Beginnings - 1812
The beginning of St. Rose of Lima Parish goes back over 150 years, when a Protestant named Francis Cassatt Clopper and his Catholic wife, Ann Jane Byrne of Philadelphia, bought a plantation overlooking the Seneca River in what is now Seneca Creek State Park. There, in 1812, they built the Woodlands, a 24-room mansion which soon became the center of Catholic life for the families in the area. Masses were often celebrated in the large ballroom. The Archbishop of Baltimore and visiting priests made it their headquarters while in the area.
First Building - 1836
In order to please his wife and her sister, Mrs. Ellen Maher, Francis Clopper donated a portion of the far corner of The Woodlands estate for the building of a church in l834. Mrs. Maher became the major benefactor for the construction of the church, but others also contributed to the project.
Planned to be the most beautiful church in Western Maryland, it was built of brick manufactured on the Clopper estate. A brick porch led into a foyer which opened on the main body of the church. A balcony in the rear overlooked 13 rows of pews on each side. (The first two rows on the right side were reserved for the Clopper family.) There were five windows on each side and two windows in front above the porch. Mr. Clopper was given the honor of choosing a name for the new church. He chose St. Rose in honor of Rose Landry White, who was then Mother Rose. As superior of the Sisters of Charity of Emmitsburg, Maryland, Mother Rose had succeeded Mother Saint Elizabeth Seton after having served as her assistant.
The new church became a center for the faithful in the area. Once a month a priest traveled from Rockville to say the Sunday Mass, which was followed by Benediction in the afternoon. The priest stayed the night and celebrated Mass again the next day, after which he would visit the families in the area. In summer, the priests moved to The Woodlands and made their rounds from there. An important summer event was St. Rose's feast day. Not only the resident faithful, but also former pastors and parishioners who had moved away, would return to celebrate. Many of the families who were in that community are still remembered: in history, Scott and Taney; in places, Diamond, Clopper and Waring; and in families who still live among us, Gloyd, Stang, Stewart and Caulfield.
During the Civil War, while Maryland remained in the Union, many of her citizens were sympathetic to the South. Travel was restricted in the southern parts of the state, south of Baltimore. Though there were no battles around St. Rose, many soldiers from both sides passed through the area. One, a seriously wounded member of Company D, 14th Virginia Cavalry, found refuge at The Woodlands, where he was baptized and died. William D. Scott was buried after dark in front of St. Rose Church by the Cloppers. His tombstone remains under the large oak in front of the church.
Destroyed by Fire - 1883
The original church building, made of brick, stood for 47 years until destroyed by fire on April 2, l883. Since there was no water to quell the flames, the building was soon in ruins; only the vestments and the communion vessels were saved. Some of the bricks from this original building are preserved in the cross in the brick walk leading to the church entrance.
The exact cause of the fire will never be known. Among the stories told is one suggesting that a mouse upset a box of matches, igniting a quantity of linseed oil. Another story is that an altar boy did not totally extinguish the incense when putting away the censer. The most likely cause was that a lit oil sconce fell from the wall, breaking and spreading the oil on the wooden floor.
Historic Chapel - 1883
The white wooden church which now stands on the site of the brick church contains the original cornerstone in its northern foundation wall. While the cornerstone gives 1838 as the date of the original church, it is believed that the stone mason misread 1836 on a piece of paper and carved the wrong date. In 1987-88 a major renovation of the church was undertaken. Structural damage required the complete replacement of the roof as well as straightening of the walls. The building was completely gutted to install new electrical, heating and cooling systems. Nearly all of the furnishings were also replaced at the same time. The pride we feel in the beauty of the renovated church is an expression of reverence for our predecessors in the faith whose efforts made St. Rose Parish possible. In addition, it is an expression of hope in the future generations to follow us, who will continue to find there a place of prayer and refreshment. It is our hope that this will enable them to carry on the spirit of St. Rose.
From Mission Church to Parish
From its inception, St. Rose had been a mission church. It first was part of the parish of St. Mary's in Rockville. Later, it became a mission of St. Mary's of Barnesville. In 1921, the parish of St. Martin was founded in Gaithersburg, with St. Rose as a mission church.
St. Rose of Lima became a parish on June 1, 1972, approximately 160 years after Francis Clopper and his wife, Ann, came to the area. In 1976, The Parish Centre (PC) was built, and in 1991 and 1995, additions were made to it to provide more meeting and office space. In 2006, our large, main Church (CH) was built. The Historic Chapel is still in use, but most of the weekend Masses are held in the Church.
The following Priests have served as Pastor or Administrator:
Rev. Joseph Byron, Pastor - June 1972 to June 1983
Msgr. Robert Lewis, Pastor - June 1983 to Nov. 1983
Rev. Raymond Fecteau, Administrator - Nov. 1983 to Jan. 1984
Rev. Francis Murphy, Pastor - Jan. 1984 to June 1985
Rev. John Vail, Administrator - July 1985 to March 1986
Rev. Robert Duggan, Pastor - March 1986 to July 2005
Msgr. Paul Dudziak, Pastor - July 2005 to October 2012
Msgr. Paul Langsfeld, Pastor - October 2012 to March 2014
Rev. Agustín Mateo Ayala, Pastor - March 2014 to present