating Saint Mark’s first Mass on August 10, 2003. Bishop Foley celebrated the formal Dedication and Blessing on September 16, 2003. In July 2006, Father Joseph Culotta was appointed Pastor of Saint Mark the Evangelist Parish and still serves today. On July 1, 2011, Sister Theresa (Terry) Bretthauer, a Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity/ Trinitarian Sister, joined Saint Mark as Pastoral Associate. On August 2, 2012, a statue of St. Mark the Evangelist, originally from St. Mark’s Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, was installed in the plaza in front of the Church. On the ninth Anniversary of the dedication of the Church, September 16, 2012, the pastor, Fr. Joseph Culotta following Mass, blessed this statue. Saint Mark is located in an area that continues to add new homes and apartments. Since the establishment of the Parish in 1999, it has grown from 300 to 1,200 families.
To address the growth and increased need of the Parish to expand its ministries to meet the needs of parishioners, an expansion project is planned. The project will include a new Parish Life Center and will provide space for an expanded Social Hall, Nursery, Adult Education and Parish Offices.
The hope is to begin construction in 2018 with completion in September 2019. Once completed, the existing Parish Life Center will become a dedicated Parish Youth Center and Parish School of Religion.

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