Welcome to the Feast of Saint Mark Italian Festival! We are glad you are visiting our website and look forward to you joining us with family and friends for this one of a kind tradition in Alabama.
The 7th annual Feast of Saint Mark Italian Festival (FOSM) was held on April 28, 2018, in Birmingham, Alabama. For years, many people in the community have hoped for such a “festa” or feast celebrating Italian culture in traditional Italian style. After the success of the inaugural event in 2012, anticipation and excitement for each year’s festival has continued to grow. Every year since, FOSM has been a sold out event to an overwhelming 3,000 Italian loving visitors!
The Festival begins with a 3:00 p.m. Mass (normally held at 4 p.m. on Saturdays) in the Church followed by an evening of great food, entertainment, youth activities, and more.
Some of you may remember traditional Italian Feasts from your youth, other cities where you lived, or stories of grandparents and relatives. There are close to 400 of these festivals across the United States with the oldest celebrating its 141st year. Many Birmingham residents have Italian roots and remember when the culture was vibrant and active. This Feast brings these rich cultural experiences back to the present day.
April is a perfect time of year with average temperatures between 75-80 degrees. The Festival is held on the beautiful Church grounds of Saint Mark The Evangelist Catholic Church on Hwy. 119, just east of Hwy. 280. This is the Brook Highland neighborhood adjacent to Greystone.
To recognize and know the story of our Patron – Saint Mark the Evangelist
To help educate and further the understanding of the Catholic Faith
To be genuine and authentic to the Italian culture in all aspects
To provide a multi-generational rewarding and enriching experience for all with consideration to those in need
To strive for the utmost quality in every aspect of the event
To be open and accessible to anyone in the community
To be fiscally responsible
To foster a culture of parishioner ownership and volunteerism
To create memories for our guests that will last a lifetime
Our Patron Saint
The Feast of our Patron, Saint Mark the Evangelist, is celebrated April 25. For this reason, our Feast, which honors our Patron, is typically held on the first Saturday following April 25.
Saint Mark the Evangelist was an early follower of Jesus Christ and a companion of Saint Paul on his first missionary journey. The first Gospel, which was written for Gentile converts in Rome sometime after the death of Saint Peter and Saint Paul (60-70 A.D.) is attributed to Saint Mark.
Saint Mark’s Gospel appears to be a handbook of discipleship calling followers to a life of self-sacrificing love. Mark’s Gospel had a decisive influence on the spread of Christianity. Saint Mark’s symbol is the winged lion that signifies the “royalty of Christ.” His Gospel begins with “the voice of one crying in the wilderness,” the roar of the lion.
Our Parish has a long history dating back to some of the original Italian immigrants to the Birmingham area. The first Saint Mark Catholic Church was built in 1905 in East Thomas near the Ensley area. Reverend John B. Canapa was the first Pastor. The founding parishioners were Italian immigrants, many who labored in steel mills, stoked furnaces, and mined coal and ore. Some were small farmers or merchants who sold produce and groceries along the city streets.
As parishioners moved away from the area, the congregation declined, and Saint Mark was closed in 1997. The original building still remains and can be seen at 1010 16th Avenue West in East Thomas. Upon the closing of Saint Mark, the remaining parishioners were promised that a new Saint Mark would be built in Birmingham. Much of the interior was removed with plans to install it in the future church.
Because of the growth in North Shelby County, the decision was made to establish the new Saint Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church in that area, with Father Patrick Murphy as the first Pastor. On the Feast of Pentecost, May 23, 1999, Bishop David Foley with con-celebrants Fathers Patrick Murphy, Brian Egan and Crescendo DeFazio, celebrated the first Mass in Greystone Elementary School with the members of this newly formed church.
Father Murphy organized a building committee to begin to consolidate design concepts for the new structure. The church was to be built in the form of a cross, known in architectural language as “cruciform.” The ceiling of the structure is 57 feet high, and the bell tower reaches 105 feet. It was designed to seat 1020 worshipers.
Much of the interior came from the old Saint Mark church. The crucifix, statues, Stations of the Cross and small stained glass windows in the high ceiling are all from the original Saint Mark church. The stained glass windows along the aisles are from the Cathedral in Crookston, Minnesota and are well over 100 years old. Above the main entrance is a large rose window that is a reproduction of the rose window at Notre Dame in Paris. The altar, ambo, and lectern are made of Italian marble. The marble carving on the front of the altar is from a convent of the Little Sisters of the Assumption in Ireland.
Father Murphy died on September 16, 2000, before the new church was completed. Father Patrick Cullen was appointed Pastor on December 8, 2000, and he continued the construction to its completion, celebrating Saint Mark’s first Mass on August 10, 2003. Bishop Foley celebrated the formal Dedication and Blessing on September 16, 2003.
In July 2006, Father Joseph Culotta was appointed Pastor of Saint Mark the Evangelist Parish and still serves today. On July 1, 2011, Sister Theresa (Terry) Bretthauer, a Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity Sister, joined Saint Mark as Pastoral Associate.
On August 1, 2018, Sr. Madeline Contorno, Benedictine Sister from Sacred Heart Monastery in Cullman, Alabama, joined Saint Mark as Pastoral Associate, replacing Sr. Terry who, at the request of her Community, accepted a new project in the Diocese of Savannah.
On August 2, 2012, a statue of St. Mark the Evangelist, originally from St. Mark’s Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, was installed in the plaza in front of the Church. On the ninth Anniversary of the dedication of the Church, September 16, 2012, our Pastor, Fr. Joseph Culotta following Mass, blessed this statue.
Saint Mark is located in an area that continues to add new homes and apartments. Since the establishment of the Parish in 1999, it has grown from 300 to 1,200 families.
To address the growth and to allow the Parish to expand its ministries to better serve the needs and wishes of the parishioners, an expansion project is underway. The project includes a new Parish Life Center and provides space for an expanded Social Hall, Nursery, Adult Education and Parish Offices. Completion of the project is scheduled for September 2019. Once completed, the existing Parish Life Center will become a dedicated Parish Youth Center and Parish School of Religion.