ANNAPOLIS, MD — St. Mary’s Church is celebrating the 200th anniversary of its original house of worship. The current church will hold a special Mass on Thursday at 7 p.m. to mark the milestone, and a reception will follow.
Catholic Review reported that Mary Anne Caton Patterson, granddaughter of Declaration of Independence signer Charles Carroll, opened the first St. Mary’s Church in 1823. The one-room brick building was 30 feet wide by 36 feet deep and held 150 people. The church sat on the site of St. Mary’s current main school building, which was completed in 1880.
The original church, which held monthly Jesuit services, is no longer there. Carroll’s four granddaughters gave the property in 1852 to the Redemptorists — a congregation of missionary priests, deacons, and brothers.
The property was officially conveyed to the Redemptorists in 1853, and they established the church’s first permanent Catholic parish that year. That’s why St. Mary’s recognizes 1853 as its founding date, not 1823.
The current church building, located at 109 Duke of Gloucester St., was dedicated in 1860.
The church is now part of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, serving more than 5,000 families in the Annapolis area. The parish is so large that it also has a secondary house of worship, St. John Neumann Mission Church, at 620 Bestgate Road.
“Our 13 Masses are always filled every weekend with about 700 people. Some are standing,” Father Woods told Catholic Review. “There are many young families who feel the church has a unique character.”
The soaring steeple of the church is a defining feature of the Annapolis skyline. The blue towering ceilings and the Gothic altar are some interior highlights.
Today, St. Mary has 10,000 members, including 2,000 Hispanics. The original church is long gone, but its successor (dedicated in 1860) is much larger and more ornate.
“I don’t think anyone planned we would have one mega-parish,” said Pastor Father Patrick Woods, C.Ss.R., a priest for 49 years, including the last four at the Annapolis parish. “Our 13 Masses are always filled every weekend with about 700 people. Some are standing. There are a lot of young families, and they feel the church has a unique character.”
The present church was built in the Gothic architectural style with a single steeple. Some of its most striking features are its large Gothic main altar and a shrine to Our Mother of Perpetual Help.
“Many people want to get married here, even if they’re not from our parish,” Father Woods said. “When you walk into our church, you know you’re walking into history.”