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St. Alphonsus Church

St. Alphonsus Catholic Church-Baltimore

 

Sources:

Church Website:  http://www.stalphonsusbalt.org/

History of Baltimore City & County; John Thomas Scharf, 1881, J.B. Lippencott & Company, publishers, Philadelphia PA. 
 

 

 
Saint Alphonsus Church, a landmark at Saratoga Street and Park Avenue in downtown Baltimore since 1845, designed by the eminent architect Robert Cary Long in Southern German neo-Gothic Style, was once dubbed "the German cathedral."   It is included by Dr. Phoebe Stanton in her book, The Gothic Revival and American Architecture (Johns Hopkins Press), as a notable example of that style in America. 

About a decade after the founding of the episcopal see of Baltimore in 1789 a small band of Catholic Germans appeared in Baltimore and was ministered to by Father F. Caesar Reuter of St. Peter’s.  Father Reuter, against Bishop Carroll’s wishes, urged his compatriots to erect a separate German church.  The bishop protested.  Reuter carried the matter to Rome, accusing Carroll of trying to Americanize the Germans and requesting a German church, German catechism and even a German bishop.  An unfavorable reply was received from Rome.  Meanwhile, Reuter returned to Baltimore and with his fellow-Germans established, October 11, 1799, the first Catholic German church in Baltimore at Park Avenue and Saratoga Street, dedicated to St. John the Evangelist.  Father Reuter was replaced by Reverend F.X. Brosius. 

It was first a frame church that measured sixty by forty feet.  The original structure was erected in 1800
[1].  For seventy-two years, the church served a German community, while the attached rectory functioned as provincial headquarters for the Redemptorist Fathers and Brothers.  St. Alphonsus was the center of the order in the U.S.  The Redemptorists are a missionary society established for home missions.  They were chartered in Maryland and other states, under the title of ‘The Redemptorists’.  Very Rev. Bernard Hafkenscheid was appointed the first provincial and he resided at St. Alphonsus. 

 

No less than eleven parishes were established by the Redemptorists from Saint Alphonsus, as well as missions as distant as Strassburg, Pennsylvania and Martinsburg, West Virginia.

 

With the building of the new church in 1842, a parochial school was established and in 1847 a new building was erected opposite the church.  The new building was destroyed in the Great Baltimore fire in 1873.  The school was rebuilt and was taught by the School Sisters of Notre Dame and the Christian Brothers.  At one time there were 800 students in the school.  Funds for the new church building were raised by voluntary contributions.  Several large contributions were received from diverse missions, including aid societies in Austria, Bavaria and France.

 

In 1917, with the German community dispersed and the Redemptorist provincialate moved to New York,  Saint Alphonsus was acquired by the Roman Catholic Lithuanian Parish of Saint John the Baptist, which then assumed the name of the church and reopened the school, functioning across the street since l847.

 

For generations, Saint Alphonsus Church served by archdiocesan priests, has also served downtown workers, shoppers, and visitors to the city with conveniently scheduled services,  especially the Novena to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. It is the rare Catholic who has lived in Baltimore during this era who has not prayed in Saint Alphonsus Church. Even first-time visitors remark about the prayerful atmosphere of the church.

 

Saint John Neumann lived in the present rectory as rector, master of novices, and vice-provincial. Another rector, Father Francis X. Seelos, C.SS.R., is a candidate for beatification. If he is beatified and canonized, Saint Alphonsus will be the only parish church in this country, and perhaps in the world, to boast of two former pastors as canonized saints.

 

Moreover, Blessed George Matulaitis once visited Saint Alphonsus, as did Archbishop Teofilius Matulionis, a possible candidate for beatification as a martyr.   St Alphonsus Parish: where saints have prayed!  This makes St Alphonsus one of the great "treasures" of the Catholic faith in our country......a shrine, a place of pilgrimage, a sign of hope, a powerhouse of prayer!

 

Today, Saint Alphonsus has less than five hundred registered parishioners scattered throughout the State of Maryland, only about one-tenth of whom frequent Saint Alphonsus. In 1994, the church was designated as an Archdiocesan Shrine. The departure of many businesses from downtown in the past two decades has greatly diminished weekday attendance.  Sunday and weekday attendance is no more than 400 at all services (and there are many!). Because of these weak number, it has been difficult for St. Alphonsus Church to operate on a balanced budget.  Only with God's help have we been able to survive.

 

Saint Alphonsus School, which in 1998 marked 150 years at its present location, had been merged with the Basilica School and served 210 pupils, almost entirely African Americans from all over the city and surrounding counties. Besides, providing the building rent-free, Saint Alphonsus Shrine also subsidized the school at the level of $5,000 annually, although not a single pupil was from the parish.  Unfortunately, the school closed its doors in June, 2002.

 

The mission of Saint Alphonsus is to minister to a far-flung Lithuanian community and to those who feel the need for more traditional services (Saint Alphonsus is the designated home to the Tridentine Mass, every Sunday and Holy Day), while reaching out to a new generation downtown, a link between old and new Baltimore.

 

Church Location:

114 West Saratoga Street

Baltimore MD 21201

410-685-6090

 

Priests serving St. Alphonus:

Rev. F. Reuter                          1800-1806

Rev. F. Brosius                        1806-1820

Rev. J.W. Beschter                   1820-1828

Rev. L. Barth                            1828-1838

Rev. B. Bayer                           1838-1840

Rev. Joseph Prost                     1840-1841

Rev. Alexander Czvitkovicz    1841-1845

Rev. Peter Czackert                 1845-1847

Rev. John N. Neumann            1847-1849

Rev. Gabriel Rumpler              1849-1851

Rev. John N. Neumann            1851-1851

Rev. George Ruland                 1852-1854

Rev. Francis X. Seelos             1854-1857

Rev. Maxim Leimgruber          1857-1860

Rev. George Ruland                 1860-1861

Rev. Leopold Petsch                1861-1862

Rev. Robert Kleineidam            1863-1865

Rev. Michael Miller                  1865-1868

Rev. Joseph Wissel                   1868-1871

Rev. Nicholas Jaeckel               1871-1872

Rev. Leopold Petsch                1872-1873

Rev. M. Leimgruber                 1873-1874

Rev. George Roesch                 1874-1877

Rev. Andrew Ziegler                 1877



[1] It would appear that the earliest German Catholic congregation began in 1792.  References in the Maryland Journal on February 17, 1792 state that the German Catholics will meet for the first time for a Divine Service in their own language at the home of John Brown, near the Centre Market. 

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