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Our Mother of Sorrows/St. Peter’s: Celebrating 250 years in Queen Anne’s County, Maryland

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For The Dialog

CENTREVILLE, Md. – When Carolyn Caldwell moved here in 1975, she discovered there were two Catholic communities in the area even though they were one parish.

“You had a group at Our Mother of Sorrows (in Centreville) and a group at St. Peter’s (in Queenstown),” she recalled recently. They tended to think of themselves as separate entities, each with their own activities.

A change began after Father Mark Kelleher became pastor and stressed that the parish was one Catholic community with two places of worship, not two separate communities. His successor, current pastor Father Clem Manista, has continued that effort.

Now, Caldwell noted, “we make sure than anything that goes out (from the parish) says ‘Our Mother of Sorrows/St. Peter’s,’” and parishioners feel part of a single community.

Father Clem Manista, pastor of Our Mother of Sorrows/St. Peter’s, stands in front of Our Mother of Sorrows Church in Centerville. (Gary Morton for The Dialog)
Father Clem Manista, pastor of Our Mother of Sorrows/St. Peter’s, stands in front of Our Mother of Sorrows Church in Centerville. (Gary Morton for The Dialog)

Last month the parish celebrated the 250th anniversary of the establishment of a permanent Catholic community in northern Queen Anne’s County with Mass at St. Peter’s followed by a dinner in the church hall at Our Mother of Sorrows. The two churches are less than 10 miles apart.

A sign of that unity is the parish’s success in the Sustaining Hope for the Future Campaign. “We went over our goal,” Father Manista said. The local portion of that money will go toward refurbishment of St. Peter’s, which was built in the 1820s and expanded in 1877. The church is on the National Historic Register.

The parish has about 620 families and a wide range of ministries, including outreach programs to the community at large; many hospitality programs geared toward assisting parishioners in their everyday life as well as in times of crisis; and an active religious education program that in recent years has begun a series of adult education programs, family nights, and a family catechetical program.

Father Manista discovered the hospitality ministry to be a hallmark of the parish.

Caldwell leads programs such as a bereavement group that provides meals and helps comfort families after a death; Mother’s Helping Hands, which provides six meals for families after the birth of a child; and Mary’s Table, similar to Mother’s Helping Hands but aimed at families in time of crises.

All three rely on a strong core of volunteers, she said, noting that about 30 women are involved in the bereavement ministry.

The parish outreach, headed by Ross Camardella, also provides services, including a food pantry; emergency assistance; Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter food baskets; and a “backpack” program that ensures elementary school students who receive reduced cost lunches will have meals over the weekend.

The outreach ministry has about 40 active members.

A major project now is converting a garage into new quarters for the food pantry. The $16,000 project will quadruple the space available to about 800 square feet. When the new space opens, hopefully in May, clients will be able to shop for their own foods rather than receive pre-packaged bags, Camardella said. In addition to dry goods, the pantry also distributes chicken from the Maryland Food Bank and grocery gift cards for milk and eggs provided by the parish Knights of Columbus.

Out Mother of Sorrows/St. Peter’s provides Christmas and Easter baskets with food on its own, and participates in a Queen Anne’s county-wide program, Feed a Family, at Thanksgiving.

The religious education program for children has remained steady, with about 160 students in grades kindergarten through eighth grade since Mary Wood began as director of religious education in 2007. Another 18 ninth-graders are in the confirmation preparation program.

Wood has added a series of Family Activity Nights, a Family Catechesis program, and adult education programs.

A series of events brings the community together throughout the year, including a pit bull roast at St. Peter and the Christmas bazaar in the church hall.

St. Peter’s Church was organized in 1765 by Father Joseph Mosley. A brick chapel was built before 1784. Work on the current church began in the 1820s. The present structure seats about 150.

The original Our Mother of Sorrows Church was built in 1889. The present church was dedicated in 1932. It can accommodate about 250 people.

At Christmas, since neither church is large enough to accommodate the crowds who attend Christmas Mass, the parish has rented the Todd Performing Arts Center at Chesapeake College for a 4:30 p.m. Mass on Christmas Eve. Christmas morning, Mass will be offered at 8 a.m. at St. Peter’s and 10 a.m. at Our Mother of Sorrows.