St. Joseph’s Monastery History: Parish Life

“Fr. Celestine’s [Roddan, C.P.] Group, about 1931” The Monastery Ephebian Club was formally established November 23rd. Fr. William Harding, C.P. founded the club “to promote sociability and dramatics among young Catholic men and women.” Many parts in “Veronica’s Veil” were played by Ephebeans. The club disbanded in 1935.

Through the years, the monastery parish has steadily grown and has been outstanding for its vitality. Its peak years, in terms of numbers and activities, were the late fifties. Today, it is still thriving, with nearly 5,000 parishioners. It has always been noted for the number of societies and organizations, both spiritual and social, which have flourished in it, and are still flourishing. In keeping with modern updating of parish organizations. St. Joseph’s was one of the first to start a Parish Council, a body of laymen who would assist in a very real way in running the parish. Mr. John Evelius, who worked so diligently with Father Hubert Arliss, C.P., Pastor from 1961-66, to set up this Parish Council, is the principal architect of the whole system of parish councils now being set up throughout the Archdiocese.

Another very important current enterprise is the involvement of the parish in the West Baltimore Inter-Faith Inter-Racial Council. Facilities for this organization, as well as other important aides, have been supplied by St. Joseph’s.

The parish history shows certain features of the Monastery parish which have been unique. Foremost among these is the very special solemnity with which the major feasts of the Church have always been celebrated. Parishioners speak with pride of the Solemn Masses, Vespers, and other liturgical functions carried out by the monastic community and the attending parishioners on all the special feasts throughout the year.

Another feature which figured so prominently in the devotional life of the entire Catholic population of the Archdiocese was the Monday novena devotions to the saints of the Passion; Paul of the Cross, Gabriel of the Sorrowful Mother and Gemma Galgani. These services were begun in 1925 by Father Julian Endler and grew to the point where thousands attended each Monday. These novena services are still held, but are not nearly as popular as in the past. Another feature of a Passionist Parish is its production of “Passion Plays.” One of these, “Veronica’s Veil” was staged annually at St. Joseph’s from 1914 until the early thirties. “The Upper Room” was begun in 1954, later to be replaced with a revival of “Veronicas Veil.” This fine production is still performed during the Lenten season, and some of the players are second and third generations of many families who have been participants in the original play.

It is worth mentioning that St. Joseph’s Monastery Parish retreat group at Manresa has always been one of the largest and most enthusiastic of the entire Archdiocese. Typical of the spirit and devotion of the people in the parish is the practice of the family rosary for peace crusade which originated in the early 195’s. A miniature statue of Our Lady of Fatima goes from home to home throughout the parish, and in each home a group gathers to recite the rosary for peace.

Organizations and groups, known better for activities not strictly religious, have played a great part in the life of the parish. Possibly, they all take their origin from Father Victor Koch’s “St. Joseph’s Institute,” established in 1914, which stated its purpose in its constitutions: “for the improvement of the spiritual, physical and mental, moral and social condition of men and women… by the support of lectures, educational classes, dramatic entertainments, gymnasia, bowling alleys and other means tending to create such improvement.” To mention a few: the Drum and Bugle Corps, Camp Gabrielle, The Dramatic Club, The Mothers’ Club, The Girls’ Basketball Teams, and many, many others.

It is impossible to cover adequately the organizations of the past or the activities of the present. Suffice it to say that St. Joseph’s Monastery Parish has been, and is, ALIVE!