Circa, 1912, the known Black Catholic population of the Deanwood area of Washington, DC had grown to about fifteen or twenty families. Several of these families were from the Prince George’s community of Fairmount Heights, MD and two families were from the Kenilworth area. The Deanwood Catholics had the sympathetic ear of the pastor at St. Margaret’s, Fr. Francis A. Schwallenberg, and the two forces united in a search for a building to be used as a house of worship. The joint search led to the acquisition of Moses Hall (Masonic) at 4409 Lane Place, NE. During the years where Mass was said in Moses Hall there were baptisms and funerals; marriages were performed elsewhere. Accurate records of these events are not available.
Under the direction of Fr. Schwallenberg, a building fund was started. The late Bing Hayes was engaged to build the church on Browning Place, NE (now 46th St.). After completion, arrangements were made for cornerstone laying. This event took place in September, 1914.
The District of Columbia was then a part of the Diocese of Baltimore, MD; thus Archbishop of Baltimore-Washington, His Excellency Michael J. Curley, officiated. On the day of dedication, the W.B. & A. railway system brought the Archbishop, who was met at Minnesota and Deane Avenues by the Knights of St. John from St. Augustine, St. Cyprian and Upper Marlboro, MD.
No history of Incarnation could be drawn without paying tribute to the assistant pastor of St. Margaret’s church, Fr. Ferdinand Zumbush. Incarnation had been transferred to the Josephite Order of Priests and Brothers.
His Excellency, Archbishop Michael J. Gurley, placed Incarnation under the care of the Josephite priests. In August, 1924, Fr. Michael Gumbleton, SSJ, was appointed first resident pastor. Fr. Gumbleton arranged for the Oblate Sisters to come from Baltimore to teach Sunday school. A Rectory was completed in December, 1924. Fr. Gumbleton’s stay lasted thru 1942 for eighteen years. He passed away on October 17, 1945.
Fr. Joseph Kelly was pastor from 1942 thru 1943. Fr. Michael Neary stays at Incarnation for one year. Fr. Patrick Bradley, SSJ became pastor in 1949. Expansion of the property had top priority because of the rapidly increasing membership. incarnation was too small and was considered hazardous. Ground breaking was celebrated on March 16, 1956, for what is now St. Luke. When St. Luke’s would be completed, only half of the incarnation parishioners would be transferred there, the rest would remain at the old church. Thus, when Archbishop O’Boyle finished dedication services at St. Luke’s September 22, 1957, he started planning for still another new Incarnation.
The congregation was promised a new church at cost. This church would be built on Eastern Avenue, NE. Fr. Bradley left Incarnation in 1957 to visit Ireland. Fr. Francis Dynan (1957 – 1961) was succeeded by Fr. Thomas Cantwell (1961 – 1962) and Fr. Bartholomew Hines (1962 – 1969). Fr. Warren Meehan was made pastor in May, 1969. Fr. Meehan organized a Parish Council in late 1969 and played an active role in all church related activities thru 1975.
Since the revival of the permanent diaconate program and the ordination of the first group in 1971, Hiram H. Haywood, Jr. completed his training and was assigned to Incarnation as deacon until time of death on February 1, 2012. Four more deacons were later ordained: the late Deacon Alfred Brokenborough, ordained in 1977, (d. 2003), the late Deacon Harry Draper, ordained in 1982, (d. October 31, 2010), the late Deacon Thomas Forbes, ordained October 3, 1987 (d. April 21, 2000). Current Deacons are Deacons Joseph Bell, ordained August 26, 2000, and William Greenfield, ordained June 3, 2006.
Sister Beatrice Jeffries became our most outstanding nun from the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. Fr. Obo, the first African priest, was assigned on the weekends during his course of study here. Fr. Carl Fisher, SSJ was assigned in October, 1972 as assistant pastor. Fr. Carl was appointed Director of Vocations for the Josephites. Fr. Carl was elevated in 1987 to Auxilliary Bishop of Los Angeles, CA until time of death on September 3, 1993.
Fr. Francis McCarthy (1975 – 1979), with Associate Pastor Fr. Roger Ceasar (1978 – 1984). Fr. Ceasar died on January 18, 2014 in Los Angeles, CA. Fr. Charles McMahon (1979 – 1983) was followed by Fr. Batholomew Endslow (1983 – 1990) and Associate Fr. Joseph DelVecchio (1984 – 1991). Fr. Endslow, along with the Parish Council and Organizational leaders, instituted plans for and educational/multi-purpose center for parish life. As a means of financing the “New Building” as it was commonly referred, the Parish Council instituted the “Buy A Brick” fundraising project.
The “New Building” formally became the Bishop Carl A. Fisher Center, in honor of him becoming the first African American Bishop in the United States. Bishop Eugene Marino was in attendance for the dedication of the center in 1987.
Fr. Lowell Case (1990 – 1996), brought enhanced spiritual growth to Incarnation before being transferred to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Washington, DC. Nearing the end of the 20th century, Fr. Joseph Macek (1996 – 2000), USN Retired, would assist with the celebrating of the parish’s 75th Anniversary in 1999. Special programs and activities would convene for an entire year leading up to this glorious occasion. The theme for the 75th Anniversary, “75 Years, Living the Word Incarnate”, was created by Mary Grigsby with Jerome Brigham, Sr, as the anniversary committee chairperson.
Our current pastor, Fr. John Carroll (2000), continues to assist the Church of the Incarnation to live up to it’s spirituality and the legacy of it’s beginnings.
Original Version thru circa 1972 in Library of Congress, Card Number 75-21343.