165 Years and Counting…
Saint Mary of the Assumption parish was founded in 1849. As the “Mother Church of North Baltimore,” our parish has a long, illustrious and beautiful history. It has been responsible for founding many other parishes in north Baltimore, as well as being intimately connected to the history of the Govans area.
Saint Mary was founded by Fr. James Dolan who had earlier established a nearby “Orphans Home” for Irish boys who lost their parents during the precarious sea voyage from Ireland to Baltimore. The growing Catholic population of north Baltimore soon required a separate church and a “little white church” was constructed off Homeland Avenue at what is now Saint Mary’s Cemetery. In 1854, the church suffered a fire and was rebuilt in brick. It was later expanded to include a rectory and convent, and in 1875, a school.
Saint Mary established mission churches throughout north Baltimore, which eventually became the parishes of St. Thomas Aquinas (Hampden), Immaculate Conception (Towson), St. Joseph’s (Texas), and Shrine of the Sacred Heart (Mt. Washington).
The Govans area grew rapidly after the turn of the century and more space was soon needed. The present church located on York Road, was dedicated in 1942. Its official name became Saint Mary of the Assumption in 1952 when the Archdiocese incorporated all parishes.
Originally of a rather plain wrought iron motive, the church included the wooden Stations of the Cross and the “Last Supper” marble altar relief from the old church. In 1960, then-pastor, Msgr. Leo McCormick redecorated the interior, installing the distinctive Mosaic that today adorns the altar backdrop. It was commissioned to reproduce a portion of an altar piece painted by Titian, found in the Basilica of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari in Venice, Italy.
Over the years, new parishes were established nearby and neighborhoods have grown and changed. A parish reflects the social and religious customs of its time and as these inevitably change, so will the parish evolve and change.
As Saint Mary looks forward to the future, the only certainty we have is that there will be change. But we have confidence that our parish family will remain a resilient and welcoming community, filled with a deep faith, religious spirit and core commitment to social justice.
Since the 150th anniversary of the parish in 1999, the History Committee has served as a vital keeper of our parish’s history and archives. The hard work to collect, preserve and research the history of our parish has been extremely important in cataloguing the important role of Saint Mary – to this very day – in spreading God’s compassion, healing and love to our brothers and sisters in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries.
Detailed histories of our parish are available in the parish archives, at the Maryland Historical Society and in the Govans Branch of the Enoch Pratt Free Library.
Saint Mary’s School at Govans
Saint Mary of the Assumption School was opened in September 1874 and staffed by the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Two additions were constructed, one in 1929 and another in 1933. The original structure remains today, together with the two additions, all incorporated into the Knights of Columbus building on Homeland Avenue.
As enrollments continued to increase, a new school and convent were completed in 1952 next to the present church on York Road. Burgeoning enrollments kept the old school building in use until the early 1960s. But as new parishes with their own schools were constructed nearby at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen, St. Pius X, and St. Matthews, enrollments declined. Operating costs to support an increasing number of lay staff continued to climb until the school was no longer financially self-sufficient. The school was closed by the Archdiocese in 2010 and the property was sold to a developer. The buildings now house the very successful Tunbridge School, a public charter school offering pre-K through 5th grade education.
In 2010, before the school was sold, a school-wide reunion from every class year was held that attracted over 1,000 former students who returned to share their fond memories of their school days. The Parents School Alumni Club continues to meet and hold activities.