The History of Nativity of Our Lady Catholic Church
Nativity of Our Lady Catholic Mission was founded in 1945 and is a mission of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Brunswick. It is a part of the Diocese of Savannah. In 2020, Nativity of Our Lady celebrated its 75th Anniversary.
Visitors to Nativity of Our Lady Mission will note a memorial to Friar Pedro de Corpa and Comopanions (the Georgia Martyrs). The Georgia Martyrs are five Spanish Franciscan missionaries to the are who were killed September 13-18, 1597. Friar Pedro de Corpa had his mission, Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, located near present-day Darien. In 1984, the cause of the martyrs was opened for canonization. To learn more about them click here.
Before the mission was built in 1945, Mass was celebrated for decades in the home of Captain and Mrs. Dean on "The Ridge," a historical section along Route 99. A little girl, Mary Carmel Irene Evoy, whose family was friendly with the Deans at the turn of the century, eventually entered Carmel and became prioress of the Carmel in Roxbury, Massachusetts.
Captain and Mrs. Dean's son, Marion Leo Dean, was killed when his ship, the S.S. City of Atlanta, was torpedoed during World War II. The Deans donated land for the church in memory of their sailor son. Father Leo Ziebarth, SM, was priest-in-charge and oversaw the construction of the church in 1945. His living quarters flanking the tiny sacristy are now offices/meeting rooms.
Father Joseph A. Costello, SM, is affectionately remembered by townspeople and church members as the "Pope of Darien." When Father Costello was pastor of Saint William's on Saint Simmons Island from 1968-1973, Nativity of Our Lady was its mission. In 1973, Father Costello moved to Darien and built a small residence behind the church; here he resided until his semi-retirement in 1987. Father Costello's residence is now the Church Hall.
The Conventual Franciscans took over the mission in 1988 when they also took over running Saint Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Brunswick. In 2014, the mission began to be run by diocesan priests from the Diocese of Savannah.
Father Timothy McKeown, pastor, and Father Dawid Kwaitkowski, now care for the mission, Saint Francis Xavier in Brunswick, and the mission on Jekyll Island.