hTe Rock Hill Oratory, founded in 1934, is a part of a worldwide federation of 60 independent houses. It is the oldest and largest house in the United States.Founded by St. Philip Neri in Rome, members of the Oratory are bound not by vows, but by bonds of love. The community remains deliberately small to encourage interpersonal relationships. Governed democratically, the entire community shares in making major decisions with all members having equal rights and responsibilities.
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The Early Years
1934: Father Paul Hatch leads about dozen young men to Rock Hill to establish the Oratory, a new mission for a small but growing Catholic population.
1930s: St. Philip’s Mercy Hospital on Confederate Avenue is operated by The Franciscan Sisters of Peoria, who were invited to Rock Hill by the Diocese and The Oratory. The hospital closes in the 1950s due to a lack of funds to build a new hospital.
1937: The Oratory School for Boys opens, a boarding school that is later closed for lack of funds.
1940s: York County textile workers labored for long hours under poor working conditions, and some died from job-related ills like brown lung. The Oratory helps to establish labor unions for Rock Hill textile mill employees, enabling workers to press for better conditions.
1946: St. Mary’s Catholic Church is established on Crawford Road in Rock Hill. A recreation center serves the youth.
1947: About 100 Catholic families in Rock Hill worshipped in a tiny church on Saluda Street. Catholics made up about half of 1 percent of the state’s population at this time.
Searching for Oratory
1951: A credit union is established with the recreation center to help people get loans and encourage them to save money. The union operates until about 1980.
1954: St. Anne Catholic School, at the church rectory on Saluda Street, becomes the first racially integrated school in South Carolina. A new school is built on South Jones Avenue in 1958.
1960s: Before the civil rights movement, African-Americans were banned from white establishments. Members of the Oratory supported the civil rights movement and local sit-in participants. They helped local black citizens register to vote.
Years of Renewal
1975: Refugees from Southeast Asia sought their freedom in the United States, but many needed help to assimilate into their new communities. The Oratory brings the first of several hundred refugees from Southeast Asia to Rock Hill. Later, it expands the ministry to include Hispanic immigrants.
Today: About 5,000 families worship at five different Catholic churches in York County — two in Rock Hill and others in Fort Mill, York and Lake Wylie. Catholics make up about 4.5 percent of the state’s population
eW appreciate you visiting our site. By clicking on each one of the tabs above you will see a timeline of our historical events. You can click on the learn more button in each section to view the full article or you may click the button below to download the entire history onto your computer.