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The History of St. Anthony's Shrine Parish

A. H. Marshall

A century after St. Anthony Shrine Church was dedicated on October 26, 1897, the Parish publishes this book as a record of how the beautiful stone church was built, how the parish was administered over the years, how the buildings and grounds have changed, and how it has all been made possible by the support of a faithful congregation.

Actually, the story of our faith community is a much older story. The parish now known as St. Anthony Shrine dates back to Colonial times. By about 1740, Catholic settlers in northern Frederick County were gathering at a site less than a mile from the present church to receive the sacraments from traveling priests. This long history includes three distinct periods: The Missionary Period, 1734-1805, The College Period, 1805-1894, The St. Anthony Shrine Period, 1894-present

The first two periods are briefly summarized in the following account. They provide a historical background for the events of the third period. The events of the third period, the past hundred years, are reported in greater detail since they lead directly to our centennial celebration.


The congregation now known as St. Anthony Shrine Parish began 250 or more years ago when Maryland was a colony of the British Crown. Maryland, founded by Cecil Calvert, Lord Baltimore, in 1634, was at first a place of religious freedom. Many Catholics, persecuted and oppressed in England, settled with a sigh of relief in Southern Maryland.

The relief was short. Freedom of worship ended in 1692 when the Church of England became the established religion of the colony. Catholics were double-taxed, forbidden to worship in public, forbidden to hold office or bear arms. Many decided to flee persecution once again and seek safer territory. One such westward-bound group pushed as far as the Blue Ridge Mountains and then settled in the fertile Monocacy Valley in northern Frederick County.

The leader of this group was William Elder who moved about 1728 from St. Marys County. He was soon joined by the Livers, Owings, Wheelers, and other Catholic families. The Brawners, already on the scene, became fervent converts. Some other family names from this period are Delosier, Brooke, Ogle. and Neale. The early settlers were able to sustain their Catholic faith because they were served by missionary priests. These circuit-riding (or walking) priests, many of whom were Jesuits from Conewago Chapel, said Mass and administered the sacraments in private homes since it was against the law to build a Catholic church. Whenever a priest arrived, a signal was sent to the Catholics in the area. In the archives at Mount Saint Mary's College is a boatman's or conch shell said to have been brought from Southern Maryland and used to call the faithful settlers of the valley to worship.

William Elder, whose home stood about half a mile from the present church, set aside a large room for worship. Tradition tells that the first Mass in the neighborhood was celebrated in the Elder "house chapel" in 1745. Other records suggest that Mass was said in what is now St. Anthony's district as early as 1734. It is a happy fact that William Elder's great-grandson, Archbishop William Henry Elder of Cincinnati, said the Mass when St. Anthony's Church was consecrated in 1897.


The missionary period ended when Rev. John DuBois came to the parish as a resident pastor in 1805. That same year he bought land from the Elder family and started building a church on the side of St. Mary's Mountain. In 1808, he founded Mount Saint Mary's College. From that time until 1894 the local congregation and the college/seminary students worshiped together at St. Mary's Church, also known as "The Mountain Church" or "The Old Church on the Hill." The College president was also pastor of the church.

By this time the new Constitution of the United States guaranteed freedom of religion to the "papists." Also, the bias against Catholics lessened because of their ready participation in the Revolutionary War. Certainly, St. Mary's Church on the Hill seems to have been built in a fine spirit of ecumenism.

In The Story of the Mountain there is a heart warming account of the ground breaking: Some 50 or 60 men of the neighborhood were present-women and children, white and black, on that 19th day of November 1805, many Protestants also, among them Mr. Hoover, a Mennonite preacher, conspicuous by his long beard. All worked together. Father DuBois himself took an axe.., gave the first blow and down went the trees on all sides. There were few but were eager to have a hand in the work... A good old fashioned barbecue with an ox roasted whole closed the happy day's proceedings and the Catholic Church on the hill was assured. Fr. Dubois was resident pastor at St. Mary's Church for 21 years. St. Elizabeth Ann Seton came to the area in 1809 and was among his early parishioners.

The Grotto

It is appropriate here to write a few words about the Grotto for its history has been long entwined with that of St. Mary's and St. Anthony's churches. The Grotto of Lourdes, high in the mountain behind Mount Saint Mary's College, is a natural amphitheater which Fr. DuBois discovered as he rambled through the woods seeking a site for St. Mary's Church. In all the years since, the Grotto has been a place of peace and prayer. It was beloved of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton who wrote that she, her sister companions, and their students often attended Mass in ‘‘this wild and picturesque spot.

For many years the Grotto was under the care of Mount seminarians. In the nineteenth century, they gathered native stones and shaped the lovely dell to closely resemble the Grotto of Lourdes in France. The basic work was completed in 1879. Now formally known as the National Shrine Grotto of Lourdes, it was declared a public oratory by Lawrence Cardinal Shehan in 1965. Over a million people have visited this Mary-shrine.

At the entrance to the Grotto, on the spot where St. Mary's Church stood, the Pangborn Campanile topped by a statue of Our Lady rises 120 feet into the sky. Visible for miles, the golden statue seems to watch over and bless the surrounding area-including St. Anthony Shrine Church.

St. Anthony's cemetery lies adjacent to the Grotto. It was the graveyard for St. Mary's Church and dates back to 1806. College, seminary, and parish have buried their dead there; it holds several members of St. Elizabeth Seton's family as well as the ancestors of many of today's parishioners.


Before reading this section, please note that the name St. Anthony Shrine was not heard in the two early periods. The name was given to the congregation when it was declared an independent parish in 1894. The present period began a little over one hundred years ago when the old congregation received a new name and built a new church. The history which follows tells the story of this third period.

In June 1894, the College Council met at Mount Saint Mary's with James Cardinal Gibbons presiding. It was decided that the local parish would no longer be served by the college priests. Rev. John B. Manley, who had been teaching at the Mount, was appointed pastor of the newly independent parish.

There was great commotion among the Catholic community when they heard of the separation and added up the costs. Their new pastor's salary had been set at $800 a year plus board, an amount in excess of the annual parish income. Fr. Manley would no longer reside at the college so a rectory must be built. It soon turned out that they also needed to build a new church. It appears that the parish rallied quickly after the first shock of the separation. Father Manley proved an energetic leader and the next four years saw remarkable activity.

The formal separation of the parish and the college was announced on November 27, 1894. Ground was broken for a rectory on July 10, 1895. A decision was reached to build a new church rather than make much needed repairs on the Mountain Church. As if to make clear its independent status, the parish was given a new name: St. Anthony Shrine. The cornerstone for St. Anthony Shrine Church was laid on Sunday, May 2, 1897. The new church was dedicated on October 26, 1897. (This book marks the church's one hundredth birthday.)

The cornerstone for the new church was laid Sunday, May 2, 1897. The square block of Gettysburg granite was a gift of the pastor, Father Manley, and he noted in the parish records that it "contains rare coins and some new coins dated 1897, names of subscribers, copies of The Catholic Mirror and of The Emmitsburg Chronicle."

Cardinal Gibbons was represented at the cornerstone laying by Monsignor James O'Brien, pastor of St. Peter's Church, Washington, D.C. Mr. Michael Lingg was in charge of masonry and set the stone in place. Michael Lingg's father Henry, along with Hiram Taylor had built the rectory two years earlier.

The design of the church was furnished by Mr. Frank Hobbs, Decatur, Ill. Contractors were Mr. Hobbs and Mr. Walter for $10,500. Subcontractors ere Michael and George Lingg (masonry); F.A. Adelsberger (tinning); A. Kreitz (plastering); James Gelwicks (painting); and Felix Wallace (furnace).

The Church is built of native stone and has a seating capacity of 350. It is located two miles south of the town of Emmitsburg on St. Anthony Road which roughly parallels U.S. Highway 15. College Mountain, part of the Catoctin Spur of the Blue Ridge Mountains, rises behind the church.

Some treasures from "Old St. Mary's" helped furnish the new St. Anthony Shrine Church and are still in use. These include six bronze High Mass candles for the main altar and the statues of the Blessed Mother, St. Joseph, and the Sacred Heart.

The large stained glass window in the choir loft has been called "the pride of the Church". Rich in emblems and unique in design, it was a gift from the St. Vincent's Branch of the Emerald Benevolent Association. (The EBA was a mutual aid society of a type which came into being after the Civil War to provide insurance and other benefits to Catholic churches.)

The cost of the church ($10,500) cannot be easily expressed in today's dollars. For one thing, we are talking about a building without electricity, air conditioning, and other modern improvements. At the end of the nineteenth century, a workingman might bring home a weekly salary of $5.00. A farmer would probably see even less cash on a regular basis. Therefore, the contributions listed below would have represented a very meaningful part of a parishioner's income.

According to church records, the following persons gave one hundred dollars each towards the building of the new St. Anthony's, and their names are perpetuated on a marble tablet as chief benefactors. The record continues, "The total amount paid on subscriptions is four thousand and eight hundred dollars. There are about five hundred still unpaid, but as good as cash." In addition to cash contributions, the new church received many specific donations which were given to beautify the House of The Lord. Gifts are recorded as follows: The main altar was given by Miss Mary Cosgrove and her sister Eleanora of Baltimore. The Blessed Virgin altar was given by the Elder family and is called the "Elder memorial." (Archbishop Elder contributed one hundred dollars with other donations from Mrs. E.G. Eckenrode, the Elder family in Charles County, Mrs. Mary R. Elder, Miss Josephine Elder, and Mr. James A. Elder.)

The St. Joseph altar was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Griffin of Baltimore. Three costly and devotional art figured glass windows adorn the chancel. That of the Sacred Heart was the gift of the Members of the League of the Sacred Heart; that of the Blessed Virgin was given by Fr. Pius P. Hemler in memory of his parents; and that of St. Joseph was the gift of the Sanctuary Society. The stained-glass gem in the Blessed Sacrament chapel was given by contractors Messrs. Walter & Hobbs, as was the vestibule lamp. The large window in the choir is a gift of the Emerald Benevolent Association. The Benevolent Association promises a desirable and valuable donation... to be called St. Anthony's Benevolent Grove. The Sanctuary lamp is a gift of Mrs. Ann Coffay of Baltimore. Mr. John Hoke and Mrs. H. Seton gave altar goods. Dr. J.B. Brawner provided the gilding for the tower cross. M.F. Adelsberger and Mr. James Gelwicks made donations in labor.

Fr. Manley presented his parishioners with a financial statement on January 1,1898. The church and its furnishings had cost $12,925.00. He wrote: The church debt is less than four thousand dollars. This speaks volumes for the zeal, practical piety and generosity of the old mountain congregation. The new church property, as it stands, cost over eighteen thousand dollars. [This larger sum included the rectory. I In less than four years this amount has been raised.

The Story of the Mountain recounts the October 26, 1897, dedication of the new Church in these words: Today, the comely new Church... of St. Anthony was dedicated by Cardinal Gibbons with Abp. Elder saying the Mass and Bps. McGovern and Chatard assisting, with twenty-four other priests one of whom, Fr. George W. Devine, preached instead of Bp. Curtis who was storm bound on Solomon's Island. A stone at Clairvaux (i.e. in the Elder Cemetery) marks where, as we saw, the great-grandfather of Archbishop Elder had raised "the first altar to the living God" in this locality.., and one of the marble altars of this new temple was donated by the Abp, and inscribed "the Elder Memorial." Ten thousand five hundred dollars was the contract price for the mason and carpenter work alone.

Thus we have the solemn blessing and dedication of St. Anthony Shrine Church. Few rural parishes, then or now, can claim such an assemblage of prelates-the Cardinal Archbishop of Baltimore, Archbishop William Henry Elder of Cincinnati, and two other bishops.

Church records show that in the year St. Anthony was dedicated these marriages took place: John Roddy and Laura Orndorf, Michael Lingg and Margaret Henly, Edward Fitzgerald and Agnes Keepers, Thomas Jacobs and Louisa Rosensteel, George Sanders and Emma Brown, Robert Hobbs and

Mary Walter, Charles Emery Colliflower and Barbara Eliza Freshman.


Since St. Anthony's was dedicated, eleven pastors have attended the spiritual needs of the congregation. Some of their special accomplishments are included in the section on parish changes and improvements. An honor roll of their names and dates of service follows:

  • Father John B. Manley - 1894-1904
  • Father George H. Tragesser - 1904-1923
  • Father Edward F. Reilly - 1923-1931
  • Father J. Leo Barley - 1931-1940
  • Father Thomas Reinhart - 1940-1948
  • Monsignor Stanley J. Scarff - 1948-1954
  • Father Vincent J. Tomalski - 1954-1972
  • Father Edward T. Sargus - 1973-1978
  • Father William A. McEvoy - 1978-1983
  • Father Edward B. Hemler - 1983-1991
  • Father Leo R. Tittler - 1992- present

Old Saint Mary's Church

As soon as St. Anthony's Church was built, the Old Church on the Hill was abandoned except for an occasional summer Mass. Even this limited use was stopped in 1900 because of the dangerous condition of the building.

Nevertheless, the centenary of the church was celebrated on October 19, 1905, and attended by a large crowd. Cardinal Gibbons presided; the Pope sent his blessing. The College administration was well represented and many graduates returned for the ceremony. From St. Anthony's congregation came the descendants of those who had helped build the church. Many of their descendants, in turn, now help celebrate the centenary of St. Anthony's. Old St. Mary's was accidentally destroyed by fire on July 4, 1913.

Changes and Improvements

St. Anthony Shrine Parish has steered a sure course through the wars, depressions, and amazing inventions of the busy twentieth century. The congregation, always steadfast in the Catholic Faith, has coped with new lifestyles, new technology, and the changes of Vatican II. The parish rolls reflect this blending of old and new: many family names appear for the full hundred years; many newcomers have been welcomed.

A parish school, staffed by the Daughters of Charity from St. Joseph's Central House in Emmitsburg, was opened in 1903 under the leadership of the first pastor, Fr. John B. Manley. The school was located across the road from the church in a two story hall which was donated to the parish by the Emerald Benevolent Society. An account of the first day of school, September 14, 1903, states that "fifty-two lovely children were enrolled." Later in the same document it is noted that one of the two teaching sisters "broke down" the first day and had to be replaced. No explanation follows but one might conclude that fifty-two children-even "lovely" ones-were quite a handful. The Daughters of Charity taught gratis at the school for about a year and a half. It was next staffed by the Sisters of St. Francis and then, beginning in 1911, by lay teachers. In 1923 the Daughters of Charity resumed teaching St. Anthony's children and they continue that charge today although in a consolidated school.

Electric lights were installed in the church in 1919 at a cost of $700 and the rectory was electrified the following year. Soon afterward, the parish upgraded its water supply "with electrical pump and suitable piping." In mid-century Fr. Stanley Scarff installed a new altar railing and had the stonework of the church repointed. The beautiful inlay floor on the top altar step was put in place by William Wivell, a longtime parishioner. Improvements were also made to the school including replacing the old outhouses with modern lavatories.

In 1956 the Daughters of Charity opened Mother Seton School in Emmitsburg to serve the children of four local parishes including St. Anthony's. The parish schoolhouse then became St. Anthony Hall, providing much needed space for church dinners and other social events and for parish offices. Father Vincent Tomalski continued the careful maintenance of parish buildings with a major overhaul in 1961. The church was renovated with new lighting, flooring, pews, and an ornate decor in lavender, gold and red. Both church and rectory were rewired and the Minshall-Estey organ was repaired. Also, the large porch across the front and side of the rectory was replaced. All this for $22,500.

Martha J. Corry deeded to the church in 1962 a piece of land which extended the church property on the north to the boundary of Mount Saint Mary's College. This bequest made possible the building of the spacious north parking lot. In response to decrees of Vatican II, a new altar of sacrifice, designed by Fr. Tomalski and Carl Wetzel, was placed in the church sanctuary in the early 1970's. Further repainting and renovations, including air conditioning, were undertaken in the 1980's under Father Edward Hemler's administration. New altar furniture-podium, chairs, offertory and credence tables-was made by Carroll Wivell around 1986. Margaret Jennings Dickerson bequeathed over a million dollars to the church when she died in 1987. The resulting trust fund provides specifically for the upkeep of the parish and cemetery and for perpetual care for Mrs. Dickerson's grave site.

In preparation for its one hundredth birthday celebration, St. Anthony Shrine Church has recently been repainted and redecorated. A Baldwin organ has been installed in the choir loft. These improvements are gifts of the parishioners and friends of St. Anthony's.

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