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Black Catholics to Celebrate 85th Anniversary of Church and School

PORTSMOUTH, Va., (Aug. 14, 2015) – The alumni group for the city’s former historic Black Catholic

church and school is planning a grand reunion here Oct. 2-3.

The Our Lady of Victory Alumni Association is calling all former students, church members and

associates to come home to celebrate the September 1930 opening of OLV Church and School.

The October weekend promises to be memorable, said alumni group spokeswoman Cecelia

Livermon Brown. “The stories of OLV have been passed down through generations, and it is the

members of those generations who are the legacy of Our Lady of Victory – the children, family members

and friends – who are invited to participate in the reunion weekend events,” she said. “It‘s time to come

home to celebrate its history and legacy.”

Brown said she has spent countless hours researching the history of the church and school. “I

remember vividly reading many newspaper articles chronicling the historic openings,” she said. She

pointed out coverage by the Virginia Knight, predecessor to today’s Catholic Virginian newspaper, on the

church opening’s “grand and glorious day” on Sept. 7, 1930, when a “mixed gathering of 600

Protestants, about 50 colored (sic) Catholics and 150 whites to assist with one spirit, under one roof,

side by side at such a celebration which marks again the work of uplift which the Church has practiced

for centuries.”

She said the same article stated that “Wednesday, the 10th of September, was more glorious…

the opening of a Catholic school for mostly Baptist children would bring the test. That day 144 children

were enrolled for first and second grades. The next day the number rose to 160. After that for 10 days,

there were turned away 3 to 5 children every day, and some had to be sent away because they

belonged in the third grade.”

From that point, Our Lady of Victory School expanded from two grades in 1930 to its first

graduating high school class in 1940. The school would graduate 21 more senior classes before the high

school closed in 1960. The elementary school remained open until 1964, when the last faithful and

dedicated parents, Catholic and non-Catholic, were forced to seek a place for their children in the other

Catholic schools in the city or in Portsmouth’s public schools, Brown said.

In the late 1970s a group of former students formed Our Lady of Victory Alumni Association.

“They were bolstered by their love of OLV and their respect for the priests and nuns who nurtured the

spiritual and academic growth of so many,” Brown said. “They were determined to keep alive the

memories of the educational accomplishments, the sports victories, the storied pageants and Passion

Plays presented by the students and the history of this school which was a beacon of light for so many of

the city’s underserved students.”

The celebration will begin with an Opening Mass for the entire Portsmouth community,

regardless of faith affiliation, at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in downtown Portsmouth on Friday, Oct.2 at 7

p.m. The choir from Norfolk’s Basilica of St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, under the direction of

Sammie Logan, will provide music for the Mass. A pre-Mass concert of sacred music will begin at 6:30


A Green and Gold Dinner and Dance will be held at the banquet facilities at Roger Brown’s

Restaurant and Sports Bar in downtown Portsmouth on Saturday, Oct.3, with a social hour beginning at

6 p.m., dinner and program at 7 p.m., followed by fellowship, music, and dancing until midnight.

The weekend will also include dedication of a memorial plaque to be displayed at the Effingham

Street YMCA, the site of the former OLV Church building.

Call (757) 714-1878 or email for dinner/dance tickets and other reunion

information. The alumni association is also soliciting contributions toward the success of the reunion.