An Historical Sketch of St. Joseph Catholic Community
(from booklet for new church dedication 1998)
The first definite plans to form a Catholic congregation in Sykesville were made in 1852. Several hundred Catholic families had settled in the county. The Jesuits, who came from Frederick on horseback and the Sulpicians, who had established St. Charles Preparatory College eight miles south of Sykesville, occasionally offered Mass and administered the sacraments at the home of Dr. and Mrs. Orrelana H. Owings. After St. Joseph’s first pastor, the Right Rev. Msgr. Barnard McManus, left in 1853 to erect St. John’s Church in Baltimore, the pastors from St. Paul’s in Ellicott City tended to the needs of the people in this little mission church.
In 1864, Archbishop Martin John Spalding decided to erect several church buildings in the archdiocese. One of these was St. Joseph’s in Sykesville. On September 9, 1865 Dr. and Mrs. Owings donated the ground for the church building to the archdiocese. In August 1867, the cornerstone of the first Sykesville church building (now at the corner of Main and Sandosky Streets), was laid.
The building was used for services even before the roof was in place. The rear wall collapsed before completion and wasn’t replaced until five years later. Finally, in 1873, construction of the Sykesville church building was completed. In the early years, the Redemptorist Fathers from Ilchester and the Jesuits from Woodstock College served the little mission congregation. In 1892, St. Joseph’s became the headquarters for the Sykesville, Poplar Springs and Harrisonville Missions. Fr. Nolan oversaw this new mission area. Fr. Tawes (1893-1896) succeeded Fr. Nolan and was responsible for purchasing the first rectory.
In 1904, Holy Family in Harrisonville was separated from the Sykesville Mission, but the two were joined again in 1919 and remained united under the same pastor until 1946. From 1904 to 1946, there was a great progression of pastors. It was during these years that one of the later pastors sold the rectory to Bill Brandenburg for $2,700.
Between 1940 and 1946, a number of renovations were carried out in the church building. It was said that St. Joseph’s in Sykesville “is not only the most attractive in its decorative scheme, but it is the last word in liturgical exactitude.”
In 1946, St. Joseph’s and Holy Family became separate parishes and Fr. Joseph Amon became the first full-time pastor of St. Joseph’s (1946-1950). He lived with a family from the parish until he bought a cottage on Central Avenue to serve as a rectory. It was at his request that the women of the Sanctuary Society began St. Joseph’s CYO on January 30, 1949.
While Father Keydash was pastor (1950-53), he established the rectory at the James 0. Ridgely house and improved it by adding modem plumbing and finishing the attic. It was the next pastor, Fr. Joseph Josaitis, (1953-54), who formed a young people’s choir and instituted religious study groups in the homes of some of the parish teenagers’ families.
Following Fr. Josaitis as pastor, Msgr. Austin Healy (1954-57) improved the Sunday school program and provided activities for the young people. In 1955, he established the executive board of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine (CCD), comprised of a dozen or so parishioners. This organization was seen as the forerunner of the parish councils of today. During his pastorate, the church building underwent some major renovations to accommodate the new parish families.
Fr. John P. Kelly served as pastor from 1957–62 with Fr. Howard Metzger as an associate. In 1961, Fr. Kelly realized that the expanding population of the Sykesville area would require a larger worship space and asked the men of the Holy Name Society to look for a suitable site.
Fr. Snyder became pastor in 1962. Fr. La Porta served as his associate. As pastor for twenty years (1962–82) Fr. Snyder played a major role in the development of both the physical and spiritual life of St. Joseph’s. Almost immediately, he took up the study of finding land space. In April 1963, 15 acres of the Adam’s farm on Liberty Road were purchased for $21,500.
The groundbreaking ceremonies took place in June, 1964 and the first Mass in the new building was celebrated on May 23, 1965. His Eminence Lawrence Cardinal Sheehan conducted dedication ceremonies on June 20, 1965.
Ten years later, Fr. Snyder was confronted with the challenge of having insufficient space for the 685 young people registered in the CCD program and no space for an active, growing CYO. Once again, the parish needed a new building. A planning committee, appointed in the Spring of 1975, surveyed the needs of various parish organizations and recommended that a building be constructed to provide the necessary space. The parish council gave its final approval on May 13, 1976 to build a gym, classrooms and offices.
Under Fr. Snyder the CCD program was expanded and three Sisters from St. Mark’s in Catonsville came to teach at St. Joseph’s. After these Sisters withdrew from the program in 1969, Sr. Catherine and Sr. Noreen met with the teachers to provide some guidance for preparing their classes. In 1972, Sr. Noreen became part-time coordinator of the religious education program. At the recommendation of the education committee, she was hired as full-time coordinator in 1974. Under her leadership, parents assumed a more active role in working with the children. Out of this involvement arose the adult education committee. This committee sponsored Bible study groups, evenings of prayer, special lectures and study programs.
The Marianists took over the leadership of the parish in 1981 when Fr. Peter O’Grady S.M. was appointed as pastor. With the assistance of Fr. John Mulligan, S.M., he began to develop a number of programs in the parish. The Parish Council was restructured and the Parish Council Constitution was re-written. The Parish Executive Board and Staff arranged for an all day planing session for January 28, 1984. As a result of this meeting, the Staff was enlarged to include a youth minister and a liturgist/musician, a computer was installed in the parish office, a planning committee and a home visitation program were inaugurated, guidelines for the use of our facilities were drawn up and a parish mission statement was formulated.
The years between 1986 and the present can be characterized by expansive growth of ministries, a collaborative spirit and continual efforts toward reconciliation. Parishioners have grown in understanding their call to ministry within the Church. They serve in every area of parish life, giving generously of their time and talent to help bring about the Reign of God.
In the late eighties, the Renew process energized the spiritual development of parishioners. At the end of the process, many Renew groups continued to meet and the Small Christian Community movement in the parish was initiated and sustained. As a result of this, faith sharing became a centerpiece of parish life.
In the early nineties, Bro. Rick Connor S.M. was hired as Pastoral Associate for Small Christian Communities. Fr. Paul Fitzpatrick, S.M. joined the staff in 1990; he was involved in Sacramental ministry and the social action program.
Fr. Patrick Tonry, S.M. arrived in 1996. As had been discerned by the Pastoral Staff in the previous year, a Co-pastoring Team was put in place at that time. Fr. Tonry served as Canonical Pastor for Sacramental Ministry; Dolores Clerico S.S.J. as Co-Pastor for Formation Ministry and Francis J. Seymour, Jr. as Co-pastor for Support Ministry. The Co-pastoring Team was installed by the Most Reverend P. Francis Murphy, Regional Vicar for the Western Vicariate of the Archdiocese of Baltimore on September 14, 1996. This collaborative model of co-pastoring was altered in 1998. However, the Pastoral Staff continues functioning in a collaborative style. Pastoral Council and Staff meet every year in the fall and in the spring to assess the needs of the parish and to try to respond appropriately.
In the last three or four years, an average of 100–120 new families have registered each year. The Pastoral Staff has been expanded to serve the growing number of people and needs of our parish. Through the efforts of many generous faith-filled parishioners and the leadership of competent, dedicated pastoral staff members, we continue to grow in faith and love as a liturgically-based community.
Programs for sacramental preparation have a high priority in our parish: the Infant Baptism Program, the RCIA process, preparation programs for Reception of the Holy Eucharist, Reconciliation and Confirmation and the Sponsor-Couple Marriage Preparation Program.
The Religious Education program has expanded, various liturgical ministries have been developed and refined, and quality programs to assist those who are the most vulnerable because of injustice, sickness, or poverty in this community and around the world have been advanced by the Christian Service Commission. Under the direction of Fr. Terry Weik, S.M. (1992–1998) Youth Ministry evolved into four types of programs: The Catholic Youth Organization (CYO), the Catholic Life Community (CLC), the Confirmation Sacramental Program (CSP), the Living in Faith Experience (LIFE).
The Knights of Columbus have been growing steadily and have initiated a Squires program for young men of the parish.
The Catholic Daughters of the Americas have a thriving group at St. Joseph’s. The Finance Commission was established and under its direction, the parish initiated a tithing program, committing itself to share 10% of its income to the needy and the poor. The parish also encourages parishioners to live this tithing spiritually.
Due to increasing needs in the area of finances and property management, St. Joseph’s hired Mr. Francis Seymour as full-time business manager in 1989. As a result of several planning sessions, the Facilities Committee was directed to hire a handyman to keep our facilities functional and supportive. They employed Tom Schwartz, an accomplished carpenter, who has completed several renovations and continues to maintain our facilities in an exceptional manner.
Committees were formed to plan for the expansion of facilities. A series of open parish meetings were held to insure that parishioner input was included in the planning process. Fund raising for these purposes began in 1991. A Core Team Committee planned the upgrades, which included a third church building.
Construction began in September, 1997. The new structure includes a Blessed Sacrament chapel and is connected to the 1965 structure by a gathering space.
It is with gratitude to God and all who have been part of the planning and construction process that we dedicate our beautiful new worship space today, October 9, 1998.
St. Joseph’s has come a long way in the 130 years since its foundation as a parish to serve a handful of Catholic farmers and workers in the Sykesville area. It is now a more suburban parish, serving both residents who have borne the heat and burden of the day in building and financing three churches, and the many newcomers who continue to arrive in great numbers. With the continued spirit of cooperation and compromise, and the help of God, St. Joseph Catholic Community will carry this tradition into the future, so that generations to come will grow in their understanding of what it means to be Catholic Christians, praying and working together to bring about the Reign of God.
The Eldersburg church was dedicated October 9, 1998. The following description of the design is taken from a booklet prepared for the dedication.
“Through his death and resurrection, Christ became the true and perfect temple … and gathered together a people to be his own. This holy people … is the Church, that is, the temple of God built of living stones… ”
—Rite of Dedication
A church building, or rather a House for the Church, is the story of a people. It is a story more about the life of a community and its relationship to God and the larger Church around them than the mere materials used in its construction.
We, the Church of St. Joseph Catholic Community, reverence the long tradition that is ours and seek to build on that tradition as we embrace the challenge of making God present in our own time and culture. We remember our shared history, we celebrate who we are and are called to be, and we believe in a future full of promise for all God’s people. This is the story that finds expression in the House for the Church of St. Joseph Catholic Community.
The general design of our House for the Church flows from Renaissance architecture, as is evidenced by the pitched roof, rounded arches, stained woods, and the relationship of the daily chapel to the larger worship space. All furnishings and liturgical objects are chosen to complement this early Renaissance design. The distinctive simplicity that characterizes early Renaissance creates an environment of beauty and warmth.
The outside plaza area and the one main entrance invite all who come seeking community, nourishment, and the comfort and challenge of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Just inside the doors, the gathering space (or narthex) is designed to be a place of hospitality and welcome. The paver bricks in the floor are inscribed with the names of saints, our ancestors in the faith who have walked the way of discipleship before us. Gathering for worship, the community of believers becomes one with the communion of saints in worshiping the God who transcends all time and space.
Walking through the glass doors highlighting the etched glass entitled “The Shield of Grace”*, we are reminded of God’s abundant life and love which constantly surrounds us. Once through the doors leading into the main body (or nave) of the building, we come face to face with the baptismal pool. The flowing, life-giving waters boldly remind us of our identity as a people baptized into Christ.
We reaffirm our baptism and the call to embrace the cross by using this one source to mark ourselves with the sign of the cross. We are further reminded to take up the cross that leads to glory by the shape of the pool’s interior floor and the processional cross that stands nearby. In reaffirming our baptism, we accept the challenge of being transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ, so that God’s healing presence can find expression in the world today through us.
The cabinet with the holy oils (or ambry)* holds a place of reverence near the life-giving waters. These oils are used at various times along the Christian journey to mark us as a people of dignity, consecrate us for service, and offer us healing.
The focus of our attention and our worship together is around the Table of the Word (ambo or lecturn) and the Table of the Eucharist (altar). The liturgical actions at these complementary tables nourish us, challenge us, and send us forth in mission.
The Word of God comes alive for us when it is proclaimed from the ambo. As we hear this Word, we remember our common story and struggle with the change of heart that the Word continually demands of us.
Acknowledging our common history and accepting the challenge of the proclaimed Word, we turn to the Table of the Eucharist. This holy table functions as both altar of sacrifice and banquet table for the Eucharist. Here Jesus becomes present in bread and wine. We remember, we celebrate, and we believe that we are all members of the same Body, with Jesus as our Head. Therefore, we share in the one Bread and one Cup and are sent forth to proclaim God’s presence and to transform the world by lives of compassionate service.
Our call to unity, transformation, and compassionate service is further addressed by the large “Reconciliation Cross” hanging on the reredos (back) wall. The cross itself is equilateral, showing the reconciliation (or bringing together) of north, south, east and west—all points of the globe and the diversity of all people. The horizontal and vertical beams symbolize the reconciling of heaven and earth, God and people. We are reminded of all the opposites and extremes so characteristic of our own lives and our society.
The death of Jesus on the cross was the free outpouring of love through which all extremes are unified and all woundedness is healed and made whole. It is at the moment of reconciliation and healing that new life—resurrection—occurs. The center of the cross (the place where opposites are reconciled) is open to show us that the cross, with all its burden and pain, is not an end in itself but a passageway or prelude to resurrection. We are invited to place our crosses within that open center so that God’s love can transform them into opportunities for resurrection and new life.
The corpus or image of the crucified Christ suspended in front of the cross is modeled after the treasured San Damiano Crucifix. In 1205 St. Francis of Assisi was praying before a similar crucifix in the little church of San Damiano when he heard Christ calling him to a life of service. Can we recognize this crucified Christ in the poor, suffering, and oppressed of our time and culture? Can we accept the challenge of responding? This image of self-emptying Love reminds us of our identity as disciples of Christ, people who love one another through lives of compassionate service.
Although the major space of a House for the Church is designed for gathering to celebrate the Eucharist together, the Church has had the ancient tradition of reserving the Eucharistic Bread in a tabernacle. The purpose of this reservation is to bring Holy Communion to the sick and to be the object of private devotion.
The place of reservation is specifically designed and separated from the major worship area for two reasons. First, it makes clear the distinction between worship as a gathered assembly and private devotion. Second, it gives the reserved Sacrament a special place of reverence and importance.
The wood used for the tabernacle near our main worship space complements the altar and ambo. Its artistic design imitates the pitched roof of the church building. Just as this “little house” holds the Body of Christ within it, the House for the Church holds the Body of Christ, the People of God.
A second tabernacle can be found in the daily chapel, a smaller worship area near the gathering space or narthex.
Private prayer and personal devotions allow us to intercede for others, express gratitude, and lift up our personal concerns to intercessors who will help us shoulder the burden. Visual images such as sacred art, statues and paintings can be important in helping us to focus our attention, our concern, our prayer. Two devotional niches are found in close proximity to the baptismal pool. One images Mary*, the first and foremost model of discipleship. The other images Joseph*, man of faith and patron saint of the Catholic Community in Eldersburg.
It has taken several years to shape the physical aspects of our church building. Now it will shape the people of St. Joseph Catholic Community for generations to come. The principal beauty of this House for the Church will be the hospitality of our assembly, the eagerness with which we hear the Word of God, the devotion with which we share the holy Eucharist and the love which we take forth to transform the earth.
*artistic work to be completed
The chapel, a smaller worship area near the gathering space (narthex) in our Eldersburg church building, is dedicated to Our Lady of the Pillar. This chapel provides a place for celebrating the Eucharist during week days, as well as sacred space for private prayer and devotion before the Blessed Sacrament.
“Our Lady of the Pillar” is one of the many titles accorded to Mary. It recalls her appearance to the Apostle James in Saragossa, Spain around 40 AD. The Madonna statue in our chapel is reminiscent of the statue in the Cathedral of Saragossa.
- Marian Apparitions
- Our Lady of the Pillar — Catholic Encyclopedia
- William Joseph Chaminade (Founder of the Marianists)
Our Lady of the Pillar
Saragossa, Spain (ca. 40 AD)
After the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, his Apostles began to spread the message he left throughout Israel and shortly thereafter, through the Roman empire. One of these Apostles, James (the Greater), reportedly traveled as far west as Spain to the village of Saragossa in northeast Spain. While James was there, he became disheartened because of the failure of his mission. Tradition holds that while he was deep in prayer Jesus’ Blessed Mother appeared to him and gave him a small wooden statue of herself and a column of jasper wood and instructed him to build a church in her honor:
“This place is to be my house, and this image and column shall be the title and altar of the temple that you shall build.”
The jasper column and the wooden statue can still be seen on special occasions at a church that houses them. About a year after the apparition James arranged to build a small chapel in Mary’s honor, the first Church ever dedicated to the honor of the Virgin Mary. After James returned to Jerusalem, he was executed by Herod Agrippa in about 44 AD, the first apostle to be martyred for his faith.
Stained Glass Window
High on the reredos wall is a large stained glass window.
The diameter of the window and the repeated sunburst symbol reflect the baptismal pool, where the path of discipleship begins. The circular design and the radiant colors speak to the end of the disciple’s journey where there will be completeness and fullness of glory with God. Thus, the window reveals something of the beauty of God and God’s dream for us.
It depicts the Energy of God we call GRACE, radiating from the Love of God, the heart of the Holy Trinity. Dynamic lines and colors spiral out and in through a series of color fields symbolizing water of life—Baptism; fire of love—Confirmation; circle of light—gold wheat, red and purple grapes, Eucharist, Communion. The compact radiating circle seems itself to be in motion symbolizing the constant energy of God’s all inclusive love experienced as GRACE in the life of God’s people.
The stained glass window was designed by artist Sr. Margie Thompson. It was built by Don Hector, of Lambertville Stained Glass Co. in Lambertville, NJ.
On September 9, 1865 Dr. and Mrs. Owings donated the ground for the church building to the archdiocese. In August 1867, the cornerstone of the first Sykesville church building (now at the comer of Main and Sandosky Streets), was laid. The building was used for services even before the roof was in place. The rear wall collapsed before completion and wasn’t replaced until five years later. Finally, in 1873, construction of the Sykesville church building was completed.
This church has been home to Catholics in Howard and Carroll counties for over 130 years.
Today, it is used for special occasions, and is frequently visited for private prayer and devotions.