By Elizabeth Lowe
St. Peter Claver is celebrating its 125th anniversary today (Sept. 8) with a 10:45 a.m. Mass and a reception to follow. A parish history researched by Deborah Holly and the files of the Catholic Review document a distinctive worship community known as the “Mother Church” of black Catholics in West Baltimore.
Here are some historical highlights of the Baltimore City parish, which is staffed by the Josephites.
· The basement of St. Ignatius Church was named “The Chapel of Blessed Peter Claver” in 1857. St. Peter Claver Church on North Fremont Avenue was dedicated Sept. 9, 1888, the first parish in the world dedicated to the patron saint of slaves.”
· Josephite Father Charles Randolph Uncles, the first African-American priest prepared and ordained in the United States, was an assistant pastor during the summers of 1893, 1894 and 1896.
· St. Peter Claver School opened in 1890. It became Father Charles A. Hall School, which closed in 2010.
· The parish had Maryland’s first black chapter of the St. Vincent de Paul Society and was the first parish to win the archdiocese’s Catholic Charity award for service to the needy. Harper’s Helpers, named for a longtime associate pastor who died in 2011, continues to clothe and feed the homeless.
· While St. Peter Claver and St. Pius V, which was established in 1878, preserve their own names and identities, the two have operated under the St. Peter Claver roof since St. Pius V’s church in Harlem Park closed in 2005.
To learn more about the parish, visit the parish website.