HYATTSVILLE, Md. (Sept. 20, 2013)—St. Joseph Parish in Pomfret will celebrate 250 years of the parish serving the community and spreading the Gospel message to the many generations of faithful in Southern Maryland on Sunday, Sept. 22.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, will celebrate a Mass at St. Joseph. The Mass will be concelebrated by the pastor, the Rev. Mark Smith, as well as Monsignor John Brady, the Rev. Mike Quill and the Rev. John Dillon, who are former pastors of St. Josephs. A parish picnic will follow the Mass.
St. Josephs was founded in 1763 by Father George Hunter, S.J. as a mission church. Jesuit priests from St. Ignatius Catholic Church in Port Tobacco, Md., would visit parishioners in Pomfret at their homes, administering the Sacraments and celebrating Mass.
Life for these early Catholics was difficult as they were not permitted to openly practice their faith until 1777. Homes where Mass was held and Catholic worship was active were underground and known as "stations." Surrounding St. Josephs area, there were seven such stations.
St. Josephs predates the founding of the nation, and a walk through its cemetery shows family ancestries dating back through the centuries. The economy of the area was historically based on the vast tobacco plantations, which were run by slave labor. About 30 percent of St. Josephs current parishioners are descended from these slaves. Nearly 20 percent of the parish is comprised of the mixed blood descendants of the Algonquin Indians who had numerous tribes including the Potomac and Piscataway Indians of the area. There also are still parishioners at St. Joseph who are descendants of Dr. Samuel Mudd, who set John Wilkes Booths leg after the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln; Mother Catherine Spalding, who founded the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth; and the family of Archbishop Leonard Neale, the second Archbishop of Baltimore who was also pastor of St. Josephs in the 1700s. The first Carmelite monastery in the New World was established within what were then the boundaries of the parish.
In 1849 the present St. Josephs church was dedicated. In 1948 the parish formally began co-sponsoring Archbishop Neale School, making it the Catholic elementary school of the parish. Priests of the Archdiocese of Washington were assigned to take over from the Society of Jesus in the 1950s, and they continue to serve the spiritual needs of the parish community. In the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s extensive restoration efforts were undertaken in the church.
St. Josephs currently serves approximately 927 families. St. Josephs is an active parish, made possible by the love, concern and commitment of its parishioners. The word Pomfret means "bridge" and the church attempts to be a bridge for its diverse family of believers.
Source: The Archdiocese of Washington