St. Joseph rings in 125 years South Carroll's first Catholic church is a thriving parish with 2,000 families

October 12, 1993|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Staff Writer

A 1922 Ford led a parade of antique cars from the old St. Joseph Church in Sykesville to a 125th anniversary celebration Sunday at the present church on Liberty Road.

Since the Catholic parish formed in 1868, its priests have used all modes of transportation to reach the surrounding community. Organizers of the celebration took cues from that history to set the tone for the festivities.

"Ox-drawn carts transported the original cornerstone in 1867 and priests traveled the vast mission here on horseback or sled," according to the parish history read at the celebration recalling the "first pioneering families of this congregation."

The antique cars carried artifacts Sunday from the old church, finished in 1868 on a hill overlooking what is now Main Street and Sandusky Road, to the new as they inched north on Route 32 and along Freedom Avenue.

"Christian life is meant to be a joyful adventure," said the Rev. Terry Weik as the cars left Sykesville. "Bless the St. Joseph Community today and confer on us the gifts of your spirit," he prayed.

As the drivers reached the parking lot of the St. Joseph Catholic Community in Eldersburg, they fell into line behind a horse-drawn buggy carrying their pastor, the Rev. Theodore K. Cassidy. The procession made its way past a crowd of cheering onlookers to the church entrance.

Bearers carried 5-foot-tall wooden candleholders from the first Catholic church in South Carroll, and the choir sang, "Here in this place, new light is streaming," as they marched into church.

Father Cassidy led the procession of about 200 worshipers into services commemorating parish history. The pastor welcomed his parishioners, members of several other congregations and civic leaders who filled the church to "pray, tell stories and laugh.

"We are celebrating who we have become with God's grace and a future full of hope," he said. "We have evolved into a vibrant community." The parish now has some 2,000 families.

To remind worshipers of the past, priests intoned the Latin words of the Gloria, a prayer now recited in English at daily Mass. The church filled with the sweet scents of burning incense.

The St. Joseph Community has continually built on its rich heritage, said Father Cassidy, and he asked for prayers for those who had founded the church and carried on its mission.

By the late 1950s, the parish had outgrown the stone building on the hill overlooking Sykesville's Main Street, although Mass continues to be celebrated there daily. In 1965, members dedicated the Liberty Road facility amid plans for more expansion on 15 acres.

A ceremonial groundbreaking for yet another new church next door followed Sunday's celebratory service.

The community hopes to begin building the $1.4 million, 800-seat facility in the spring and convert the present building into offices and classrooms. The parish is awaiting approval from the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

"Life continues only through growth," the pastor said. Parishioners carried stones from their homes and a symbolic stone from the old church Sunday to a parking lot where the blacktop had been removed. Many had printed their names and dates on their rocks.

Mike Hussle, chairman of the building committee, said, "These stones are far from lifeless. They remind us of our heritage and will help us build on a strong foundation."

Bishop P. Francis Murphy, auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Baltimore, blessed the stones and thanked the parish for its "tremendous demonstration of faith, respect for tradition and creative spirit of hope for the future.

"We owe you a debt of gratitude for 125 years of faith and service to the community," said the bishop.

Two-year-old Kevin Hussle held the handle of the gilded shovel with his father as they performed the ceremonial ground-breaking. The child continued to scoop the earth.

"He might just dig the whole foundation for you," remarked County Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy.

Blessings on the groundbreaking were asked from the bishop and Cantor Al Stein, of the B'nai Israel congregation. "I hope that, 125 years from now, our descendants will still be in this beautiful community," said Mr. Stein, who presented the parish with a donation from his congregation.

The cantor prayed in Hebrew and then in English: "May God bring you peace and good health."

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