When land was bought along the Patapsco River across the Bay from Fort McHenry by the Globe Shipbuilding Company of Baltimore, later known as the Maryland Drydock Company, it requested skilled shipbuilders to come from Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin. Pioneers moved from some of our sections nearby and also from Baltimore City. Jobs were plentiful. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad needed workers. The Coastguard Yard was looking for workers for the constant repair and upkeep of ships. Leather tanning and sugar refinery factories as well as farming brought further settlement of the area.
Father Paul Sandalgi, pastor of St. Athanasius, had already a flourishing parish for the Curtis Bay area. The influx of so many new parishioners expanded the bounds of the parish, making it difficult for one man to minister to the many needs of this growing congregation. Mass was said in various homes on Sunday. Old timers recall attending Mass in Helmstetter’s at 416 Patapsco Avenue. The Odd Fellows Hall provided space for Sunday Mass later. Helmstetters gave land to erect a small wooden church for the scattered settlers on the site of the present St. Rose of Lima Church.
The first Mass was celebrated in the church in 1914. Proudly the people led their offspring to the rustic pews. At last St. Rose of Lima was a parish!
Remembered with gratitude and affection are the Mission Helpers who taught the children Catechism every Sunday and organized the Children of Mary Sodality. The Holy Name Society was established.
This little church that brought great joy to its people was destroyed by fire on February 7, 1915. No explanation was ever given as to the cause of the fire.
A new church of brick was started immediately. It was dedicated February 6, 1916. The pastor and parishioners buckled down to pay the cost. Dinner parties, bazaars, outdoor carnivals followed in succession. People got to know each other. Togetherness, cooperation and acceptance were as needed then as they are now. The parish of St. Rose was putting its roots deep into the ground. In 1919 St. Jane Frances de Chantal and Holy Trinity were missions of St. Rose of Lima until 1947 when both of these mission churches became parishes. Father Sandalgi continued his priestly ministries to St. Rose until June 28, 1922 when Father Leonard J. Ripple was appointed pastor.
Father Ripple was an able educator. His first priestly act was to build a school. Dominican Sisters from Sinsinawa, Wisconsin were requested to staff it. Four nuns came. The Sisters started to teach at once. The first three months of school passed happily for students and teachers. On December 21, 1926 a fire started on the first floor of the school. The firemen called to put out the fire were trapped by a passing freight train. When they finally arrived, the water pressure was so low only a drizzle could reach the second floor. The pastor, nuns and children watched as their school burned to the ground. The next day in the rubble and debris, Father Ripple found a part of a movie film face upward as if inviting inspection. It said, “Keep smiling.” Accepting this as a heavenly message, Father decided to make it his slogan. For the text of the next Sunday’s sermon, he said, “We refuse to be discouraged. We will build again. Keep smiling.”
1927 found a new school with 224 pupils, four Sisters and two lay teachers. The years following the ordeal of 1926, Father Ripple turned his attention to the growing needs of his parish: Catechism classes for public school children demanded attention; expenses increased as enrollment doubled; attention to church; singing and liturgical worship; altar boy training; additions to the convent in the form of a front and back porch; administering to poor and needy and victims of war disaster and a host of many other parish duties demanded his constant concern.
On April 22, 1950 fire and water destroyed the brick church built in 1916. The fire was said to have been caused by vigil lights. The church was so irreparably ruined by flames and water that it was imperative to rebuild. An American colonial style architecture with limestone trim made an imposing site on Fourth Street. The new church was dedicated by Archbishop Keough on November 23, 1952. The former rectory was moved one-hundred feet and placed on the present site.
Grief and suffering came to the parish on February 3, 1956 when a fire in Arundel Hall took the lives of eleven persons and sent two-hundred fifty to hospitals. The fire occurred when an oyster roast was being held in the Hall for the benefit of St. Rose of Lima Parish by the Holy Name Society. Father Ripple died February 10, 1961.
On February 7 and 8, 1967, the school was closed due to snow. On February 9, 1967, during the 8 o’clock Mass, the roof of the church collapsed. At the offertory of the Mass, there were two noises sounding like snow falling from the roof. Almost instantly the entire roof, from sanctuary to choir, caved in. Approximately a hundred children and twenty or thirty adults were at Mass. Some escaped via the doors uninjured. Others took refuge under pews and escaped injury. However, thirty-five or so children and adults were taken via ambulances to area hospitals.
The present beautiful church was rebuilt on this spot by Bishop Murphy successor to Father Ripple.
Due to the pressure of work at the Archdiocesan office, Bishop Murphy resigned as Pastor of St. Rose, and in 1972 Father James V. Hobbs was appointed to succeed Bishop Murphy as pastor of St. Rose.
During the mid to late 1970’s, St. Rose continued to maintain itself in a good spiritual and material condition. The weekend Mass attendance usually included about 1800 people, and an emphasis was placed on good liturgical celebration.
It was during this time that the first Parish Mission in several years was conducted at St. Rose. Also the financial structure of St. Rose was greatly solidified in 1976 with a very successful appeal that was made as part of the Archdiocesan wide stewardship drive.
A notable event during this period was the formation of the St. Rose Seniors organization. As the number of senior citizens in the parish continued to grow, it seemed important for St. Rose to provide the opportunity for older men and women to gather for fellowship, recreation and service to the parish.
During this period, the parish was served by three Associate Pastors including Father Charles Klein, who later became Pastor, along with Father Howard Boyle and Father. Ronald Michaud. In addition, Mr. John Poland served as the first Director of Religious Education at St. Rose. John was later succeeded by Mrs. Geraldine Fialkowski.
St. Rose of Lima School continued to flourish during this period. The enrollment usually stayed above 500 students, and the faculty included the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, Wisconsin, as well as many lay teachers. It was within this period that an open-space format was introduced for the 7th and 8th grades in the Lower Church.
In July, 1978, Father Charles Klein succeeded Father James Hobbs as Pastor after serving here as an Associate Pastor since 1973. It was during this time that a major effort was made to reduce the long-standing parish debt incurred during the building of the Church in 1968. The parish continued to progress liturgically as many more parishioners were chosen to serve as Lectors and Eucharistic Ministers. Father John Moore served as Associate Pastor during this period, and Geraldine Fialkowski continued as Director of Religious Education.
During this time, St. Rose of Lima School began to experience many changes. Increasingly lay teachers were being added to the faculty as the number of Sisters at St. Rose decreased. Also, the School continued to decline in enrollment, with the number of students decreasing to a level of about 215 with the start of the 1981-’82 school year. Also, as an economy move, the 7th and 8th grades were moved from the Lower Church to the main School building. Sister Joan McCann continued as Principal until June of 1981 when she and the other remaining Dominican Sisters concluded their service to St. Rose.
On August 7, 1981, Father Michael Orchik was assigned as Pastor of St. Rose, after having served as an Associate Pastor of St. Patrick’s in Baltimore and Sacred Heart of Mary in Graceland Park.
It was during this time that the parish began to solidify its financial structure. The leasing of the convent to the Benedictine Sisters in July of 1981 and the moving of the Junior High to the school building had provided the parish with a significant decrease in expenditures. The Offertory continued to increase at a good rate, and the fundraising income began to increase dramatically as well. As a result, St. Rose was able to meet its ongoing expenditures while steadily reducing the parish debt.
A key event in recent parish history was the making of the final payment on the note to the Archdiocese in June, 1983, thus finally cancelling the parish debt. A great celebration was held on October 30, 1983, to commemorate the event, including a con-celebrated Mass in Church, followed by an informal reception in the Hall.
St. Rose has continued in recent years to express its concern for the poor, sick and elderly through the reactivating of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, serving of casseroles at the Beans and Bread Soup Kitchen, the formation of the Pastoral Visitors Program, and participation in the Homemaker Service sponsored by Catholic Charities.
Societies that have also been reactivated in the 1980’s have been the Holy Name Society, the Blessed Virgin Mary Sodality, and the St. Rose CYO.
St. Rose of Lima School experienced even more changes throughout the 1980’s. The school has been staffed by a totally lay faculty and Miss Dorothy Freeman and Mrs. Jean Delcher have served as Principal. The enrollment, which dropped to a low of 180 in June of 1985, has steadily increased to a level of near 250. New offerings have included the Kindergarten, School Band, Choir and Computer Class.
The number of students in Religious Education has declined in recent years, with just over 100 students enrolled. However, many dedicated parishioners continued to devote their time and talent as teachers and aids.
During this time, Father John Lesnick and Father Joseph Krach served as Associate Pastors, while Sister Kathleen White, O.S.B., and Sister Shannon Libbey served as Pastoral Associates. Sister Mary Fennell, S.N.D., was the Coordinator of Religious Education.
On May 3, 1992, Father Charles O. Rouse was assigned to St. Rose of Lima as Pastor and resigned in March 1995.
On March 1, 1995, Father Joseph O’Meara was assigned to St. Rose of Lima as a Temporary Administrator. On August 1, 1995, he was assigned as Pastor of St. Rose. Previously he had served as a Temporary Administrator at St. Edward’s and St. Cecelia’s.
Father O’Meara ministered at St. Rose of Lima until he retired in December 2009. During his assignment, the parish and the school experienced many changes.
In December 1995, under the advice of the Pastoral Staff, the Christmas Eve midnight Mass was discontinued since it had become poorly attended.
In February 1996, a number of changes were made to conform more closely to the official liturgical norms of the Church.
In March 1996 the Eucharistic Ministers group was expanded to include some younger members, as well as some ethnic diversification to better reflect the changing ethnicity of the parish.
In June 1997, the number of Sunday Masses was reduced from three to two due to the decreasing attendance. A number of other minor changes were made: the sanctuary kneelers were brought back; yearly missals were purchased for Sunday worship; new hymn books were purchased and memorialized by parishioners.
Since 1995 a number of physical changes have also shaped the liturgical life of the parish. The first was in early 1996 with the addition of the beautiful Marian and votive shrine in the back of the church where the original baptistery was located.
In July 2001 a Gathering Space was created in the rear of the church to facilitate fellowship, and a cross-over aisle was added near the front, to facilitate easy movement from one side of the church to the other. The Mass crucifix, hanging over the main altar, was replaced with a larger crucifix that now hangs over the celebrant’s chair, the altar of reserve, where the tabernacle is located, was enhanced with decorative lattice work; pews were removed from the left side of the church to expand the section for the music ministries; pews were also removed from the front, and the platform on which the altar rests was extended to add space to the sanctuary, the baptistery was moved from the back of the church to the sanctuary, the confessionals were re-designed to allow for face to face confessions. Added to these was the addition of a handicap ramp on the right side of the church.
During this time, several new pastoral programs were introduced. A Sponsor Couple Program for couples preparing for marriage, Kids for Christ, which is a program for adolescent age children, and the formation of the Women’s Group which was formed as a spiritual and social concerns group for women of the parish.
Also during this time period, the school experienced a decrease in enrollment which affected its financial condition. The school was unable to pay expenses, salaries and employee benefits. The parish, therefore, gave money to the school from its investments so that the school could remain open.
In January 2010, Father Robert DiMattei, Jr., who is the Pastor of St. Athanasius in Curtis Bay since July of 2000, was also named Pastor of St. Rose of Lima Parish.
To be able to minister to both communities, Father Rob coordinated Mass schedules and strengthened the pastoral staff of St. Rose by sharing the pastoral staff of St. Athanasius. This began a new model of leading two parish communities with one pastor and one pastoral staff. Deacon Mike Dodge was assigned as a Permanent Deacon, Mary Beth Barnes ministers as a part time Pastoral Associate and Director of Religious Education, Ted Feldmann ministers as the organist and Director of Music and Leo Quinn ministers as the Youth Minister. Also, Brother Bill Griffin, C.F.X. was hired as a full time Pastoral Associate to manage the day-today operations of the parish. Father Charles Klein became in residence at the Rectory and assisted with daily and weekend Masses.
The grave financial condition of the school was announced to the parish and the impact it was having on the parish.
During this time, the Archdiocese of Baltimore was examining all of the schools in the Archdiocese. In March 2010, it was announced that several schools were to be closed. St. Rose of Lima School was one of those schools that would close its doors as of June 30, 2010.
On June 19, 2010, the parish held a Celebration Mass and reception to honor the legacy of St. Rose of Lima School.
Beginning with the 2010-11 school year, the Religious Education Program, RCIA and Sacrament Preparation Program were combined with the existing programs at St. Athanasius.
In the fall of 2010, the Archdiocese of Baltimore was approached by an investor interested in purchasing the school and convent property. The Archdiocese had the school and convent properties appraised and placed those properties for sale. An offer was made by The Children’s Guild is an organization that serves to improve the lives of children with special needs. On June 26, 2011, The Children’s Guild became the owners of the property formerly known as the St. Rose of Lima School and Convent. The debt owed to the Archdiocese of Baltimore was paid in full.
In April 2011, Brother Bill Griffin announced that he was leaving St. Rose of Lima to minister in Haiti with his fellow Xaverian Brothers.
In September 2011, Father Charles Klein was injured in a car accident on Church Street. Father Klein spent many months in the hospital and at Stella Maris before moving home to Catonsville to live with his sister.
In January 2012, due to Father Klein’s accident and declining attendance at the Saturday evening Mass, that Mass was removed from the schedule.
In January 2013, the 100th Anniversary Committee was formed to begin planning events for the parish’s 100th Anniversary, which will begin in February 2014.
Both parishes now share liturgical celebrations such as daily Masses, Holy Day Masses, Parish Missions, Holy Thursday Liturgies, Good Friday Liturgies and Reconciliation Services during Advent and Lent.
The parish continues to flourish under Father Rob’s leadership and with the shared Pastoral Staff.