Saint Mary (German), Sharpsburg

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Parish History

St. Mary was established as a German parish in 1852.  The origin of the parish can be traced to the arrival of settlers in the 1830's.  Among them were a group of German settlers.  At first these German Catholics traveled to St. Patrick in Pittsburgh, and then St. Mary in Pine Creek after that parish was founded.  When St. Joseph, Sharpsburg, was established in 1845 both German and Irish residents of Sharpsburg attended that parish.

However, differences between the Germans and Irish soon appeared.  The Germans were more interested in founding a school than the Irish.  Worse yet, the pastor did not speak German.  In 1852, with the permission of the bishop, the Germans of St. Joseph split off to form their own congregation.  Work on a new church began that year.  The basement was completed in the fall and a temporary roof placed over it.  The first Mass at St. Mary was held in the basement church on December 8, 1852. 

When the spring came, work to complete the church began.  The cornerstone was laid on July 10, 1853, and the completed church was dedicated on June 18, 1854.  The building included a church on the first floor, living quarters for the priest in rooms behind the main altar and a school in the basement.  For the first two years of the parish, it was served by priests from St. Philomena.  In the late summer a resident priest was assigned to the parish.  In 1856, the pastor of St. Mary retired and no replacement was available.  The priests of St. Philomena again took responsibility for St. Mary until 1865.

On January 4, 1866, fire destroyed the church.  The congregation built a temporary church on the grounds of the original church while simultaneously planning work on a permanent church on nearby land.  The temporary church was opened in May.  On July 22, 1866, the cornerstone of the permanent church was laid.  Less than a year later, on June 16, 1867, the new church was dedicated.  The temporary church was then converted to a school.  This building was eventually torn down around 1890 to make room for a larger school.

The second church served the community until after the turn of the century.  In the spring of 1916, the church was destroyed to make room for new, larger church.  This church was dedicated on October 14, 1917.  This church survived the flood of 1936, when the flood waters reached the tops of the pews.  For the parish's 1952 centennial, the church was extensively renovated and redecorated.  The church was again renovated in the 1970's.

In 1994, St. Mary parish was officially suppressed as a German parish.  However, it was reborn as a territorial parish.  St. Mary Church and parish continue to serve the Catholic community of Sharpsburg today.

Photos From the Diocesan Archive:

Interior of the second church, undated
St. Mary Church, 2002
Main altar, 1938
Side altar, 1938
Altar, 2002

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