Legacy of St. Paul Roman Catholic Church
Growth ....renovation ....expansion...restoration. These are familiar words to parishioners and staff at St. Paul Church. Sitting land-locked on a hill overlooking historic Ellicott City, St. Paul Church has been renovated, stretched, and increased in size to meet the changing needs of its growing community in eastern Howard County.
St. Paul Catholic Church is truly a landmark, and “a jewel in an exquisite setting”. Dedicated on December 13, 1838, St Paul Church was the only Catholic church between Baltimore and Frederick. The church was built on land acquired from George Ellicott, an early settler in the region. To date, St. Paul Church remains the oldest active parish between Baltimore and Pittsburgh.
The outside of the church was gray granite from a nearby quarry. The inside was plain and unpainted with large plain glass windows. Before the church was completed, the first pastor, Father Henry Coskery (1835-1839) celebrated Mass at Castle Angelo on the opposite hill. Father Coskery was also the sponsor of Christian Brothers in the United States.
During the Civil War, the basement of the church served as a hospital for all soldiers - both Northern and Southern. After the Civil War, a series of renovations began. Frescoed walls, a marble altar flanked by carved wooden angels, a silver crucifix, and elaborate German silver chandeliers were added to the church. Father Peter Tarro (1883-1907) rebuilt the main altar with Scotch marble and covered the tabernacle in white marble and a brass door. Other additions included tinted glass windows and two marble side altars. In 1896 the steeple topped by a Celtic cross was added. A parish hall (the current office building) was built to be used as a Sunday School and center for social activities.
In 1922, during the second pastorate of Father Michael Ryan (1907-1912, 1920-1947) the St. Paul parish school opened, and was staffed by the School Sisters of Notre Dame. The school was housed in the former Patapsco National Bank building (which is now Dohony Hall). The Sisters first lived in the top two floors of this building, and later in the wood frame convent, now known as Croghan Hall. Father Ryan provided school in the parish hall for the black children of the parish. As the church and school continued to grow, Monsignor Nicholas Dohony (1962-1986) presided over building a new school on the outskirts of town. This school was completed in 1966 and was named St. Paul the Apostle School. In 1974, spurred by the continued growth in Howard County, the Church of the Resurrection was incorporated on the site. The school now operates as Resurrection -St. Paul School, an inter-parish school serving both parishes.
Monsignor Dohony also saw renovations to the parish facilities. In 1974, a new side entrance and vestibule were added. A wood carving of St. Paul, made in northern Italy, was installed in 1976. Father Donald Croghan (1986-1992) continued the improvements, renovating the rectory, remodeling the convent into classroom space (Croghan Hall), and began planning for a parking lot expansion.
Father Thomas J. Donaghy (1992-2003) continued the renewal of church properties. An initial restoration of the church interior was completed in 1992. The old stone school was completely renovated and restored, with an addition to provide classroom and meeting space, a large multi purpose room, and a kitchen. Continuing his work, Father Donaghy initiated a major expansion of the worship space. Under his direction, the ‘new’ church, in its cruciform shape, was rededicated January 6, 2001 by William Cardinal Keeler.
Father Michael Jendrek (2003-2008) meticulously cared for the parish facilities. Major maintenance projects included steeple painting, re-leading of stained glass windows, new carpet, and interior facility painting. With the changing population and growth in our parish community, service outreach, stewardship, community and family centered events are increasing. A master plan for continued improvements was developed.
In 2005, the youth of the parish, led by an Eagle Scout, cleared and restored the St. Paul cemetery. Headstones were reset, gravesites cleaned, research documented. This cemetery, located on Frederick Road approximately 2 miles west of the church, is the restful site of early ancestors, many from Ireland. The Cemetery was used until 1968, with Clara Frey being the last interment on December 27, 1968. Our current pastor, Father Mathew Buening (2008-present), has continued to beautify the campus. He inherited the parish vision to begin construction on a new building to meet the needs of a growing parish. The “old brown house” was raised in 2010, allowing construction of “The Center for the New Evangelization” to begin on the site of that old brown house in April 2011, as a result of a significant capital campaign, initiated in 2007. Construction proceeded with relatively few hiccups---an unknown water main break, subcontractor squabbles, a few issues with hill typography--- setbacks that cost us some valuable time and incredible weather, but were adeptly handled by our General Contractor and architect. Construction continued through the summer and fall of 2011 and an amazingly mild winter of 2012. St. Paul’s was granted Use and Occupancy in late March 2012.
The Center for the New Evangelization building also has been designed to be ecologically and environmentally sensitive. It is one of the few structures in Howard County to have a “green roof” and its waste water management system is considered state of the art. The Center will provide generations of our faithful, young and old, with the blessings of education and faith formation and to inspire and nurture the mantle of discipleship handed to us by our patron, St. Paul.
St. Paul’s continues to be a beacon of light and hope to the Ellicott City community. The community values and respects St. Paul Church’s voice and presence for the marginalized and needy.