St. Barnabas Parish …A Short History…
St. Barnabas Roman Catholic Parish includes areas of South Asheville, Arden, Fletcher, Fairview, Avery’s Creek, Horseshoe, and northern Henderson County. The residents of the geographic area included in our parish today were formerly parishioners of St. Lawrence Parish in Asheville and Immaculate Conception Parish in Hendersonville.
The initial formation of the parish was the work of Monsignor George Lynch, pastor of St. Lawrence Parish, his assistant, and a group of Catholics who were living in the Arden/Skyland/Fletcher areas. In 1964 these areas were a part of St. Lawrence Parish and a part of the Diocese of Raleigh, the only Roman Catholic diocese in North Carolina then. The Ordinary (Bishop) was His Excellency, the Most Reverend Vincent S. Waters.
After many meetings Monsignor Lynch (later auxiliary Bishop of Raleigh) petitioned Bishop Waters to establish a mission of St. Lawrence Parish in the Arden area. The mission was named “St. Barnabas” after the home parish of Monsignor Lynch and attended by the priests of St. Lawrence Parish. The first St. Barnabas parish church on Hendersonville Road in Arden had originally been a Presbyterian church and then purchased by the Baptists. St. Barnabas parishioners purchased the church from the Baptists and redecorated it as a Catholic Church. The 36 original Catholic families of St. Barnabas Mission gathered with Monsignor Lynch for the first Mass at the new facility on November 15, 1964. The church was dedicated on December 6, 1964 by Bishop Waters.
From the earliest days St. Barnabas has been blessed with a great sense of family. In fact, those moving into the area from elsewhere found that they each became “family” for each other. By January, 1966 the mission had grown to 50 families in South Buncombe county area. The Bishop raised St. Barnabas “mission” to “parish” status and appointed Father Joseph Maule, O.S.F.S. (Oblates of St. Francis de Sales) as the first pastor. A trailer to be used as the rectory was purchased and placed behind the church. Father Maule led the parish until his death in August, 1968.
Another Order priest of the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales was appointed the second pastor: Fr. Joseph Cutter, O.S.F.S. Father Cutter served from August 1968 until May 1982. In 1972 the Diocese of Charlotte was created from the Diocese of Raleigh. St. Barnabas Parish along with all of Western North Carolina was placed under the direction of the Bishop of Charlotte. Our first Bishop, His Excellency, the Most Reverend Michael J. Begley took great interest in the development of our parish. The growth in the area was extraordinary and so a Long Range Planning Committee was established in 1975 to address the present growth and the anticipation of future needs. Five acres of land just one mile south on US 25 had been donated to St. Lawrence Parish for future development of the Catholic presence in the area. Investigations were made for the expansion of the present facility but the use of the land further south seemed wiser. By 1976 the mortgage on the first church had been paid off, a residence for the pastor purchased, and in 1980 land transfers of the donated property were made which resulted in a building site increase from 5 acres to 7.6 acres of level land at the location we enjoy today.
After Fr. Cutter’s retirement in 1982, the parish was entrusted to another religious order of priests - the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). Our first Jesuit pastor was Fr. Frank Bourbon, S.J. During this time we would see our previous building sold and the present church constructed. Between the sale and the completion of the new church, we rented a roller rink for Sunday Masses and daily Mass was celebrated in the Priest House. The new church and classrooms were completed in July, 1984. At the same time of the dedication of the church it was announced that Fr. Bourbon was being reassigned by his Order the coming September.
Fr. Joseph Newell, S.J. became our fourth pastor and was with us until June of 1990. These years saw the growth of our religious education program, the Cursillo movement, our own Knights of Columbus Council (Fr. Maule Council-after our first pastor). During this period we also had the blessings of the ordination of our first deacon, Rev. Mr. Art Kingsley (July 3, 1988) and the Ordination to the Holy Priesthood and First Mass of a son of our parish, Rev. Fr. Joseph Mack (May 10, 1989). When Fr. Newell was reassigned in June of 1990, the parish passed back to the care of the Diocesan priests. We had grown to 300 families. The second Bishop of Charlotte, Bishop John Donohue, appointed a diocesan priest, Fr. John Schneider, as pastor and he arrived in July, 1990 to find Catholic people retiring to the area and many companies moving Catholic people into the area. The classrooms and church were filled to capacity and so a building committee was established. The Church was enlarged, two new classroom wings were added and the social hall was expanded. When Fr. Schneider was reassigned in 1999 the parish had nearly doubled in size and activities under his leadership.
The next Diocesan priest, Father Roger Arnsparger, was assigned to us by the third Bishop of Charlotte, Bishop William Curlin, on July 7, 1999. During the time the parish has been entrusted to his pastoral care we have seen a continuation of the good work of the people of St. Barnabas Parish in cooperation with their Pastor. We have continued to expand religious education for youth as well as adults. The Stewardship Committee was formed and the Parish Finance Council and Parish Pastoral Council with its Commissions continue to develop in their service to the parish mission. Each year has seen “Parish Vision Meetings” to assist the dialogue and discernment of parishioners in the effective evangelization of our parish. Because of the projections for future growth, the parish is purchasing 5 acres of adjacent land and plans are being made for improved access and additional facilities for our apostolate. The Respect Life Committee has increased our pro-life apostolate through prayer, direct services, education and legislative efforts. Among many other pro-life activities, our parish sponsors a bus trip to Washington, D.C. for the March For Life each January and hosts two Rachel’s Vineyard Post-Abortive Healing Retreats annually. Our Ladies Guild has flourished over the years of their service to the parish as has the Fr. Maule Council of the Knights of Columbus and the Columbian Squires Circle of Asheville/Arden.
Today we have six choirs as our music program continues to grow. We sponsor an annual Catholic Conference: “Triumph of the Cross” and a Catholic Men’s Conference. On March 10, 2003 we began Perpetual Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament; through this ministry of Adoration we have seen abundant blessings including the reception of 16 adults into Full Communion with the Catholic Church this Paschaltide. Our current Diocesan priest, Father Dean Cesa was assigned to us in 2006. Under Father Dean our Hispanic ministry is beginning to flourish, as we strive to provide for this growing population. We continue to thank God for the many blessings we experience as the Parish family of St. Barnabas Parish!