Redemptorist Father Robert Wojtek likens the impending closure of St. Michael Church in Fells Point and the relocation of its bilingual faith community to Sacred Heart of Jesus in Highlandtown as a kind of “death and resurrection.”
The last Masses at St. Michael will be held July 31, at 9:45 a.m. in English and 12:15 p.m. in Spanish, with receptions to follow. The following weekend, a “celebration of hope” will be held at Sacred Heart – complete with eucharistic adoration, a eucharistic procession from St. Michael to Sacred Heart, a Mass celebrated by Bishop Denis J. Madden and a special dinner with folkloric dancers.
“I think the English-speaking community and the Spanish-speaking community will each have their moment to be together on the 31st (of July) at St. Michael to say their goodbyes and bring their memories together,” said Father Wojtek, pastor of the Catholic Community of St. Michael and St. Patrick and incoming pastor of Sacred Heart of Jesus. “We’ll be able to look back at the past and then come together again the following weekend in a celebration of hope.”
St. Michael is closing because of exorbitant expenses associated with making needed repairs to the campus buildings, according to church leaders. The Spanish-speaking and English-speaking parishioners have been invited to join Sacred Heart along with the Spanish-speaking parishioners of nearby Our Lady of Pompei.
Sacred Heart, currently an English-speaking community, will become a bilingual, bicultural parish. St. Patrick will become a mission of Sacred Heart and Archbishop Borders School in Highlandtown (which offers a dual-language program) will relocate to the Sacred Heart campus for the 2012-13 school year.
In preparation for the transition, Sacred Heart will offer exposition of the Blessed Sacrament from 6-9 p.m. following a 5 p.m. Mass in English Aug. 6.
“We are inviting people to pray for the success of the parish,” Father Wojtek said.
On Aug. 7, a car caravan and walking procession from St. Michael to Sacred Heart will begin at 9:30 a.m. Father Wojtek will carry a monstrance containing the Blessed Sacrament during the procession.
Bishop Madden will receive the Blessed Sacrament at Sacred Heart and lead the congregation into the church for a bilingual 11 a.m. Mass. A celebration will be held after the liturgy.
Some statues from St. Michael will be permanently relocated to Sacred Heart in time for the Aug. 7 celebration. In the future, Father Wojtek also hopes to relocate a much-loved walnut-wood statue of St. Michael to the Sacred Heart campus.
Carved by Joseph Sudsberg, the nearly 12-feet-tall statue portrays the winged St. Michael wielding a sword.
“It needs to be fixed up,” Father Wojtek said, “and we’re hoping that someone will step forward to help us do that. Maybe someone at the Maryland Institute College of Art or someone who works with wood might be able to take it on as a project.”
Other churches and individuals have expressed interest in obtaining some of St. Michael’s other artwork, the pastor said.
“Right now, as people call and express interest, we take their name and phone number,” he said.
Founded in 1857 to minister to German immigrants, St. Michael was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989.