Parish History

With roots going back to the late nineteenth century, Saint Leo the Great’s early parish history tells the tale of the small but faithful community of Catholics in the Winston-Salem area. After initially meeting in homes and a local meeting hall, the faithful were able to build a church in the 1890’s at the corner of 4th St. and Brookstown Ave. under the leadership of the Benedictine monk Bishop Leo Haid. Bishop Haid had been named by Pope Leo XIII as his local representative and administrator of the newly formed Vicariate Apostolic of North Carolina (not a diocese because of the relatively low number of Catholics in the area). It should come as no surprise that under the leadership of these two great Leos, that the parish would seek the patronage of a third Leo: Pope Saint Leo the Great.

With the care of the Benedictine monks from Belmont Abbey, the parish grew quickly. By 1916 plans were underway to build a new church. With the aid of the Knights of Columbus, the leading families of the parish, and many of the local Protestants, construction began in 1927 with the cornerstone for the new church building laid on January 15th, 1928. Worship began in the current church soon thereafter, despite it not being completed until 1929. Here is a list of Notable Moments in the history of St. Leo the Great Catholic Church:

1929: Current church construction is completed.

1941: Saint Benedict the Moor parish is established on the eastern side of Winston-Salem. 

1954: Our Lady of Mercy parish & Our Lady of Fatima chapel comes into being, each drawing their territory from Saint Leo’s parish area.

1964: Rev. Fr. Charles B. McLaughlin, pastor of St. Leo the Great, is consecrated Auxiliary Bishop of Raleigh. He continues to serve as pastor, along with taking on other responsibilities of assisting the Bishop of Raleigh. (He was later appointed as the 1st Bishop of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, Florida.)

1966: Saint Leo the Great’s reaches the milestone of 500 registered families in the parish.

1966-1971: During the second term of Msgr. Michael Begley, the church underwent renovations of: the addition of a “free-standing” altar into the Sanctuary (as encouraged by the Second Vatican Council), the addition of a baptistery, and two confessionals in the rear of the church.

1971: In the short time of 5 years, the parish population grows from 500 to 700, a growth of 40%.

1984-1985: Further renovations to the Sanctuary of St. Leo’s completed

1990: May 1st – Groundbreaking for new parish Activity Center.

1991: September 15th – Dedication of Bishop Begley Activity Center by Bishop John F. Donoghue.

1998: the parish purchased the present rectory located across the street from the church.

The current columbarium was blessed on November 2nd, 2001 with it and the Memory Gardens completed by November 2nd, 2002.
Saint Leo’s has continued to grow and flourish in its current location, and as of January 2021, has approximately 1800 families registered in the parish.

You can read more about our stained glass windows, including their meaning and donors here


2020-Present Rev. Fr. Christopher Gober
2006-2020 Rev. Fr. Brian J. Cook
2002-2006 Rev. Fr. Thomas J. Kessler
2000-2002 Rev. Fr. Cecil Tice
1993-2000 Rev. Fr. James Solari
1985-1993 Rev. Msgr. Joseph S. Showfety
1982-1985 Rev. Fr. Anthony Kovacic
1977-1982 Rev. Msgr. Richard F. Allen
1973-1977 Rev. Msgr. William G. Wellein
1971-1973 Rev. Fr. James Noonan
1966-1971 Rev. Msgr. Michael J. Begley
1963-1966 Rev. Fr. Charles B. McLaughlin
1947-1963 Rev. Msgr. Dennis J. Lynch
1946 Rev. Fr. Vincent J. Mahoney (Administrator)
1942-1946 Rev. Fr. Michael J. Begley
?-? Rev. Fr. Jerome Finn, O.S.B.


Rev. Fr. Ignatius Remke, O.S.B. 

1916-1924 Rev. Fr. Willibald Baumgarter, O.S.B.