"AS FOR ME AND MY HOUSEHOLD,
WE WILL SERVE THE LORD." JOSHUA 24:15
STAINED GLASS WINDOW PUZZLE FUNDRAISER
Many thanks to all of the generous donors who supported our Centennial stained glass window puzzle fundraiser.
All pieces have been purchased and donors will be recognized on a more-formal plaque which will hang in the church in the near future. Although the official fundraiser is now complete, donations are still welcome to support the events which will be held in the future to celebrate
St. Martin’s first 100 years. Simply let the church office know if you would like to make a contribution as all are welcome.
Thank you again to those who purchased a piece of history!
Our Parish History
Did you Know about the Mess-Hall Church?
In its first 100 years, the community at St. Martin’s has worshipped in three different spaces. In an earlier video, we talked about the current church building, which was dedicated in 1957.
The original St. Martin’s chapel, as founding pastor Fr. Cuddy called it, was actually an army mess hall from Camp Meigs that was relocated to our property in late 1920. (register entry of 1st mass)
Camp Meigs was located in northeast Washington, DC, near present-day Gallaudet University. Originally a facility for the DC National Guard, it was leased by the US Army in September 1917 as the United States entered World War I for use as a training camp for the Quartermaster Corps. (photo of camp with Capitol in rear)
It was named after Montgomery C. Meigs, who served as Quartermaster General of the US Army for several decades, including the Civil War. The camp’s buildings included eighteen barracks, six mess halls, and a hospital. (photo 2 of Camp Meigs). You can see the 2-story barracks on the left of the main street, and the single-story mess halls on the right. After the war ended, the Camp was ordered abandoned in May 1920.
Fr. Cuddy had served as an army chaplain during the war. He was stationed at Edgewood Arsenal, which is now part of Aberdeen Proving Ground north of Baltimore. He used his army contacts to have the surplus mess hall buildings from Camp Meigs transferred to Gaithersburg to become our first worship space.
The buildings were erected at the edge of our property and at right angles, with one wing being used for a church and the other as an auditorium. (plot map of property showing church)
There are no known photos of the interior of the mess hall church, but there is a photo in the National Archives showing the interior of a Camp Meigs mess hall. (interior of Meigs mess hall). We do have a couple of photos showing the exterior of the building on our property. (3 mess-hall chapel photos). One photo shows a May Day procession departing the church.
The congregation of St. Martin’s continued to grow, and sometime after 1935, pastor Michael Finnerty removed the partition that divided the building into a church and auditorium. He placed the altar at the intersection of the wings, so both wings could be used as seating during worship.
The mess-hall church was used until 1942, when it was simply too small. Under the direction of Pastor John H. Twamley, S.S., masses were moved into the school auditorium, which occupied the entire ground floor of the school building. (photo of school exterior) (photo of register entry #2) The auditorium stage was converted to a sanctuary, following a design made by the pastor of St. Vincent’s in Baltimore, consisting of two draperies behind the tabernacle.
In his notation describing the transition, Fr. Twamley declared that “all the work was done by parishioners, not one penny having to be spent for labor.” The parish registers also note that the “First mass in the school auditorium chapel was said September 27, 1942, the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost.” (photo of first auditorium mass)
Fr. Paul Meyer became pastor in 1945. Shortly after his arrival, he sold the abandoned mess hall buildings as scrap lumber. He was quite pleased at the $325 price he got. The school auditorium was used for worship for 15 years, including during the Parish’s 25th anniversary celebrations and throughout the liturgical year. (photo of Holy Thursday altar and of students before altar). When our current church was dedicated in November, 1957, the school was no longer used. (photo of auditorium, 1957).
In the last few decades, the community at St. Martin’s has continued to grow and we now offer Masses in three languages. So we have come full circle and now worship in the church, the gymnasium of the school (photo of gym), and now our renovated parish hall.
Although the pandemic has changed where and how we may celebrate Mass during this Centennial year, remember that the community of St. Martin’s has, from its very beginnings, found ways to worship in unusual spaces.
How this church was built?
The first mass on this property, establishing the church of St. Martin’s, was held on Dec 12, 1920. However, our current church building did
not exist until 1957. This church was built because an expanding, post-WWII population had long outgrown the first, cobbled together church from 1920. In fact, the parish had been worshipping in the auditorium of the school since September of 1942.
In the early 1950s, the pastor, Fr. Paul Meyer, began a fundraising campaign to build a new church. In addition to soliciting funds from
parishioners, the church held a variety of fund-raisers in the community, including turkey dinners.
Ground for the new church was broken in December 1956. At the ceremony, Mrs. Theresa Selby turned over the first shovel of earth. As a
young woman back in 1914, Mrs. Selby had been one of the group of church ladies who helped to buy this property.
The church was built by a Bethesda construction company, Thomas W. Yoder. The total cost for the project was $257,000. It was completed in less than a year, while the busy life of the parish went on around it. The church is built of brick, with limestone trim, and seated 500 people.
The altar and its relics were dedicated on Nov 11, 1957. The church itself was dedicated by Archbishop Patrick O’Boyle on the following
Sunday, Nov. 17, 1957. Ten years later, Fr. Meyer proudly noted in his 1967 financial report to the parish, that the debt we incurred to build the church was entirely paid off.
Since 1957, the church interior has undergone several renovations. After Vatican II, a second altar was added, facing the people, the
communion rails were removed, and a raised floor for the altar extended into the nave of the church. The choir stood behind the altar.
In the mid- 1990s, the altar was moved back up into the sanctuary and these was a simple curved dais before the steps. In 2018, the
curve was replaced and rails were installed in front of the statuary niches – so for our Centennial celebrations the church will closely match its original look from 1957 when it was built by Fr. Meyer to “give God His own house” in our community.
The Altar Relics
Our current church was built in 1957, and dedicated on Nov. 11, 1957 by Auxiliary Bishop Philip Hannan (later Archbishop of New Orleans).
Bishop Hannan also consecrated several relics in our high altar (where the Tabernacle currently sits). According to the dedicatory inscription
issued that day in Latin, our altar contains “the relics of the holy Martyrs Eudoxius and Honestus; with those of St. Francis Xavier, Confessor and St. Teresa of the Child Jesus, Virgin, also included”. To those who visit the church on the anniversary of its consecration, an indulgence of 200 days is granted.
Little is known about St. Eudoxius, a Roman soldier in present-day Armenia who was martyred in the late third or early fourth
century. St. Honestus, a native of France, was sent to Navarre, Spain by St. Saturninus, a disciple of St. Peter, where he converted
great numbers of people. He was martyred in Spain in 270.
St. Francis Xavier was born near Navarre, Spain in 1506. He was one of the first seven members of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits),
led by St. Ignatius of Loyola. Known as a great missionary saint, he played a key role establishing Christianity in India and Japan.
St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus, also known as St. Thérèse of Lisieux or the Little Flower, was a Carmelite nun whose “Little
Way” focused on small deeds and sacrifices to show great love and trust in God. She described this spirituality in her
autobiography “Story of a Soul.” Pope John Paul II named her a doctor of the church in 1997.