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A Brief History of St. John's
The history of St. John's Catholic Church in Frederick is truly the history of Catholicism in Central Maryland. It is a history which had its beginnings with Charles Carroll of Carrollton, who, in 1750 introduced a few English, German, and Irish to settle in this region. Apparently, he had been charmed on previous visits with the scenery and had been informed of the fertility of the soil two factors responsible for the influx on immigrants during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Also, many people wished to escape the persecution of the their in post-reformation England and came to this area of America.

The Catholics who settled here received the services of the Jesuit Fathers from Port Tobacco, in Southern Maryland, and from Conewago Chapel near Hanover, PA., from 1750 until 1763, when the first place of worship was erected here by Father John Williams, S.J. This first St. John's Church, a modest facility with the second floor used as a chapel, was more of the character of a Mission Chapel and it served the people of Frederick for nearly forty years. The names of many Jesuits appear in the chronicles of this period of the Church's history.

Father John DuBois, S.S.(1800-1811) was a especially significant person in the early days of St. John's Church. He was a refugee from the French Revolution, who later became a Sulpician priest. In 1800 he began the construction of the first brick church on the North side of Second Street and named his church after St. John the Evangelist. The cornerstone of that structure was laid on May 15, 1800 and can be seen now in front of the present church. Father DuBois, S.S., later spent nearly eleven (11) years as pastor of St. John's and twenty (20) more in Emmitsburg, where he founded Mount St. Mary's College before being called to be bishop of the Catholic Diocese of New York.

In 1811, a Jesuit, Father Francis Maleve, a native of Russia and a former Franciscan, replaced Father DuBois as pastor at St. John's. Although he had great difficulty with the English language, he was quite successful with his work among the Catholics of Frederick.

The community continued to grow and the three (3) most important things which Father Maleve did were to finish the church on Second Street started by Father DuBois, to build one on the Carrollton Manor in Buckeystown, and to start one in Libertytown. When he arrived in Frederick, at the age of 41, Father Maleve's untiring efforts and constant travel weakened him physically, and fever plus failing health caused his death in 1822 in Frederick. His remains rest in St. John's Cemetery.

1822 saw the arrival of Father John McElroy, S.J., as pastor. One of his first acts was to found St. John's Literary Institute which in its early years rivaled Georgetown University. Father McElroy's greatest challenge in Frederick though was facing the growing Catholic population and a church building that was inadequate and falling down. Acting on the advice of builders and parishioners, Father McElroy decided to abandon the site on the North side of Second Street in favor of constructing a newer and larger facility on the South side of Second Street. Father DuBois engaged John Tehan, a local architect, to design the church, to be in the form of a Latin cross and similar to one of the Society's churches in Dublin, Ireland. Thus began the building of what was then the largest parish church to be built in the United States. This is our current church building. The cornerstone, for this building was laid on March 19, 1833. The funds, totaling $36,964.96 was needed to construct and finish the building. These funds were raised by parishioners, people in the region and even workers in the B&O Railroad and C&O Canal.

The church was consecrated on April 26, 1837. It was the first major church to be consecrated in the Eastern United States. The style of the church is Grecian ionic. Above the doorway is a pediment boasting an eleven (11) foot likeness of St. John the Evangelist. The bell tower, a square tower approximately five stories high, was completed in 1857. The gilding of the gold dome and cross at the top were finally completed October 26, 1954. The tower makes St. John's the tallest building in the City of Frederick.

Father McElroy went on to build Boston College and, in his later years returned to Frederick where he died in September, 1877. He is interred in St. John's Cemetery.

After serving long and well in the community of Frederick, the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) completed plans to move to their new facility in New York State. On the first Sunday in July 1902, Father William Kane became the first non-Jesuit pastor of St. John's. He was much loved by the parish and those residing in Frederick. It is to Father Kane that we owe a debt of gratitude for the beautiful painting of the Ascension in the center of the high ceiling in the church.

A long line of distinguished men from the Archdiocese of Baltimore have served the role of pastor since Father Kane. Each has left his mark on the parish church and the parish. Since the time of Father DuBois we have seen the building of a school, a convent (now the Parish Center, a rectory, now the Faith Formation Center) and several additions to the facilities.

Under the pastoral leadership of venerable past pastor, Monsignor Edward V. Echle, the parish celebrated its Sesquicentennial Anniversary and underwent the last major renovation of the church.

Currently, our pastor, Father Wayne G. Funk is again working to refurbish and restore the church so that it will be here long into the next millennium.

The "Crucifixion" Painting
This painting was done by the famous Italian artist, Pietro Gagliardi and was put into place 1843.

The Tabernacle
The Tabernacle forms a miniature temple and dome, supported by eight (8) beautiful agate columns. It is understood that an Italian firm brought this to America on speculation, along with some other alabaster ornaments, incorporating a statue of Benjamin Franklin inside the small temple, by replacing the statue with the image of our crucified Savior, St. John's obtained a very handsome Tabernacle.

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St John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church
118 East Second Street, Frederick, MD 21701
Phone: 301.662.8288   Fax: 301.698.1832   Email: info@stjohn-frederick.org
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