Church Is Demolished, Moved, Rebuilt -- And Beloved

St. Mary's In Joppa To Be Cornerstone Of Historic Church Village

March 17, 1991|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff writer

The eyes of the Rev. Ivan Dornic gleam with pride as they scan the newly reconstructed St. Mary's Assumption Eastern Rite Catholic Churchin Joppa.

There may not be much to see inside the white colonial-style church at first glance -- lumber piled in the sanctuary, scaffolding scaling one wall and construction materials scattered throughout the 105-year-old structure.

But a look at the church through Dornic's eyes shows the handiwork and the heart that went into dismantling the church from its original site in Fallston and reassembling it, board by board, on Mountain Road.

The structure, formerly the St. Mark's Roman Catholic Church, is expected to reopen as St. Mary's Church in May -- nearly five years after the building was to be demolished.

Ask Dornic if his parish of 250 people is proud of its accomplishments.

"You bet," the 58-year-old Czechoslovakian native said. "We had to overcome so many barriers, so much red tape and so many obstacles."

The church willbe the cornerstone of Historic Church Village, which Dornic said will be developed with four more churches on the 70 acres surrounding St. Mary's.

The idea behind the village is to maintain old churches as museums of religious history, said Dornic, president of the National Catholic Museum and Institute in Baltimore.

The churches would be used for occasional services in little-known Catholic rites, such as the Latin Ambrosian Rite, Dornic said. The services would include each rite's vestments, music and prayers.

"We want to show how Christians worshiped in the first 1,000 years, in the Middle Ages," Dornic said.

Dornic said he already has selected the churches he wantsto bring to the village. The churches, each about 100 years old, arein Pennsylvania, he said.

Dornic said he is holding off plans to bring in the other churches until St. Mary's is done.

St. Mark's in Fallston decided to tear down the old church to make way for a new,larger church because the historic building could no longer accommodate services.

Dornic became interested in the building upon learning of a controversy over the possible razing of the church.

Baltimore's Roman Catholic archdiocese donated the building and the $8,000 set aside for its demolition to Dornic's parish, clearing the way forthe church to be relocated to its new site about 5 miles away.

Dornic and his parish met their first delay when they sought a loan from Maryland Historic Trust to help pay the $500,000 cost of the relocation. The trust denied the parish's request, Dornic said, because of its plan to take apart the church in Fallston and then put it back together in Joppa.

In most cases, historic buildings are simply picked up and then moved in one piece, Dornic said. But Dornic said he wanted to relocate the church the way the work is done in Europe -- board by board, beam by beam, pew by pew.

Once parish leaders decidedto finance the relocation project on their own so they could stick to the original plan, Dornic said he hired three Czech craftsmen to dothe work.

But the delays didn't end. Dornic said the parish had difficulty getting a county construction permit because to maintain its historic character the church would not have rest rooms or plumbing.

County officials agreed to drop the requirement, but the parish later decided to put in the rest rooms, Dornic said.

Once the reconstruction work started, the Czech craftsmen took apart St. Mark's church in Fallston and rebuilt it as St. Mary's church in Joppa within four months.

"Can you imagine that every single board had to be taken apart, marked and put back together?" Dornic reveled.

With the structure completed, Dornic began planning a dedication ceremony for last October. He invited an Eastern Rite bishop from Czechoslovakiato lead the celebration.

But those plans were scuttled because the parish still did not have a permit for the church's septic tank, Dornic said. The parish got the necessary permit in January.

Delays continued. The parish has been waiting three months for a second electrical line from Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. to serve the church, Dornic said.

That line was connected to the church on Friday. The parish then has to put on the church's finishing touches, which is expected to take about one month, Dornic said.

"When that is finished, we just have to put in the carpeting and the pews and we go in," Dornic said.

The parish plans a summer dedication ceremony to make sure they have enough time for all the work on the church, Dornic said.

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