By Fr. René Castillo, former pastor
In August 1946, Redemptorist Bishop Peter L. Ireton, seeing a need to serve the spiritual
needs of Roanoke’s African-American Catholic community, appointed Fr. Maurice McDonald to establish a Roman Catholic mission to serve the black population in the city of Roanoke. In
September 1946, he established that mission and assigned Redemptorist Father Maurice
McDonald as its first Pastor. Within a few weeks, Father McDonald celebrated his first Mass and preached his first sermon at Harrison School with seventeen people in attendance – nine adults and eight children. On October 16th of that year the Redemptorists’ Provincial approved the purchase of a nearby building at 835 Moorman Road. Bishop Ireton named the parish after St. Gerard, the patron saint of mothers and the poor, whose feast day coincides with that day. Thus, St. Gerard became the first and only black Catholic parish in southwest Virginia.