Between the years of 1933 – 1940 there were only four known Catholic families living in or near Leeds. Prior to this time a mission station was located at the Henry Ellen Mines, near Leeds. Upon formation of the North Alabama Mission Band in 1933, street preaching was initiated on the streets of Leeds. Catholics of the area attended Holy Rosary Church in Gate City, where Mass was offered bi-monthly. They also went to St. Barnabas in East Lake, on alternate Sundays.
In 1941, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Becker invited Father Giri to offer Mass in their home. The living room fashioned into a chapel with the dining room buffet serving as an altar. Confessions were heard in another room of the home. Sister Mary Alice taught the Catechism to the children under a pear tree in the back yard.
The congregation grew in number and the men of the mission rented space on the second floor of the Evans Department Store in downtown Leeds and converted it into a chapel. The congregation selected the St. Theresa of Lisieux as the patroness.
On June 21, 1947, when Rev. Joseph Adams became the first resident pastor of the Holy Infant of Prague, St. Theresa was attached as a mission. In March, 1950, Norah Ann Katz was the first infant to be Baptized in the chapel. James Dowling and Betty Smith were the first couple married there. There were about 30 Catholic families in Leeds at this time.
In 1951, Rev. James Gallagher was appointed pastor of Holy Infant of Prague and the missions. Due to new industries moving into the area, the number of Catholic families soon grew to about 60. The Extension Society donated funds, and a modern brick structure was erected at the current church location at a cost of $19,600 to seat 150 persons. Father Gallagher offered the first Mass there on July 27, 1952. On February 15, 1953, Bishop Toolen dedicated the church as St. Theresa of the Child Jesus.
In 1960, a parish house was constructed on the property as a residence for the priests; and in 1989, a bell tower was added to the church.
In 1987, a church hall was constructed; and was named Martin Hall in honor of the family of St. Theresa. The parents of St. Theresa were declared Venerable in 1994, and Beatified as a couple in 2008.
Catholic attendance at Mass had fallen off to the point where the Bishop was considering the closing St. Theresa. In 2000, Fr. Jim Naughton, a Salesian priest, was named Pastor with the intent to eventually wind down the church’s affairs. However, during the following ten year period, Mass attendance grew from less than 100 people to over 450: and PSR attendance grew from 12 to 88 students. Instead of closing the church, one additional weekend Mass had to be added to accommodate the influx of new parishioners. Soon thereafter, it was decided that the church building needed to be expanded and remodeled.
The expansion project was completed in 2011, with seating capacity increased over 80%. Other improvements include expanded and remodeled restrooms, new carpeting, seating, painting, sound system, HVAC, landscaping, and other needed improvements.
- Rev. James Gallagher 1950 - 1958
- Rev. Owen Connaughton 1959
- Rev. Desmond Regan 1959 - 1966
- Rev. Robert Bauler 1966 - 1972
- Rev. Michael J. White 1972 - 1974
- Rev. Robert Bauler 1974 - 1982
- Rev. Peter MacCarthy 1982 - 2000
- Rev. James Naughton 2000 - 2013
- Rev. E. Gray Bean 2014 - Present
The area Hispanic community had also grown, and after several months of hosting a Tuesday evening Hispanic service, the first Sunday Hispanic Mass was celebrated on August 5, 2012. Continual outreach to the local Hispanic community offers the sacraments, pre-baptism and pre- matrimony preparation; and Hispanic cultural celebrations.
After the passing of Fr. Jim in 2013, Fr. Gray Bean was named Pastor of the church in 2014. Under the guidance and leadership of Fr. Bean, attendance over the next few years increased even more to about 475 families and over 1,000 parishioners.
In order to accommodate the spiritual, social, and educational needs of the growing Catholic community, a new Parish Life Center was constructed in 2017. The new Life Center contains a 5,000 sq. ft. Fellowship Hall with large Kitchen, Parish Offices, a new Pastor's Office, 10 classrooms, and a large Meeting Room/Library. The new facility was dedicated by Bishop Baker on March 4, 2017.