In 1881, Mr. and Mrs. Charles W. Lohmann, Sr., along with thirty other Catholics who gathered for worship in their home at 201 23rd Street, established St. Vincent de Paul parish as a mission of St. Mary’s, Ft. Monroe (the first Catholic parish on the Peninsula). On March 30, 1890, parishioners petitioned Bishop Van de Vyver for a priest, and in April 1890, Rev. Richard A. Drake was assigned to the Mission. He would travel from Richmond, saying Mass first at Johnsons’ Hall and later in the original Baptist chapel which stood at the northwest corner of Washington Avenue and 30th Street. In November 1890, Rev. Charles E. Donahoe succeeded Father Drake as the Missions’ first resident pastor.
In February 1891 construction of the first church began on Washington Avenue near 34th Street. The first Mass was celebrated on Sunday, April 5, 1891, and the church was officially dedicated on July 19, 1891. By the year 1900 the congregation had increased so rapidly that there was a need for a new church.
In May 1916, ground for the new church was broken on 33rd Street in Newport News. The church and rectory complex was completed in 1917 and the first Mass was offered on Sunday, May 27, 1917. The church building was formally dedicated to God on June 3, 1917.
Father David Coleman celebrated the first Mass in the new church building and served the parish for fifteen years. Father Colemans’ vision, business sense and administrative skills enabled the parish and church schools to grow. Father Coleman died on December 16, 1932 and by “special ordinance” from the Newport News City Council was allowed to be buried alongside the rectory where a statue of the Sacred Heart now stands.
In the fall of 1970, St. Alphonsus Mission merged with St. Vincent. St. Alphonsus had been established in 1944 as an Apostolate to African American families. The merging of St. Alphonsus with St. Vincent proved to be a happy union for both parishes. The new parish’s Social Action Center was partially funded by the sale of St. Alphonsus' property and was established to provide assistance to the disadvantaged in the local area. This assistance came in the form of youth counseling, summer programs for inner city children, mental health assistance, food assistance for families in need and programs for shut-ins and the elderly.
The parish of St. Vincent de Paul continues to minister to those in need in the area through both its Social Action Center and its Backdoor Ministry. The Backdoor Ministry has been feeding a hot lunch to people every Monday through Friday since 1976.
Rev. Lloyd Stephenson, a native son, was assigned to St. Vincent de Paul in 1997. He was known for his lively homilies and his passion for the Backdoor Ministry. Fr. Stephenson passed away in March 2004.
In 2011, the Diocese of Richmond grouped St. Vincent de Paul, Newport News, St. Joseph, Hampton, and St. Mary Star of the Sea, Fort Monroe into the Peninsula Cluster of Catholic Parishes. Monsignor Walter Barrett was assigned as the Pastor of the Peninsula Cluster parish.