The state of Arkansas has a long and rich Catholic history.

Catholic believers pray for the intercession of the saints in heaven so that they may pray for us on our behalf. Saints are able to intercede on our behalf and offer up to God the prayers of those on Earth.

Patron saints are recognized as the heavenly advocates and special intercessors for many things, even states. If you want to ask for the special intercession on behalf of your state, do you know who to pray to?

Did you know that Mother Teresa once visited Little Rock, Arkansas? Or that Catholicism is the oldest form of Christianity in the state of Arkansas? Arkansas certainly has a long and rich history of Catholicism.

Part of that long-standing history stems from St. Edward Catholic Church, located in Little Rock, the capital of Arkansas. St. Edward Catholic Church is part of the second Catholic parish to be established in Little Rock. It began to accommodate increased German settlement in Arkansas during the 1870s. Its first building was dedicated in August 1885 as St. Edward Catholic Church in honor of the patron saint of Little Rock, Bishop Edward Fitzgerald.

Growing oppression of Catholics in Germany bolstered the wave of German immigration at the end of the 19th century. Although most Germans settled in rural areas along the Arkansas River Valley, many made their way to cities where small German communities were already in place. In 1881, Fitzgerald commissioned German-language sermons to be given at the Cathedral of St. Andrew—the only Catholic church in Little Rock at the time.

As German immigrants began to stream into the state, the need for a new German-speaking parish became apparent. Fitzgerald responded by donating land and money in order to build the church. Construction of the first building began in September 1884. The 2-story, 40 ft. by 90 ft. wooden building would serve as a church, school and rectory. The initial building was dedicated in August 1885 as St. Edward Catholic Church in honor of the patron saint, Fitzgerald.

Fitzgerald suffered a stroke in January 1900 and became paralyzed. He later died at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Hot Springs at the age of 73 and is buried in a crypt under Cathedral of St. Andrew.

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Kelly Wise Valdes
Kelly Wise Valdes has been writing for the Osprey Observer since 2008. She graduated in 1989 from Florida Southern College with a B.S. in Communications and enjoys writing and traveling. She currently resides in northern Hillsborough County with her husband, David. When not traveling and writing, Kelly and her husband enjoy spending time with their five grown children (as well as their grandchildren) that still keep them very busy.