01. 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.
02. Sacramental Registers
St. Martin’s, like all Catholic parishes, is required to maintain sacramental registers – the official
record of baptisms, confirmations, marriages, and deaths in the parish (First Communions are optional).
They are handwritten, and carefully stored in perpetuity.
The earliest register at St. Martin’s is the Baptismal Register. It begins on Dec. 26, 1920 – just a
few days after the official dedication of the chapel on the property. The child was a son of George and
Mary Gartner, a founding family long active in our parish and school. The “notes” column of the
baptismal entry, written by Fr. Cuddy, states “First child baptized in this parish.”
The registers are also a testament to the diversity of St. Martin’s from its earliest days. A 1922
entry in the baptismal register is for an adult male. Fr. Cuddy notes that this man was “colored” and was
“Born into slavery. Baptized on death bed.”
The First Communion registers begin in 1926, and list 19 children who received this sacrament at
St. Martin’s on Sunday, Nov. 14. An additional 10 children received their First Communion the following
Sunday at “St. Rose, Clopper.” Four of those children are noted as “colored.” St. Rose was for many years
a mission church of St. Martin’s and the records show how people from all areas of upper Montgomery
County worshipped at St. Martin’s and were often buried in the cemetery at St. Rose. Even into the late
1950s, the residences recorded in the death registers include Gaithersburg (as expected), Stewartown,
Travilah, Metropolitan Grove, Barnesville, and Germantown.
So rejoice when you or a family member are baptized, married, or confirmed here at St. Martin’s,
and know that you will be remembered forever in the sacramental registers as part of our parish
03. The Land
Catholics in the Gaithersburg area first organized for worship on the estate of Francis Clopper,
near today’s Seneca Creek State Park, where St. Rose was founded in 1836 as a mission church. But that
chapel was 3 miles over hilly terrain from where the town of Gaithersburg was growing, centered around
the railroad line that was built in 1873. So by the late 1880s, Gaithersburg Catholics gathered in the
home of Thomas and Adeline Gloyd, near the intersection of Diamond and Frederick Avenues, whenever
they could find a visiting priest to celebrate Mass in the parlor.
As this Catholic community grew, they began searching for a more permanent worship site, and
soon settled on property at the corner of Summit and Frederick Avenues. This triangular property had
been the site of the Summit Hotel, a summer vacation spot for DC residents, until it had burned down in
According to oral histories, a group of 7 or 8 ladies called on the property owners, John B.
Diamond and Ignatius T. Fulks, to see if they would sell the property for a church. They agreed. Mr.
Diamond was Catholic, and donated his share of the land. Mr. Fulks sold his portion for $10 - a fraction of
its true value (and equal to about $250 today). The deed was recorded in Montgomery County on April
17, 1914. Mr. Diamond and Mr. Fulks sold 2 parcels of land, one of 3.5 acres and one of 44 perches
(about ⅓ of an acre) to George Harrington, pastor of St. Mary’s in Barnesville. Three days later Fr.
Harrington transferred the land to James Cardinal Gibbons, Archbishop of Baltimore.
Thus in April 1914 the beginnings of our physical church were laid here in Gaithersburg. But
three months later World War I began, and building a church would have to wait.
04. The Land, Part II
After establishing the church here at St. Martin’s, Fr. Cuddy was eager to also begin a Catholic
school. The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur had begun teaching Sunday School classes in November of
1923, and he wanted them to direct the school. The Sisters lived in downtown DC and travelled by train
or car up to Gaithersburg to teach. So Fr. Cuddy decided to purchase additional land for a convent, to
encourage the Sisters to run the school.
He chose land on the west side of Frederick Road (now Rt. 355). This land had originally been
part of the large estate of John T. DeSellum, who had divided it into 4 acres plots in the 1880s and sold
the first lots to the Smith and Lodge families. Because this land is one of the highest elevations in
Gaithersburg and because an astronomical observatory was built on DeSellum Avenue in 1899, the
neighborhood became known as Observatory Heights.
Fr. Cuddy purchased one of these 4-acre tracts and the large house that stood upon it from the
Lodge family on July 14, 1925. After renovations, three teaching sisters moved into the house in 1926
and the Sisters had a presence there until 1973.
Although the property no longer teems with apple, pear, and quince trees (as described in
1925), you can still see the convent house – today called the Fr. Meyer house, since longtime pastor Fr.
Paul Meyer lived there as pastor emeritus. The property is also now home to the rectory and the
convent for our Dominican Sisters. And you can travel down DeSellum Avenue past the current rectory to
see the Observatory that gave this part of Gaithersburg its name.
05. The Loss of Fr. Cuddy
Fr. John Stanislaus Cuddy was the founding priest of St. Martin’s and became its first resident
pastor when he began boarding in the Schwartz house (now the Gaithersburg City Hall) in 1921. He was
responsible for the mess hall church, the school, and the convent for the teaching Sisters. He organized a
Knights of Columbus chapter, and was well-known in the community for producing theatrical programs
complete with lighting and sound effects.
Tragically, Fr. Cuddy was killed on Dec. 7, 1928 at the ground-level railroad crossing in
Gaithersburg. Despite efforts by the crossing’s guard to stop Fr. Cuddy’s car, it drove onto the tracks, was
struck by an approaching work train and dragged some distance. Witnesses to the accident tried to
unsuccessfully to save the priest.
The tragedy made headlines in the Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, and Montgomery County
papers. A dramatic photo in the Post shows the total wreckage of the car. An inquest determined that
there was no fault and Fr. Cuddy’s death was “an unavoidable accident.”
The priest was well-loved by both his parishioners and the Gaithersburg community for his
“genial good nature”. One person said Fr. Cuddy was “imbued with the spirit of brotherly love” and never
asked about a person’s religion before choosing to help someone in need. The community’s grief over Fr.
Cuddy’s death at this dangerous railroad crossing would permanently change Gaithersburg – and those
changes benefit us every day. Details, if you have not yet guessed, in the next Centennial Sketches.
06. A Bridge for Fr. Cuddy
Fr. Cuddy’s death in a train-car accident in December 1928 grieved the entire parish and
Gaithersburg community. His funeral at St. Martin’s was celebrated by Baltimore auxiliary bishop John
McNamara and included 8 priests as honorary pallbearers and 8 members of the Knights of Columbus as
The grade crossing where Fr. Cuddy was killed was often described as one of the most dangerous
railroad crossings in the state. The community demanded changes, and the Gaithersburg Chamber of
Commerce petitioned the Maryland State Roads Commission, who agreed to eliminate the crossing. A
two-lane bridge over the tracks was completed in December 1930, 2 years after Fr. Cuddy’s death.
As Gaithersburg grew, the small bridge could not handle the increasing traffic on Rt. 355, and the
state upgraded the overpass to a 4-lane bridge with access ramps from West Diamond Avenue. The new
bridge was officially opened on December 7, 1987, 59 years to the day from Fr. Cuddy’s death. Governor
William Donald Schaefer, Gaithersburg Mayor Ed Bohrer, and Archbishop James Hickey all participated in
The dedication ceremony, along with children from St. Martin’s school.
The new bridge was dedicated to Fr. Cuddy. According the Gazette article describing the event,
Mayor Bohrer said, “By dedicating the bridge in his honor, we give it a sense of the religious and cultural
history of the time.”
So every time you easily cross over the tracks, regardless of whether one of the dozens of daily
commuter or freight trains is passing below you, think of Fr. Cuddy and how his death brought a bridge
and safety to Gaithersburg 90 years ago.
07. A Parish Planned
When Fr. John Cuddy was named pastor of St. Martin’s Church in 1920 parishioners gathered in the homes of local Catholic residents for Mass. St. Rose of Lima had a church, but St. Martin did not yet have the funds to construct a building, so Fr. Cuddy arranged for the donation of three Army mess halls which would be placed in an “L” on the corner lot to serve the parish as a church and an assembly hall. Fr. Cuddy set his sights on building the first Catholic school in Montgomery County. Letters to Baltimore Archbishop Curley request a $7,000 loan in September 1924 for the construction of the school, another request for $15,000 in October 1924, and yet another request for $20,000 in February 1925! The Lodge home (now known as the “Father Meyer House”) was purchased that year as a Convent to house the nuns who would teach at the school.
When Fr. John Callaghan was appointed in 1928 after Fr. Cuddy’s tragic death, Archbishop Curley wrote that “…[unfortunately] there is no rectory. The good Father Cuddy concentrated all his efforts on the School and Convent… I would much prefer to see the priest in his own little home however humble it may be.”
In 1929 Fr. Callaghan made his own request for a loan of $12,000 to build the “humble” rectory which is still used today (the Rectory Office Building). By March 1930 letters show the financial obligation of his little parish was $66,500, almost a million dollars by today’s value. This debt was not paid off until 1942 under Michael Finnerty while our parish tried to survive the Great Depression.
08. The Mess Hall Church
The original St. Martin’s chapel (as Fr. Cuddy called it), where the first mass was held in December 1920,
was actually an army mess hall from Camp Meigs that was relocated to our property in late 1920.
Camp Meigs was located in northeast Washington, DC, east of Florida Ave and just below New York
Avenue (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. Named after Major
General Montgomery C. Meigs, the Quartermaster General of the Army from 1861-1882, the camp was
used as a training camp for the Quartermaster Corps. Over 25,000 personnel passed through Camp
Meigs during the Great War. After the war ended, the Camp was ordered abandoned in May 1920.
Fr. Cuddy had served as an Army Chaplain during the war, stationed at the Edgewood Arsenal, now part
of Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County, MD. He clearly used his army contacts to have the
now-surplus mess hall buildings from Camp Meigs transferred to Gaithersburg to become our first
The chapel was dedicated by the Rt. Rev. Msg. Markin of St. Paul’s Church in Washington on December
12, 1920 – the date we celebrate as the beginning of our parish.
09. Celebrating the 25 Years
On Friday, February 22, 1946, our parish celebrated its Silver Jubilee. Our pastor Father Meyer
presided over the 25th Anniversary Mass of St. Martin’s founding, along with Auxiliary Bishop John M.
McNamara of Baltimore (the Archbishop being too ill to attend). According to a Catholic Review article,
the homily was given by Msgr. John Russell of St. Patrick’s church in Washington. He emphasized the
central place that a parish church holds in the lives of Catholic people – it is where they come to visit
with God, worship Him in the Mass, and receive the sacraments. Fr. Finnerty, pastor at St. Martin’s from
1935-1942, attended the Silver Jubilee celebration, as did many former teaching Sisters and superiors
from St. Martin’s school and convent.
The Mass was held in the school auditorium – which is where Masses had been celebrated since
1942, when the parish had outgrown the mess-hall chapel. Those original buildings had been torn down
and sold for scrap in 1945.
At the conclusion of the Mass, the school children presented Bishop McNamara with a bouquet
of red carnations. They gave Fr. Meyer a silver bell with $25 attached. The newspaper reports that Fr.
Meyer accepted the children’s contribution to pay for a new crucifix over the altar, although oral
histories say that the children’s $25 plus the collection from the anniversary mass ($208) was the
beginning of the building fund for a new church. But that new church was still eleven years away – it
would be dedicated in November 1957.
10. Building Our Church
Although our parish is 100 years old, the church building is only 63 years old! Beginning in 1920,
masses were held in repurposed Army mess halls left over from World War I. When the congregation
outgrew those buildings, the auditorium of the original school building was converted for worship in
1942. Finally, following the parish’s 25th anniversary, the community began to plan for a real church
In the early 1950s, the pastor, Fr. Paul Meyer, began a fundraising campaign for 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 a part of the
group of church ladies who helped to buy this property.
The church was built by a Bethesda construction company for a total cost of $257,000. Built of
brick, with limestone trim and seating for 500 people, the church was completed in less than one year.
The altar and its relics were dedicated on Nov 11, 1957 by Auxiliary Bishop Philip Hannan. 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. In the mid-1990s, the altar was moved back up into the sanctuary
and there 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.
11. Early Pastors of St. Martin's
St. Martin’s has had only eleven pastors in our 100-year history. Fr. Cuddy, our founding pastor,
was tragically killed in December 1928. The three men who followed him at St. Martin’s were also
instrumental in developing the church and community as they are today.
Fr. John J. Callaghan, St. Martin’s second pastor (1928-1935), is best remembered for building the original rectory. The
building is now used as the parish office. He was appointed to St. Martin’s just a few days after Fr. Cuddy’s death. A native of
Washington, he was ordained in 1918. Fr. Callaghan died April 9, 1957, aged 66, and is buried in Mt.
Olivet Cemetery in Washington, D.C.
Fr. Michael Joseph Finnerty was St. Martin’s third pastor, from
1935-1942. As the parish continued to grow, he opened up the partition
in the mess hall church that had divided the auditorium from the church,
so that the entire space could be used for worship. He was a native of
Baltimore, who was ordained in 1922 and served in a number of parishes throughout the Baltimore
Archdiocese. He died on May 26, 1953, the 31st anniversary of his ordination. At the time of his death he
was pastor of another St. Martin’s – a now-defunct parish in Baltimore. He is buried at the New
Cathedral Cemetery in Baltimore.
Fr. John H. Twamley, S. S. was the fourth pastor of St. Martin’s
(1942-1945). He greatly reduced the parish debt and moved all
Masses from the cramped, old mess hall chapel to the school
auditorium. A native of Baltimore, he was ordained in 1921 and
became a Sulpician (a member of the Society of the Priests of Saint Sulpice) in 1924. He served as a
pastor only briefly, spending much of his career teaching Greek and Latin to seminarians in Baltimore
and on the West Coast. He died in Baltimore on December 11, 1971, aged 77.
Fr. Twamley’s successor would become St. Martin’s longest-serving pastor. He will be the subject
of the next Centennial Sketch.
12. Fr. Meyer Bio
Our Longest-Serving Pastor Fr. Paul E. Meyer was pastor at St. Martin’s for thirty
years (1945-1975). He built a 2-room annex for the original school to ease overcrowding in 1949. That
building now houses the pantry and Adoration Chapel. He also built our church, dedicated in 1957. He
guided the parish through a period of great growth and transition, from a 1940s rural parish with a few
hundred parishioners to an urban parish with over 3500 parishioners in the 1970s. At one time he was
pastor of both St. Martin’s and the mission church St. Rose of Lima.
Fr. Meyer was born in 1902 in Baltimore and ordained in 1928 after studying in Baltimore and
Rome. He was named a Prelate of Honor by Pope Paul VI in 1970 and held several offices within the
Archdiocese of Washington.
In retirement he continued to live at St. Martin’s as pastor emeritus
and contribute to the parish and community. He enjoyed sitting on the back
porch of the rectory office building when it was a residence; from there he
would greet the people coming for Mass. He lived in the convent building,
vacant since the teaching sisters departed the school in 1973. Fr. Meyer died
February 22, 1993. His funeral mass was held at St. Martin’s. A Gazette
newspaper article commented how the lavish and well-attended ceremony
celebrated by Cardinal James Hickey contrasted with Fr. Meyer’s simple style.
Mourners at the funeral told of Fr. Meyer’s fondness for fishing and apple pie,
and how he often told parables to the school children.
He is buried at New Cathedral Cemetery in Baltimore. Yet his memory lives on at St. Martin’s in
the church he built and the field and house where he lived in for so long, and which still bear his name
13. The sisters of Notre Dame de Namur
This order of teaching nuns is closely tied to the early history of St. Martin’s parish. The order was
founded in 1804 by St. Julie Billiart (canonized in 1969), and Françoise Blin de Bourdon, a noblewoman
who provided early financial support. Their mission was to educate – they promised God “to form school
teachers for the country areas,” according to the order’s website. Originally founded in France, the
motherhouse was moved to Namur, Belgium in 1809, after which the order became the Sisters of Notre
Dame de Namur.
The Sisters came to the United States in 1840, where they established their first school in Cincinnati,
Ohio. From there they founded schools and convents across the entire East Coast. The Sisters are still
present throughout the United States; they are teaching in Baltimore, DC, and beyond.
Given their mandate to teach in rural areas, it is not surprising that the Sisters located on K Street in
Washington, DC, eagerly accepted Fr. Cuddy’s invitation to teach Sunday school out in the hamlet of
Gaithersburg, 15 miles from the city. The first Sunday school class was held in October 1923, with 35
Determined to have the Sisters teach more than Sunday school, Fr. Cuddy began building the original
school building during the summer of 1924 and in September 1925 the first Catholic school in
Montgomery County opened its doors. For the first few months, the Sisters commuted from downtown
DC to Gaithersburg each day by train or car. By February 1926, the Ardmore House on the Lodge
property had been purchased, renovated and renamed as “Notre Dame Convent” for the teaching
sisters. That 4-acre property today includes the original house (now known as Fr. Meyer’s house), Fr.
Meyer’s field, the rectory, and the new convent.
The Sisters would live at our parish until June 1973, when they left the school, which transitioned to a lay
teaching staff. Eighty-seven Sisters served at our school from 1925-1973, and their impact on the life of
the parish and community cannot be underestimated.
14. The Gloyd Family
The Gloyd family, Samuel and Rebecca and their 12 children, was well known in Gaithersburg in
the 1800s. They owned 54 acres of land, acquired from the Gaither family, for whom the city is named.
That land included a house and the famous Forest Oak, an enormous oak tree along Frederick Avenue
that was about 300 years old when it came down in a storm in 1997. Samuel Gloyd operated a tavern for
some years; his widow Rebecca then ran a lumber hauling business and was often hired by the town.
The Gloyds were described in a history of Gaithersburg as a family who “dedicated their lives to the
According to this local history, the Gloyd house was a large Victorian home, but the rear section
was of logs, and built around a fieldstone fireplace – possibly an original remnant of the Gaither home.
By the late 1880s, Samuel and Rebecca were deceased. Two of their children, Thomas and Adeline
Gloyd, now lived in the family home at 5 N. Frederick Avenue. They set aside a room in the house as a
chapel where Gaithersburg families frequently gathered for Mass, rather than traveling to Clopper (St.
Rose) or down to Rockville. Mass was said by Fr. John Gloyd (their brother, living at St. Patrick’s in
Washington), Fr. William Clements (a nephew, living in Derwood) and by the pastors of St. Mary’s Church
The Gaithersburg history notes the use of the Gloyd house by Catholics, saying “older residents
of the town can remember how the front parlor was converted into a chapel complete with altar and
kneelers.” The Gloyd home remained in the family until 1957, when the property was sold to the
telephone company. The home was demolished in favor of a two-story brick building which still stands
today at the northern end of the Fr. Cuddy bridge.
In the early 1900s, the number of worshippers at the Gloyd house often exceeded the space
available for the celebration of Mass and spilled out onto the porch and lawn. Fr. George B. Harrington,
the pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in Barnesville, saw a need for a new parish in Gaithersburg, and approved
the efforts of a few parishioners to organize and work for a church of their own. As the town history
notes, the use of the Gloyd home for worship ended completely with the establishment of the mess hall
chapel at St. Martin’s in 1920.
Gloyd House, courtesy of. E. Russell Gloyd, from the parish archives
15. The Dominican Sisters of Our lady of the Rosary of Fátima
This order of nuns is a Puerto Rican religious congregation, founded in 1949 in Yauco, Puerto
Rico, by the Servant of God Mother M. Dominga Guzmán Florit, OP. They are affiliated with the Order of
Preachers. Their Charism is the evangelization of families, as shown in their motto, “Bringing Christ to
the Family and the Family to Christ.”
As Dominicans, the Sisters try to balance between contemplation and the action of giving to
others the fruits of their contemplation. They serve the church, particularly the needy, sick, and poor,
and work to evangelize children, youth and adults.
Sr. Mariana, one of our current Sisters, says, “Like our mother foundress would say: ‘We need to
go to the family; listen to them and help them with their needs (spiritually, and materially).’” Because of
this emphasis on family ministry, the order was invited to come to St. Martin’s.
The first sisters arrived to serve in 2008. Originally the 2-3 Sisters lived in an apartment complex
on Cedar Avenue. They also served at nearby St. Rose of Lima, helping with family ministry and
catechesis. In 2010 the parish broke ground for a convent house in the back corner of the 4-acre lot in
Observatory Heights. The new convent, located behind the rectory and Fr. Meyer’s house, was
completed in 2011. By that time, the sisters were ministering exclusively to St. Martin’s ever-growing
Here at St. Martin’s, the Sisters have served in family ministry, religious education, and social
work. They also, due to their affiliation with the Order of Preachers, give talks, reflections, and retreats
for different pastoral groups and the parish as a whole, in both English and Spanish. Their ever-present
joy and enthusiasm help to make our parish a warm, welcoming family.
16. Catholics in Early Montgomery County
Long before St. Martin’s existed, Catholics were living and worshipping in Montgomery County. The first
Catholic settlers in the area were served by missionary Jesuit Priests who came first from southern
Maryland, and later from Frederick or from Georgetown. Mass was originally said in private homes. The
first three churches in this county were St. John’s in Forest Glen, established in 1774; St. Mary’s in
Rockville in 1813; and St. Mary’s in Barnesville in 1820.
In this part of the county, Catholics first gathered at the Woodlands, a 24-room mansion built by a
Protestant named Francis Cassatt Clopper and his Catholic wife, Ann Jane Byrne of Philadelphia, on their
plantation overlooking the Seneca River in what is now Seneca Creek State Park.
St. Rose’s first church was built on the Clopper plantation in 1836. It existed as a mission, staffed by
priests from St. Mary’s, Rockville and later St. Mary’s, Barnesville. The little white church still at St. Rose
was built in 1883, after the original building was destroyed by fire. According to St. Rose’s website, each
month a priest traveled from Rockville by foot or by horseback to say the Sunday Mass, first in the
mansion house, then in the church.
These traveling priests would bring the needed items with them. The Archivist of the Archdiocese has
several “altar stones” used by these priests. They are heavy, flat stones about 7” square – sized to fit in a
saddlebag. They often contained relics. A traveling chalice would unscrew into two pieces – cup from
base – so it would also fit more easily into the saddlebag.
In the 1800s, residents in the growing town of Gaithersburg attended Mass at St. Rose, which is three
miles away over hilly terrain. The railroad was built through town in 1873, and parishioners took the
train one way to the town of Cloppers (now part of Gaithersburg) and walked the return trip (probably
because of the train schedule). Gaithersburg families worshipped in the Gloyd home whenever they
could attract a visiting priest. As the population increased around the railroad depot in Gaithersburg,
residents began thinking of a church of their own.
17. St. Martin and St. Rose
While today St. Rose of Lima is just one of several Catholic parishes near to St. Martin’s, for many years it was an integral part of our history. As described earlier, Catholic worship in Gaithersburg was first centered at St. Rose on the Clopper estate. Their “new” chapel was built in 1883 and is still standing. Before December 1920, St. Martin’s was a mission church, along with the mission at St. Rose, and Fr. Cuddy was pastor at St. Mary’s in Barnesville.
In 1921, the St. Martin’s community had become so well-established that a new priest was assigned up at St. Mary’s, Barnesville. Fr. Cuddy was pastor for St. Martin’s and St. Rose, as the mission chapel was transferred from St. Mary’s to our much-closer parish. Fr. Cuddy established permanent residence in Gaithersburg. He boarded in the Schwartz home, across Summit Avenue from the church. That large, white house is now part of the present-day Gaithersburg City Hall.
Masses would be held each Sunday at both St. Martin’s and St. Rose, and parishioners attended when and where they could. A 1925 Easter pamphlet notes that the Good Friday mass and sermon would be at 8 p.m., while Stations and Veneration of the Cross would be at St. Rose’s at 3 p.m.
Two decades later, our pastor Fr. Meyer wrote twice to the Archbishop, describing the relationship between St. Martin’s and St. Rose not as a home church and mission church but as one church community with two separate church buildings. He spoke of how “Most of the people are buried from St. Rose, because the cemetery is contiguous. Most are married at St. Martin’s because it is more convenient for their friends to get to.” He concludes that “[i]n practice, in the minds of the people, in custom, in convenience, this is one parish.”
Gaithersburg continued to develop from a rural village into a semi-urban large town, and by the late 1960s, St. Martin’s (which still included St. Rose) had a parish census of over 3500 people. On June 1, 1972, St. Rose became a separate parish with Fr. Joseph Bryon as pastor. When you next drive up Clopper Road past St. Rose of Lima, say a quick prayer for this parish that was so connected to St. Martin’s history for over 50 years.
Photo showing Fr. Cuddy on the steps of the Chapel
at St. Rose, July 1922, courtesy of Montgomery History.
18. Boundaries and New Parishes
When St. Martin’s was canonically established in 1920,
we became the fourth parish in Montgomery County. St. John’s
in Forest Glen (established in 1774), St. Mary’s in Rockville
(1813), and St. Mary’s in Barnesville (1820) preceded us. The
earliest record of the official boundaries of the parish dates
since 1949, shortly after Montgomery County became part of
the Archdiocese of Washington.
At that time, the parish boundary began at the county
line north of Damascus, ran essentially south along Rt. 108
to Laytonsville, then continued southwest through Redland and
along Shady Grove Road to Rt. 28. The boundary then went
south along the Sandy Branch to the Potomac River, followed
the river northwest to Seneca Creek, and then north along
Seneca Creek to where it intersects near today’s I-270 (which
didn’t exist back then). The boundary next turned north until it
again intersected the County Line to the west of Damascus. So
at its beginning, the parish stretched from the northern tip of
Montgomery County down to the Potomac River.
The first parish formed within this territory was St. Paul’s
in Damascus. As early as 1954, Catholics in Damascus were
writing to the Archbishop asking for at least a mission church
in their area, since it was 12 miles one-way to St. Martin’s and
the roads so far to the north were often treacherous in winter.
Our pastor Fr. Meyer was actively involved in helping begin a
parish there, including examining potential lands to purchase.
In 1957, St. Paul’s was established, and the northern boundary
of St. Martin’s was changed to run just north of Laytonsville and
Brink Road into Germantown.
St. Martin’s to its own parish, and St. Francis of Assisi in Derwood was established. Mother Seton parish in Germantown was established in 1974, and in 1978 St. John Neumann was founded in the Montgomery Village area. The final changes to our boundary came in 1992. Our Lady of the Visitation had been established in Darnestown in 1991, and so St. Martin’s no longer reaches to the Potomac River.
On those days when you drive by or stop in to one of these other parishes, remember that from Travilah to Damascus was and is always a part of St. Martin’s legacy
19. A New School
In 1981, the pastor, Fr. DiNorcia, and the parish leadership recognized that the parish’s physical plant, notably the 1925 school building, was insufficient for the parish needs. In a lengthy letter requesting permission to begin fund-raising, Fr. Dino noted how the parish had 1400 registered families, 592 children in CCD programs, and 243 students in the school with a waiting list over 100. In addition to the original school building and the annex, the school used the parish hall every day for lunch, music classes, and indoor gym classes during inclement weather. Initially the parish considered building an addition to the school and renovating the existing 1925 building, including extensive upgrades required since Rt. 355 would soon be upgraded to a seven-lane, divided roadway.
The parish instead decided to build an entirely new school building along the back of the property. Calling it a Parish Center and School, the space would also be used by a wide variety of parish groups, including youth ministry and religious education. Fundraising for the new building began in 1981. The efforts suffered a major setback when in 1985 it was discovered that the building fund had been used for money laundering by the financial institutions supposedly managing the money. With assistance from archdiocesan lawyers, all the money was eventually recovered.
n 1987, Cardinal Hickey approved the new facility, at a cost of $2.3 million dollars. The ground-breaking was held on a muggy day in June, 1987 with Bishop Alvari Corrada del Rio leading a group of dignitaries including Fr. DiNorcia, retired pastor Fr. Meyer, government officials, and school children in all digging up a shovelful of earth. The ceremony, noted the Gaithersburg Gazette, was held at the same spot where the first St. Martin’s church stood.
The completed building was dedicated by Cardinal Hickey on September 17, 1988. School staff and students welcomed the new building and all its space. “Our old school would have fit in the [new school’s] gym,” according to Principal Mary Alyce Sullivan. The old school building was razed during construction and the area it once occupied is now used for parking.
The building of the new school was the last major change to the physical structures of the parish on the original property.
20. SOME CENTENNIAL MEMORIES
FROM OUR PRIESTS
This has been a special year for St. Martin’s parish while we celebrate 100 years. Over the years our parish has been served by many wonderful priests and deacons who had our best interests (and those of our community) at heart.
Early last fall we reached out to many of our former pastors and associate pastors and asked them to share some of their memories of their time with us. Here are a few of their wonderful responses:
Fr. McKay served as associate pastor from June 1975 to June 1980 with Fr. DiNorcia (who served from 1975 to 1991) when the priests still lived in the Rectory (now the Parish Office building) in small bedrooms. He wrote that he had many an interrupted night of sleep from Fr. Dino’s snoring that could be heard in the residence! As our most senior living former associate pastor, Fr. McKay remembers as his favorite liturgical season the Triduum and “especially those years when we began across the street [on Fr. Meyer’s Field] and then processed behind the Easter candle across 355 into the church (thanks to the help of the Gaithersburg police.)”
Fr. Murray served our parish from June 1989 to June 1993 with both Fr. DiNorcia and then Fr. Michael Mellone (now Msgr. Mellone) who served at St. Martin’s from 1991 to 2003. Fr. Murray’s strongest memories are when our parish was the largest in the county. He recalls the crowds at the masses, the lack of space for many activities, the wonderful outreach programs and in his words, “lots of Sacraments.” Fr. Murray also enjoys sharing the memory of Msgr. Paul Meyer, Pastor Emeritus, riding his tractor lawn mower, cutting the property grass, until well into his 90s. He also remembers a “shag rug sanctuary” (use your imagination) with Fr. DiNorcia’s observation that, after all, “it’s God’s Living Room!”
Msgr. Mellone replied to our request with sincere appreciation for the ministry to a diverse community in service to the poor. He wrote, “How the name of the parish, its patron Saint, coincided with the charism of service. [Our] ministry to meet the needs of so many different people: spiritual, educational, physical and emotional.” He, too, remembers the number of Masses and Sacraments offered, the Pantry, the Lord’s Table, counseling service, school and religious education, to name a few.
In his remarks, he added a wonderful story of “Lenten Sacrifice” from one year: “Fr. Dan Leary, Fr. Javier Santaballa, and I chose to give up meat as a Lenten sacrifice. If memory serves me correct in the first week Fr. Javier ate meat at a parishioner’s house, a couple of weeks later Fr. Dan caved. I held out to the end and at the end of Holy Saturday Easter Vigil, Fr. Dan presented me with a frozen steak in front of everyone. Fr. Dan described Fr. Javier and himself as two puppies running around with me as a large St. Bernard trying to hold the parish together. “It was such a joy to be able to serve such a great parish.”
Our parish history is built on the dedication of these priests. We hope to publish some more memories later in the year.
21. A New Rectory
The original rectory for our parish was built by Fr. Callaghan, who came to St. Martin’s after Fr. Cuddy’s untimely death. Fr. Callaghan was encouraged by Archbishop Curley of Baltimore to construct a rectory quickly rather than continue to board with a parish family: “I would much prefer to see the priest in his own little home however humble it may be.” Six months later, Fr. Callaghan asked for written permission to borrow the money necessary to build a rectory. The rectory was completed by March 1930, and cost between $10,000-12,000.
This little brick building housed priests of St. Martin’s until the early 1990s. The garage was added circa 1960. When Fr. Meyer retired, he moved from the rectory to the vacant convent house across Rt. 355, to make space for the pastor and associate. After Fr. Meyer’s death, various associate priests including Fr. Ryan also lived in the house, now known as “Father Meyer’s house.” By this time, the first floor of the rectory was being used as the parish office. Fr. McGready, pastor here for a few months in 1991, described living in the rectory as like living in a hospital’s emergency room.
Shortly after Fr. Mellone became pastor in late 1991, he began exploring options for improving the priests’ living space. The 1930 rectory is considered architecturally and historically significant such that major renovations would be challenging. By 1995 an architect had been hired and fundraising begun for an entirely new rectory.
The new rectory would be built across the street from the parish, behind Fr. Meyer’s house. Construction began in July 1997 on a two-story building that has rooms for three priests and 2 visitors, a chapel, kitchen, and large dining room. A detached 3-car garage was also built. There was a brief ground-breaking ceremony, held on a Sunday afternoon, with Fr. Mellone and associates Fr. Filardi and Fr. Ryan present. There was an Open House in January 1998, for parishioners to tour the building. The priests moved in on February 14, 1998.
The original rectory building has since been renovated so that the basement, first floor, and second floor can all now serve as parish offices and workspaces.