In 1788, the late Father Theodore Browers, a missionary, was given permission by then Bishop John Carroll of Baltimore to administer to Catholics in the Loyalhanna Valley. In 1790, he procured the Joseph Hunter Farm, the site of present day St. Vincent College, Archabbey and Seminary in Latrobe.
In 1846, the late Father Boniface Wimmer arrived from Germany and took over St. Vincent to establish an abbey and college. The coal mining industry, as well as the railroad, brought an influx of people to the region whereby causing the late Father Augustine to soon recognize the need of the Catholic faithful in the New Alexandria area.
Almost fifty years later in 1904, Father Augustine recognized the need of the people in New Alexandra, and shortly after celebrated the sacrifice of Mass for the first time.
The first Mass took place in the Salemvile Public School, where it was noted that a school could no longer be used for this purpose.
After the need for a church was recognized, preparations for construction were made in 1906, where a track of land was donated by Keystone Coal and Company. The William Huffman Construction Company of New Alexandria was also awarded $7,000 for a contract of construction at the St. James Church.
Work started in August of 1906, and the church was finished on Aug. 4, 1907. The finished church brought in such a crowd, it could not even accommodate all who gathered.
In 1956, a census of the church was taken and showed that they had 150 families and around 450 people all together.
After several meetings, plans were made official to build a new, larger St. James Church.
In April 1958, construction started for the new parish, and after enduring a severe cold spell in March 1959, the new St. James Church was finished in 1960.
In 1960, the Diocese of Greensburg then assumed pastoral leadership of St. James and the late Father Francis Ott was appointed as their first resident pastor.
A house was then purchased for the resident pastors in New Alexandria.
Almost twenty years later in 1979, a new building program began to meet the needs of a larger parish, working toward a new rectory and religious education center. The construction of the rectory started in the spring of 1980, and reached completion in Fall 1980.
A religious education dream became a reality in 1981, with its beginning of construction in 1981. The six classrooms were ready for use in Fall 1981.
On the 75th anniversary of the dedication of the original church--Aug. 4, 1982--a shrine to the Blessed Mother was erected by the Holy Name Society. Dedicated to the memory of all the deceased parishioners of St. James Parish, this shrine stands between the rectory and the parish, reminding us of the ties we have to our past St. James Parish family.
From Jan. 1, 1984, to Aug. 31, 1990, St. James completed various restoration and renovation projects of all three buildings under the leadership of the late Father Geno Rivi.
The church building itself benefited from 16 projects, 12 of which were privately funded ventures, to upgrade both the interior and exterior of the structure.
A new oak altar, a new six-and-a-half-foot crucifix, a new marble Blessed Sacrament altar, new carpeting, and newly renovated pews were visible upgrades to the facility.
The Religious Education Center was also in need of building improvements. Water lines were reinsulated and restored; the center was painted and carpeted in three-quarters of the area; and the roof was renovated.
Several diocesan priests have served the parish, including: the late Father Thomas G. Rinn, the late Father Thomas J. Bertolina, and Bishop Lawrence T. Persico, bishop of the Diocese of Erie, who served the Diocese of Greensburg as diocesan vicar general/chancellor.
Parish assemblies continued to bring about significant changes in 1999. One very active program that developed was Outreach Ministry. Outreach Ministry is a group of parishioners that provides spiritual, social, education, and referral services for the parish community.
The following year, many parishioners voiced the desire to begin an education component for the adults; therefore, after the April assembly brainstorming session, an Adult Formation Program came into existence. Once a month, after Sunday mass, adults were invited to participate in discussion sessions designed to explore Catholic concerns.
At the 2003 Parish Assembly, a new initiative was introduced, and became a goal for the parish. The goal was the implementation of stewardship as a way of life for the parish.
It wasn't until early 2006 that a committee was formed to study the United States Conference of Catholic Bishop's Pastoral Letter on stewardship. The committee introduced Christian Stewardship as a way of life for the parish in September 2006. The parish learned about time, talent, and treasure.
Also in 2006, plans were developed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of St. James Parish.
An anniversary committee was established, and the members were chairperson Nance Disciascio, Barbara Volek, Dottie Bacher, Karen Bennett, Jeff and Roxanne Rouse, Ruth Ann Morelli, Lynda Aldridge and William D'Angelo.
Msgr. Larry J. Kulick was appointed pastor of St. James Parish on Sept. 25, 2012. He was installed as pastor by Bishop Lawrence E. Brandt on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2012.
Father Matthew J. Morelli, a native son of St. James Parish, was ordained a priest for the Diocese of Greensburg on June 1, 2013. Father Morelli is the first parishioner of St. James Parish to be ordained to the priesthood.
Today, we are called by God to continue the great traditions set forth by our predecessors. Presently, approximately 320 families gather to celebrate God's presence in the Eucharist, in prayer, and in social activities.
The parishioners of St. James parish celebrate a history rich in traditions and service of the total community around us, especially the poor and less fortunate.