In its 200 years, St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Rockville has seen Civil War soldiers, famous authors and thousands of Rockville families.
The Rev. Monsignor Robert George Amey, pastor of St. Mary’s, said historians are not sure exactly which day the parish was founded, but it was sometime in 1813. For the first few years, however, the congregation didn’t have its own building for worship.
“The parish was actually established on the basis of having mass in the different homes,” he said.
Today, the parish claims 2,700 families and is celebrating 200 years of history.
The first St. Mary’s chapel, built in 1817, still stands on Veirs Mill Road near the intersection with Rockville Pike.
The church is planning a series of celebration events over the next year to commemorate the parish’s 200th anniversary. The bicentennial celebration kicks off with a 7 p.m. mass on Thursday, the Feast of the Queenship of Mary, the parish’s feast day.
A larger celebration is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Sept. 8, when Cardinal Donald Wuerl is scheduled to celebrate mass, and all the living priests who have been associated with the parish over the years are invited to attend.
Other events are planned through June of next year, including a History Day Sept. 21 with tours of the church buildings and a book signing by Roger Langley, who recently wrote a new history of the parish. Some parishioners are also planning a pilgrimage to Rome, Assisi and Florence next April.
More information and a schedule of bicentennial events is at the church’s website, stmarysrockville.org.
The church’s prominent location and its connection to author F. Scott Fitzgerald, who is buried in its cemetery, contribute to St. Mary’s status as a landmark in Rockville, said Mary van Balgooy, executive director of Peerless Rockville.
Van Balgooy said the chapel was one of the first brick structures in Montgomery County and the oldest in the City of Rockville. It has been through several renovations, including one that changed the architecture from colonial to Gothic style.
“What’s interesting, is how beloved this church is in this community,” van Balgooy said. “It’s one of those beautiful landmarks we have on the Pike.”
When a new church building was constructed in the 1960s, parishioners raised money to preserve and maintain the old building, van Balgooy said.
Even though Rockville is changing, commemorations like St. Mary’s 200th anniversary speak to the city’s history, van Balgooy said.
“To know that a place like this has been here for 200 years is just outstanding,” she said.