Early in the 20th century, a small group of families in and around Athens was served by priests from St. Bernard Abbey. The first church, built around 1911 was a small chapel at the corner of Coleman Avenue and Browns Ferry Road which was named St. Henry’s. A visiting priest from the tri-cities area traveled by train each Sunday morning to celebrate Holy Mass. By the late 1920s, the chapel had closed and parishioners had to travel by ferry across the Tennessee River to Decatur for Holy Mass at St. Ann’s Church.
In the late 1940s, Mr. and Mrs. Carl Hatchett opened their home on South Clinton Street to the emerging congregation and church services were restored with the help of the Passionist Fathers and Marionite Missionaries. From 1954-1959, Mass was celebrated by Monsignor John Horgan of St. Ann’s Parish each Saturday morning at the Hatchett home. An altar was set up in the dining room and after Mass, the dining room table and chairs were set in place and breakfast was served by Mrs. Hatchett and Mary Ellen Clarke. The children had their education classes afterwards.
Fr. William Higgins was assigned to Decatur in 1958 and he assumed responsibility for the mission work in Athens. On March 20, 1959, the Charles W. Spencer family sold a one acre lot on Highway 72 to Bishop Thomas J. Toolen, Bishop of Mobile-Birmingham Diocese. By the fall of 1959
Monsignor John Horgan, the pastor at St. Ann’s Church in Decatur, built a small mission church in Athens which was paid for by the Catholic Church Extension Society of Chicago and the Holy Name Chapel fund. The Mission Helpers of Alabama helped furnish the church with donations for the altar, stations of the cross, and other items.
In September of 1961, Fr. Charles V. Cross was assigned to Decatur and shared the mission work in Athens with Fr. Thomas A. Cairns who was assigned to Decatur in August of 1963. By the late 1960s, the church had grown to 18 families.