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Hancock church marks 175th year

St. Peter's opened its doors in 1835

April 15, 2010|By JULIE E. GREENE
  • St. Peter's Catholic Church in Hancock.
Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

HANCOCK - Before St. Peter's parishioners had the brick walls of its church within which to congregate, they met in each other's houses for Mass, said Richard Carrington, corresponding secretary for the church's pastoral council.

The church's history shows priests from Hagerstown and Winchester, Va., coming to large homes in Hancock in the early 1800s to 1820s to say Mass, he said.

St. Peter Catholic Church is one of two churches on East High Street celebrating its 175th anniversary this year. The other is St. Thomas' Episcopal Parish Church.

It was in 1835 that the Catholic church at 16 E. High St. opened its doors to parishioners, said Carrington, who also is corresponding secretary for the anniversary committee. The church was built by Irish Catholic immigrants who were building the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal, Carrington said.

There were no labor costs because the workers built the church in their free time, Carrington said. The canal's contractor, Philip Fitzgerald, and five families - the Ryans, Baxters, Broidricks, Mc-Avoys and Littles - were principal donors for supplies to build the church, he said.

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St. Peter's mission church in Little Orleans, Md., St. Patrick Catholic Mission, is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year, Carrington said.

St. Patrick's celebrations included holding a St. Patrick's Day Mass, followed by a social event.

Parishioners who attend either church are considered parishioners of both churches and the Rev. John J. Lombardi officiates at both, Carrington said. A typical Sunday service at St. Peter's attracts 250 to 300 people, while Saturday Mass at St. Patrick's attracts 50 to 75, depending on the time of year, he said. During the summer, some campers along the C&O and Potomac River come to the Mass.

Archbishop Edwin O'Brien, of the Baltimore archdiocese, will conduct the anniversary Mass at St. Peter on April 25, Carrington said.

"It is an honor for a parish to have its archbishop visit," he said. O'Brien was in the area in February to recruit priests.

On Oct. 16, Bishop Mitchell Rozanski will conduct the Saturday Mass at St. Patrick, Carrington said. Rozanski is the Seton vicar. The office of the Seton vicariate serves seven counties, including Washington and Allegany counties, according to the archdiocese's Web site.

To celebrate the churches' anniversaries, both are planning a family day together in August at Cowans Gap State Park in Fulton County, Pa., Carrington said.

Five parishioners made a quilt for each church - St. Peter's and St. Patrick's - that will hang in their respective churches when they are not on display with church memorabilia in a storefront downtown next to Phillips Fashions on West Main Street, Carrington said.

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