A Short Parish Hisory
St. Ignatius Parish was founded in 1947, but the Catholic community in Spring Hill goes back long before that.
The Early Years
For many years Catholic residents of Spring Hill attended Mass at the Spring Hill College chapel. Spring Hill College was established in 1830 and in addition to the students, the college’s Jesuit priests ministered to the Catholics that lived in the vicinity. In 1937, Father Andrew Fox, S.J., was assigned full time to the quasi parish. In 1947, Archbishop Toolen raised it to a full parish under the care of the Jesuits. The parish is named for St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit Order (Society of Jesus).
St. Augustine Mission
Fr. Fox was responsible for establishing St. Augustine Mission on the corner of North McGregor Avenue and Spring Hill Extension in about 1938-40. The purpose of the mission was to minister to the African American Catholics residing in Spring Hill. A church constructed of logs was built on the site. In 1967, Bishop Toolen closed the mission and its membership was merged with St. Ignatius Parish.
St. Ignatius School Established
In 1952, the parish purchased the McConnell property and house, at the corner of Spring Hill Avenue and Tuthill Lane. That same year, St. Ignatius School was established. Three classrooms were housed on the first floor of the old McConnell house. The second floor was converted into a convent for the Sisters of Mercy who had been invited to administer the school. Sister Mary Marcella, R.S.M., was named the first principal. A year later, the first unit of a new classroom building was constructed. Additional classrooms were added in 1955, 1956, and 1966.
The Campus Grows
Parishioners continued to attend Mass at Spring Hill College until 1955 when they built a multi-purpose building (the current parish youth center) for use as a church, among other things. The building was enlarged in 1959 to provide seating capacity of 250. In 1958, a rectory was built which was later expanded to serve as a convent for the Sisters of Mercy, and even later, as a rectory and parish office.
A kindergarten (the current Marian Center) was built in 1965. In the same year, construction of the gymnasium was begun. After construction, Masses were moved from the all purpose building to the west end of the gym (the current cafeteria).
In 1977, Father Harry Crane, S.J., parish pastor, oversaw the construction of a new church building, which was dedicated in 1978, by Bishop John May. This church was expanded in 1986 during the pastorship of Msgr. Warren Wall. The school constructed a two-story educational building (the current middle school), also in 1986.
The Sisters of Mercy left in 1980 and the first lay principal, Jan Murray, and an all-lay staff began administering the school. In July 1981, the Jesuits turned over the administration of the parish to the Archdiocese of Mobile and Archbishop Oscar Lipscomb appointed Msgr. Michael McGuiness as the parish’s first archdiocesan pastor.
In the 1990s the parish purchased property to the north on which to build a second two-story elementary school building (Murray Building), which opened in 2001. The parish also purchased property, bounded on the west by Knowles Street, on which to build an athletic field, Loyola Lawn. In 2018, a house on Knowles Street was purchased for use as a rectory.
A new parish Master Plan was undertaken beginning in 2016. The plan called for the church to be repurposed as a parish hall and a new church to be constructed to its west. To make way for the new church, the original school classrooms built in the 1950s and 1960s were demolished in 2019. Construction of the church began that same year and is due to open in April 2021.
The master plan calls for a new Early Learning Center; renovation and repurposing for the Marian Center as a Youth Center; renovation of the middle school building; and renovation of the old church as a parish hall. The plan calls for the demolition of the old 1955 multi-purpose building.
The current pastor Rev. W. Bry Shields became pastor on May 21, 2011, succeeding Rev. Stephen Martin.
The McConnell House was the first building on campus and housed the first school classrooms.
Parish Pastors and Administrators
Jesuit Administrators and Pastors
Rev. Andrew Fox, SJ (Quasi-parish Administrator, 1937-1941)
Rev. George McHardy, SJ (Quasi-parish Administrator, 1941-1947)
Rev. John O’Donohoe, SJ (First Parish Pastor, 1947-1958)
Rev. Carmine Benanti, SJ (Pastor, 1958-1963)
Rev. Laurence M. O’Neill, SJ (Pastor, 1963-1973)
Rev. Herbert K. Connor, SJ (Pastor, 1973-1976)
Rev. Harry L. Crane, SJ (Pastor, 1976-1981)
Archdiocesan Administrators and Pastors
Rev. Msgr. Michael J. McGuinness (Pastor, 1981-1982)
Rev. Msgr. Warren Wall (Administrator, 1982-1987)
Rev. Patrick J. Gallagher (Pastor, 1987-1994)
Rev. Msgr. G. Warren Wall (Pastor, 1994-2005)
Rev. Msgr. Stephen E. Martin (Pastor, 2005-2011)
Rev. W. Bry Shields (Pastor, 2011-Present)