St. Louis Catholic Church History
St. Louis Catholic Church was established in 1855 with the building of a small church that is still standing today on Dayton Road. However, our beginnings really go back to the chapel in Doughoregan Manor, home of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the signer of the Declaration of Independence. Mass was originally celebrated there. Our first pastor, Fr. Augustine Verot, a French Sulpician, had been pastor of St. Paul’s in Ellicott City before coming to Clarksville.
He was succeeded by Fr. Hugh Griffin in 1858 and it was during Fr. Griffin’s tenure that the first Clarksville Picnic was held in 1878. Although the picnic has changed with the times, it is still a highlight of both parish and community life each summer and has always been the major single source of revenue for the parish. The picnic exemplifies the spirit of parishioners working together in a myriad of ways to make the day a success.
By 1887, the small rural congregation had outgrown the church on Dayton Road and a new church was built near the intersection of Ten Oaks Road and Clarksville Pike by the hard work and generosity of early parishioners under the leadership of their pastor, Fr. Paul Griffith. The new church (now known as the 1889 Stone Chapel) was completed in 1889 and dedicated in 1890 by Cardinal Gibbons. A rectory, adjacent to the church, was also built and completed by 1890. Unbelievably, the total cost of both structures was $11,000.
Fr. Griffith, the first pastor to reside in the rectory, was followed successively by Fr. Joseph Walter, Fr. John Gaynor, Fr. Snyder S. Hurlburt, Fr. Edward Reilley and Fr. Carl Liljencrants.
The next two decades were particularly fruitful for St. Louis Catholic Church and Clarksville. Fr. William Howard Bishop served as pastor from 1917-1937. Early in his tenure, the long awaited parochial school for rural Howard County became a reality when St. Louis School opened in October 1923. In order to raise funds for the new school, Fr. Bishop formed the League of St. Louis. Upon the school’s completion, the League of St. Louis became the League of the Little Flower and had as its aim financial aid to rural parochial schools throughout the state of Maryland. It remains active today in the Baltimore Archdiocese but now focuses on financial support for inner city schools.
The Sisters of Divine Providence of Kentucky taught in St. Louis School from its opening in 1923 with 41 students in 7 grades. Fifty-three years later, due to a shortage of sisters, it was necessary for the Sisters of Divine Providence to withdraw from St. Louis School. In 1976, the school was blessed with the arrival of two Sisters of the Holy Union: Sr. Paul Agnes, who came as principal and Sr. Paula who came as an 8th grade teacher. A year later in 1977, Sr. Mary Catherine Duerr SUSC became the principal and remained until the spring of 1996. During that time the school enrollment grew from 245 students to more than 400. Mrs. Terry Weiss, who had formerly been the assistant principal at Resurrection School in Ellicott City, joined the faculty as the new principal in the fall of 1996. Currently, there are 553 students in grades Pre-K-8. After school care is offered for students in the school.
With Fr. Bishop’s departure in 1937 to found the Home Missioners of America (Glenmary Fathers), Fr. Joseph Leary became pastor. He was joined in 1940 by Fr. Michael Egan. Fr. Egan was appointed pastor in 1943. St. Louis celebrated its centenary in 1955 under Fr. Egan who remained as pastor until 1958 when he was transferred to St. Brigid Catholic Church in Baltimore.
Fr. Myles McGowan was assigned as pastor in 1958. Fr. Donald Croghan began assisting Fr. McGowan in 1963. The two priests led the parish in the transition from a predominately rural to an increasingly suburban parish.
Fr. Anthony Sauerwein came to St. Louis as pastor in 1967. When Fr. Croghan was assigned as pastor of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel in Thurmont in 1973, Fr. Robert Duerr took on the duties of associate pastor and also remained principal of Mt. de Sales Academy. In 1977 Fr. James O’Neill came to be our associate pastor but Fr. Duerr continued to share his priesthood and his faith with us coming from Catonsville each weekend to celebrate Mass. Our good friends, the Franciscan Fathers have also assisted us each weekend over a period of many years.
In 1977, Michael Carrion, a parishioner for many years, was ordained to the priesthood. A number of young women from the parish had entered religious life but this was our first parish-grown priest. From 1979 to 1981 Fr. John Carter served as associate pastor. In September of 1982 we rejoiced as our pastor, Fr. Sauerwein, was made a monsignor. In November 1982 we celebrated the ordination of yet another parishioner, also a Carrion, Fr. Patrick Carrion.
In 1986 we welcomed Fr. Tom Gills as a second associate pastor who would help shoulder the many responsibilities of our ever growing parish. In the Spring of 1987 we said goodbye to Fr. John Mike and were happy to welcome Fr. Jim Barker as our new associate pastor in the summer of 1987. When, in 1990, Fr. Tom moved on to be associate pastor of St. Mary’s in Hagerstown, Fr. Jeff Dauses, newly ordained that year, came to St. Louis as his first assignment to be associate pastor. In June of 1991, Fr. Jim Barker was appointed Director of Vocations for the Archdiocese of Baltimore and we wished him well as he left St. Louis. Fr. Richard Lobert joined us as associate pastor in January 1993. Also in 1993, we rejoiced at the ordination to the priesthood of yet another parishioner, Fr. Kevin Farmer.
February of 1994 saw the departure of Fr. Richard Lobert to Prince of Peace parish where he had been named administrator. After almost 29 years as pastor of St. Louis, Msgr. Sauerwein retired in January 1996. Fr. Joseph Luca became our new pastor and was warmly welcomed by the parish as we began a new era. Fr. Luca had most recently been the archdiocesan director of Renew. Shortly after assuming the position of pastor at St. Louis, he was honored by the Holy Father with the title of Monsignor and we shared in his joy.
Following his ordination in May 1996, Fr. Andrew Aaron joined the St. Louis as an associate pastor. In the summer of 1997, Fr. Aaron was assigned to Our Lady of Hope parish as Associate Pastor and during that same summer, Fr. Jeff Dauses was assigned to St. Margaret’s Parish in Bel Air. Fr. Richard Bozzelli became our new Associate Pastor. Fr. Gregory Ferri, ordained in June of 1998, was welcomed that July as an Associate Pastor. January of 2000 saw the departure of Fr. Bozzelli when he became pastor of Corpus Christi Parish in Baltimore. In June 2000, Fr. Erik Arnold joined us as an Associate Pastor. Fr. Gregory Ferri departed St. Louis in June 2002 to become Associate Pastor at St. Jane Frances de Chantal in Pasadena and we welcomed newly ordained Fr. Martin Burnham as an Associate Pastor in June 2002. In May 2003, another native son of St. Louis, Matt Buening, was ordained to the priesthood. Upon Fr. Erik Arnold’s departure to assume the position of Associate Pastor at the Church of the Crucifixion in Glen Burnie, MD in June 2004, Fr. Arkadiusz (known as Fr. Arek) Ochalek, became our new Associate Pastor. Fr. Martin Burnham departed in November 2005, to assume the position of Associate Pastor at St. Margaret’s in BelAir, MD. Msgr. Luca retired in 2021, and Fr. Michael DeAscanis assumed the role of Pastor.
Sr. Louann Sciubba, SND joined the parish staff as a pastoral associate in the fall of 1981. When she left this position in the summer of 1998, Anne Buening joined our pastoral staff in January 1999. Anne, pastoral associate, coordinates the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) and other adult education programs. She is also responsible for social justice and social ministry programs such as pastoral visitors, bereavement care, welcoming, and small Christian communities. Pastoral associate Anne Buening was named Pastoral Life Director of St. Clement I in Lansdowne, MD and departed St. Louis in February 2003. Lyle Weiss joined the staff as pastoral associate in July 2003.
The renewal of the permanent diaconate after Vatican II has had a positive impact upon our parish life. We have felt this through the service of our permanent deacons Daniel Stretmater, Verdan Wiedel, Larry Teixeira, Edward Kernan and Fred Mauser.
The Parish Council was formed in 1968 and includes members elected by fellow parishioners as well as representatives from various parish committees. Now known as the pastoral council, it identifies those aspects of parish life requiring support, change or development. While other service groups tend to focus on a specific ministry task, the pastoral council keeps in view how the parish can be most effective in carrying out its total mission.
The presence of St. Louis parishioners is felt in various community services such as Meals on Wheels, Fish of Howard County, the Columbia Pregnancy Center, Mary's Home, Our Daily Bread, and My Sister’s Place. A group known as Good Samaritans responds to parishioners needs in a variety of ways including transportation, shopping and help for the home-bound.
In 1996, the Knights of Columbus St. Louis the King Council #11898 was instituted. Thirty-one men received the First Degree in November 1996. This religious, fraternal service organization is involved in a variety of parish activities.
In 1972 Sr. Joyce McCauley SND was hired as the parish’s first full time Religious Education Director. The program has grown to 1,564 students, grades K-12 and is staffed by 150 volunteers. Additionally, the parish sponsors the Wee Praise program on Sunday mornings for 3-5 year olds. There are currently 200 children enrolled, taught by 38 volunteer catechists. Mrs. Gloria Sauter, who had been the Coordinator of Religious Education for the previous six years, succeeded Sr. Joyce as Director of Religious Education in 1985. Mrs. Sauter, retired in June, 2000. Mrs. Rhonda Milauskas became the new DRE, assisted by two coordinators Mrs. Margaret McEvoy and Mrs. Victoria Yozwiak. Mrs. Victoria Yozwiak assumed the position of Director of Religious Education, following the departure of Mrs. Rhonda Milauskas in June 2003.
Our Catholic Youth Ministry (CYM) programs have continued to grow. Sr. Margie Gallagher SND was our original youth minister, and more recently the group was led by David Flaherty followed by Chuck Wible who left us in 1994 to enter St. Mary’s Seminary. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Baltimore in 1996 and celebrated his first mass at St. Louis. Ms. Maureen Hines succeeded Chuck as youth minister. Mr. Patrick Sprankle took over the position of Director of Youth Ministry/Adolescent Catechesis in the fall of 1995. Mr. Sprankle was assisted by Mrs. Mary Barbera whose primary responsibility was serving as Confirmation Coordinator, until her departure in August 2005. CYM is committed to the total personal growth of young people. The mission is to encourage and to witness loving relationships with Jesus through experiences of prayer, justice and social activities that build community.
For many years we celebrated Sunday Mass in both the church and school auditorium. After much planning by Msgr. Sauerwein and the parishioners who formed the New Church Building Committee, our new and larger church was dedicated by Archbishop William D. Borders on November 2, 1980. It was designed by Duane and Duane Architects, Silver Spring, Maryland and built by the Knott Company. The large mosaic in the church was designed by Herbert Gunther and depicts Saint Louis the King offering his crown to a thorn-crowned image of Christ and is reminiscent of the stained glass window above the altar in the 1889 Stone Chapel. There, also, Saint Louis is seen contemplating the Lord’s crown of thorns from the Holy Land during the Second Crusade.
In 1991, our multi-purpose parish center adjoining the school was opened. This new building offers meeting space for large and small groups and allows greater flexibility for school and religious education programs to expand. It is also equipped with a state of the art science lab primarily used by the middle school grade levels.
The 1990’s saw even more growth with the development of River Hill, the final village of Columbia. This new village, together with development in western Howard County, brought additional parishioners to Saint Louis. Between 1996 and 2005 Saint Louis grew from 2800 families to over 4200 families, representing more than 14,500 individuals. To accommodate these additional families, Cardinal William Keeler granted Monsignor Joseph L. Luca permission to construct a larger church. The Baltimore based architectural firm of Ziger/Snead was commissioned to design a church in a style that would complement the 1889 chapel and bring architectural harmony to the campus. Permission was also granted to renovate the 1980 Church into a fellowship center with a much needed social hall, several meeting rooms, a kitchen, a nursery and a music practice room. The new church, dedicated on April 23, 2006, together with the additional fellowship space, will enable the community of Saint Louis to continue its mission by accommodating more than 60 parish ministries, committees and organizations and by welcoming new parishioners well into the future.
We have been blessed throughout our history with dedicated priests, religious, lay ministers and parishioners. It is because of them that our growth has been possible. And it is because of all those involved in the parish life of St. Louis today that we will be able to continue to grow with one another as a Christian community.
Rev. Paul Griffith, 1887-1892 The third pastor of St. Louis Church was Father Paul Griffith, who was born near New Ross, County Wexford, Ireland, on June 7, 1846, the son of Thomas and Mary Griffith. He was one of fourteen children. The family came to New Orleans in 1850, but soon moved to Illinois, where Thomas Griffith became a successful farmer, and Paul attended the public schools. Coming to Washington to visit his brother, he entered the dry goods business. He was a government clerk for a time. He entered St. Charles College at the age of 30, and from there went to St. Mary's Seminary in 1881. He was ordained by His Eminence, James Cardinal Gibbons on December 18, 1886. His first assignment was as assistant to Father Hugh Griffin at Doughoregan Manor, and to take charge of the Mission at Clarksville. While here, he built the new church and rectory, which were finished in 1890. He was the first resident pastor at St. Louis. He was appointed pastor of St. Augustine's, Washington, on February 15, 1892. He was there for many years. Father Paul, as he was affectionately known, was one of the most highly esteemed priests in the Archdiocese, and was known for his executive ability. As we can testify, he was an excellent financier. He edited a multi-language ritual for the use of the clergy, which is still in wide use, and a prayer book for the laity. Father Griffith died on January 22, 1919. ¹
This early photograph shows the St. Louis Church rectory circa 1920. The two women standing in front of the porch were employed as housekeepers for the resident priests.
Rev. Sidney S. Hurlbut , 1900-1911 A competent engraver with the Bureau of Engraving in Washington and later with the American Bank Note Co. in Chicago, Sidney S. Hurlbut was the sixth pastor of St. Louis Church. He was a devout Presbyterian and a Congregationalist before he received the gift of faith in the Catholic Church. Father Hurlbut was born in Racine, Wisconcin, November 13, 1858. After entering the Catholic Church, he studied for the priesthood in Bulgaria where he was ordained. He spent a few months in Rome before returning to the United States. He was an assistant to Msgr. Mackin at St. Paul's Church, Washington until he was appointed pastor of St. Louis Church, Clarksville in 1900. He was here for eleven years and made many friends. In April 1911, he was appointed by Cardinal Gibbons to be pastor of St. Mary's Hagerstown. He was there for nine years, during which time he won the esteem and love of all people. He died in Mercy Hospital, Baltimore on June 9, 1920. He is buried in Racine, Wisconcin.¹
Rev. William Howard Bishop, 1917-1937 Father William Howard Bishop can best be described as a crusader for the development of Catholic rural life. He was the ninth pastor of St. Louis Church. He was born in Washington, D.C. on December 19, 1885, the fifth child of a family of six children. His mother had promised Our Lady in her prayers that she would give this boy to the priesthood if he recovered from a spell of pneumonia. His studies were delayed several times because of illness, but he was finally ordained on March 27, 1915 by Bishop Thomas J. Shahan at Catholic University. His first appointment was to St. Theresa's in Anacostia which was followed by an assignment to the Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Mt. Washington. He was appointed pastor of St. Louis Church in Clarksville in 1917 where he remained for twenty years. Here it was that he learned at first hand the needs of Catholics living in rural areas. He realized how inadequate were the opportunities in the country for developing a strong faith in comparison with those offered even in small city parishes. His first thought was a parish school, and with that steadfastness of purpose which characterized his life, he first organized the League of St. Louis and with its help, he was able to open St. Louis School on October 1, 1923. The idea of the League was so successful that in 1924 the organization became The League of the Little Flower with the object of aiding Catholic education in country parishes throughout the Archdiocese. Father Bishop was mindful of the economic condition of his parishioners as well as their spiritual needs. In 1930 he was responsible for founding the St. Louis Credit Union in the Clarksville area. For a time he fostered a farmers' cooperative movement, but was not successful. But his influence on Catholic rural life was far broader than the parish or the diocese. He joined with the Most Rev. Bishop Edwin V. O'Hara in the organization of the National Rural Life Conference, and was its National President from 1927 to 1933. With the blessing of Archbishop Curley, Father Bishop left Clarksville in 1937 to found a new order of priests, The Home Missioners of America, at Glenmary, in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, for the purpose of working in the vast non-Catholic rural areas of America. He also founded the Glenmary Sisters. In a relatively short time, mission bases were established in Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, and Georgia. He became Superior General for the Order in 1951, but his work was to be cut short when he died suddenly on June 11, 1953, the victim of a heart attack. All Clarksville was saddened by the news of his death.¹
In 1928 the parish put on an operetta titled "Wishing Well". This photo shows the cast members.
Rev. Joseph M. Walter, 1892-1895 Father Joseph M. Walter was the first pastor of St. Louis who was a native of the Archdiocese. He was born in Baltimore on January 26, 1867. After attending Calvert Hall College he entered St. Charles College at the age of 15. After five years his ill health compelled him to give up his studies. He went to Europe for a time and attended the American College at Rome for one year, again resigning because of sickness. He returned to Maryland, attended St. Mary's Seminary, and was ordained on January 29, 1892. His first charge was the pastorate of St. Louis Church, Clarksville, and the Manor parish. After a little over three years his health began to fail again. (This is evident in his handwriting in the church records). He obtained considerable benefit in the Adirondacks and returning to the Archdiocese he was assigned to St. Peter's Church, Westernport. In a short while he again had to relinquish his pastoral duties. He spent some time in Arizona, but to no avail. He returned to Baltimore, spent several months at St. Agnes Hospital, and died at the home of his father in March, 1898. Father Walter was endowed with a brilliant intellect, and a strong yearning for active parish work, which made him return again and again to his chosen work until his illness finally overpowered him. He will be remembered at Clarksville for the marble altar he secured for the church.¹
The League of the Little Flower of Our Country Schools sold these 1925 picture calendars to raise money for Catholic schools in the county. The text under the picture reads:
The Catholic children of rural Maryland ride on over paths of SPIRITUAL hardship and privation that have led too often in the past to religious indifference, apostasy, and infidelity. Few of them are blessed, as this child is, with a parochial school to go to. Where will next year lead them? and next, and next again? The annual Masses of our devoted clergy and the kind words they have spoken and will speak for the cause, the monthly Communions of our holy Brothers and Nuns and the generous contributions of our good faith people will help us gradually to realize the Archbishop's ideal of "Every Catholic Child in a Catholic School."
¹ The text was taken from a publication put together to commemorate the parish's 100th Anniversary, October 23, 1955 which was provided by Margaret Broadwater.