St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church was completed in 1879. As the first Catholic Church east of the Anacostia River, it is considered the mother church for the area.

Reflecting the area's population at the time, St. Teresa's began as a multiracial church, with African Americans contributing much of the funding and labor to construct the building in the Uniontown (Old Anacostia) neighborhood. In 1910 black parishioners expressed dissatisfaction with the limited role they were permitted in the predominantly white church and established a separate church and parish for black Catholics as the Mission of St. Teresa's. They met for worship in private homes and in the basement of St. Teresa's, while they worked to raise funds for a new church. Finally in 1920, the cornerstone was laid for Our Lady of Perpetual Help on Morris Road, SE. This would be the second formal division of St. Teresa's (the first occurred in 1916 when white parishioners established Assumption Catholic Church in Congress Heights.)

The Twining City Chapel (1924), later St. Francis of Xavier, at Pennsylvania Avenue and 27th Street, SE, was another spin-off of St. Teresa's, as were Our Lady Queen of Peace (1948), St. Thomas More (1952), and Holy Family (1962).

By the 1970s St. Teresa was predominantly black, and its first black pastor, Rev. George Stallings, was installed in 1976. Paintings of the Stations of the Cross by artist Sidney Schenck grace the church entry.


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