Bishop Malooly will be the celebrant for Mass at St. Francis Xavier Church (Old Bohemia) in Warwick, Md. on Sept. 1 at 11 am in conjunction with the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington 150th Anniversary Historic Churches Pilgrimage. Guided tours of the church and rectory will be offered at 9 a.m., 9:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. The rectory museum and historic graveyard will be accessible for individual inspection and study. The visitor center and gift shop featuring religious articles will also be open.
Founded in 1704 by Jesuit priests, Bohemia Mission is one of the oldest permanent Catholic establishments in the English Colonies and is considered the mother church of the Diocese of Wilmington. The plantation was clandestinely established to minister to the scattered Catholics throughout what is now Cecil County, Md., the entire Delmarva Peninsula, and southeastern Pa., when Catholicism was outlawed in the English Colonies. The property is listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
Through the efforts of Francis W. (Frank) Krastel, Sr., a Catholic, and Alfred N. Phillips, a Presbyterian and owner of nearby Worsell Manor, the Old Bohemia Historical Society (OBHS) was established in 1953 as a non-sectarian, non-profit corporation. Founding members of the group immediately started major repairs to the church which had fallen into ruin due to neglect. The society purchased the adjoining 120-acre farm on which the plantation was located and had been sold by the Diocese of Wilmington in 1931.
The society continues to maintain the site. Income for the upkeep of the buildings and grounds is generated from the collection at five regularly-scheduled Masses at the church every year, fundraisers, membership dues, and donations from benefactors.
The buildings will continue to be open the first Saturday of every month through March 2, 2019 for the pilgrimage, with Mass celebrated at 11 am. The society encourages schools, Knights of Columbus Councils, Columbiettes, Altar and Rosary Societies, Sodalities, youth groups, religious education classes, senior groups, Scout groups, and other church groups and ministries to organize a visit on one of the planned Pilgrimage dates or on another date that is convenient. Additionally, groups may arrange for their pastor or associate pastor to celebrate Mass.
For more information or to arrange a tour, please call OBHS President Marji Matyniak at 302.328.4803 or send an email to OldBohemiaHS@gmail.com. The church is also available for group retreats and weddings. A video about the mission can be viewed on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BFGlCsNM6gk. The GPS location of the Bohemia Mission is 1699 Bohemia Church Road, Warwick, MD 21912. The next Sunday Mass at the church will be on Sept. 16 at 4 p.m. Monsignor David Kelley, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Middletown, Del. will be the celebrant.