History

First St. Aloysius Church

First St. Aloysius Church

The exact origins of the Catholic community which developed into St. Aloysius parish remain obscure. In 1708 it was decided that the County court house for St. Mary’s would be moved from Newtown to a new, more central location, at the head of Breton Bay. The community that grew up around the court house was known as “Seymour Town” until 1728 when the name was changed to Leonardtown. It is assumed by local historians that since Catholics were numerous in St. Mary’s County, and in fact constituted a majority of its population by 1734, there must have been Catholics in Leonardtown. It is further assumed that these Leonardtown area Catholics must have gathered for Mass which would have been offered by one of the Jesuit priests who lived at Newtown. Thus, for some time now, the establishment of the parish has been dated to around 1710.

The earliest documentation we have for St. Aloysius parish comes from the diary of Father James Walton, S.J. who described the raising of funds to erect the first church in 1766 while he was pastor at Newtown (St. Francis Xavier). This church was located approximately two miles north of the site of the current church Fr. Walton had erected is long gone, the cemetery that surrounded it is still open today.

Second St. Aloysius Church

Second St. Aloysius Church


The second documented church of St. Aloysius was erected in 1846 under the direction of Fr. Joseph Enders, S.J., who was the Superior at Newtown at that time. Designed by a parishioner, Vincent Camalier, this brick structure, which stood on the south side of the current rectory, was approximately 95 feet in length and 44 feet wide and served the community until 1959. In 1866, the Jesuit residence at Newtown was moved to Leonardtown and St. Aloysius became the center of Catholic life in the upper part of St. Mary’s County. In 1885 the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, Kentucky opened St. Mary’s Academy here at the behest of the current pastor, Fr. Charles Jenkins, S.J. The Xavier Brothers opened Leonard Hall in the parish as a school for boys in 1909. To these educational institutions located in the parish were added Father Andrew White elementary school in 1954 and Ryken High School in 1956. St. Mary’s Academy and Ryken High School merged in 1981.

Since the departure of the Jesuit priests in 1964 the parish has been staffed by diocesan priests and currently (June 2006) serves approximately 750 families. Ever grateful for the gift of our Catholic heritage and trusting in the intercession of our patron saint, the people and priests of St. Aloysius parish pledge ourselves to furthering the mission of Christ in our community.

Our previous pastor, Fr. Rory Conley, gave a presentation on the parish’s history that is available for download (Part 1 | Part 2 | Handout)