Saint Rose of Lima and the Korean Martyrs Catholic Church

Hampton, VA

On May 17th, 1948 Bishop Ireton established a new parish and named it after his sister Rose. Saint Rose of Lima would be the full title and Fr. William P. Byrnes would become the first pastor. The new parish would be located in the Wythe Section of Hampton, and was formed from parts of the existing St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish at Old Point and from the downtown parish in Newport News, St. Vincent de Paul.

During World War II, the Diocese of Richmond had leased the land that was to become St. Rose’s to the U.S. Government. The Government had erected several temporary type buildings on the land. The facility was known as Ann Wythe Hall. Monsignor William Gill negotiated with the Government and acquired two of the structures. Within a month, alterations were started and on Saturday, July 31, 1948 the first Mass was offered in the converted chapel. The official opening of the parish took place on Sunday August 1st,1948. 

Shortly after joining Saint Rose of Lima Farther Byrnes recognized the potential of the adjoining property. He saw the possibility of a fine parish, social hall, and the possibility of a cafeteria to serve the school that was to be created. Fr. Byrnes also helped organize the Altar and Sanctuary Society, the Holy Name Society.

September 8th, 1949 marked another happy day for the parish when the new school opened its doors. It was decided that the Benedictine Sisters would help run the school. March 1st, 1951, was an important date in the parish as news was received that Fr. Vincent J. Murphy has arrived as the first Assistant Pastor. That same year the church also had its first vocation. Miss Teresa Maloney a member of Saint Rose of Lima joined the Victory Knoll Sisters at Huntington, Indiana.

It was again recognized that the parish was growing and the parish hall could no longer hold the large number of people and with permission from Bishop Ireton ground was broken for the new church on Easter Sunday, April 18, 1952. On Sunday December 21, 1952 the new church was blessed by Auxiliary Bishop Hodges.  

Post Vatican II came and again Saint Rose of Lima saw changes but this time in the Mass. New altars were put in, redecorating the walls of the sanctuary, renovating the pews, and repainting the entire church interior.

Unfortunately, in 1968 word was received that due to low numbers in vocations the Benedictine Sisters could no longer help run the school and the school would close at the end of the year. That same year Fr. John J. McEleney joined St. Rose of Lima and in August Bishop Russell announced a major reorganization of the Catholic Parishes on the Peninsula. St. Rose was consolidated with St. Mary Star of the Sea at Old Point.

In March of 1972 Saint Rose of Lima once again was established as a separate parish. 


The Catholic Community of The Korean Martyrs began to exist as an official Korean Catholic Community with the arrival in 1980 of Rev. Andrew Lee, sent by the Diocese of Pusan to attend to the needs of the Korean Community in the Peninsula area of Virginia.  It was recognized by the Diocese of Richmond as a quasi-parish in 1989. The Community sought to raise funds to build its own worship facility.

In late 1996, members of the community approached Rev. R. Francis Muench, Pastor of Saint Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Hampton, to see if it would be possible to share use of the Church facilities. This was agreeable to the Pastor and parishioners, and the association of the communities began.

In 1998, Saint Rose of Lima celebrated its 50th anniversary.

In January 2004 the Bishop of the Diocese of Pusan sent Rev. Simon Hyo Sung Ahn to be Pastor of the Korean Community.

The association of the communities became closer and more formal in 2006 under Rev. Donald Cavey and Rev. Simon Hyo Sung Ahn. On September 1, 2008 Bishop Francis X. DiLorenzo appointed Rev. Ahn Pastor of both Saint Rose of Lima and The Catholic Community of Korean Martyrs. The Bishop of Richmond saw the association of the 2 communities as a model of Christian unity for the Diocese, and moved that the communities work together to arrive at unification. The communities welcomed this opportunity, and achieved a unification plan with Renovation of the Worship space as evidence of that goal.

At the regular meeting of the Diocesan Priests’ Council in September 2012, Bishop DiLorenzo proposed that Saint Rose of Lima Catholic Church (opened as a parish in August 1948) and the Catholic Community of The Korean Martyrs (established as a quasi-parish in 1989) be united into the newly created Saint Rose of Lima and The Korean Martyrs Catholic Parish. The proposal was unanimously accepted by the Council, and the new Parish formally began October 1, 2012, with Rev. Simon Hyo Sung Ahn as its Pastor. The newly formed multicultural parish took as its Motto the unity prayer of Christ as recorded in the Gospel of John : Ut Unum Sint ( That They May Be One).

Under the auspices of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond and the assistance of Diocesan Director of Real Estate Rev. Mr. Paul Mahefky, the Church underwent a Renovation of the Worship space, culminating in the Rededication of the Church by Bishop DiLorenzo June 16, 2013. The newly renovated Church was intended to be a model of worship space renovation for the Diocese of Richmond. Liturgy is the central unifying element for the parish.

In August 2017 the parish began phase two of the Renovation Project: Parking.

Parking facilities were redesigned to include more spaces and provide for Handicap Parking.

The new Parking Lot and Grounds Project was blessed April 15, 2018.