Say it ain’t so: church where Babe Ruth was baptized being sold

An era is ending:

A renowned city architect designed St. Peter the Apostle Church 170 years ago. Irish laborers dug the foundation by hand, donating their labor to build it. And its early parishioners spared no expense in adorning their house of worship. They installed an elaborate white marble altar, with a life-size statue of the church’s patron saint towering over it, and placed intricately carved angels at the sides of the tabernacle.

Now those angels are gone, donated to All Saints parish in Liberty Heights.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore is preparing to sell the church and its adjacent buildings to a nearby non-Catholic congregation. St. Peter’s, whose congregation was consolidated with two other parishes amid declining attendance, will soon be home to Carter Memorial Church of God in Christ, said Sean Caine, spokesman for the archdiocese.

Though the exterior of the building is protected by local and national historic preservation laws, some worry that the changes inside will destroy the character of St. Peter, the second-oldest Catholic church in Baltimore and the place where Babe Ruth was baptized.

“They are stripping the inside of the church,” said Thomas Ward, a retired judge and former city councilman who led efforts to place the church on the city’s list of historic places. “I can’t believe this is happening to one of the city’s oldest and most historic churches.”

Pedestals are already devoid of sculptures. The marble baptismal font and even the pews are for sale. Over the decades, many parishioners memorialized family members with donations of statuary and stained-glass windows. The windows will stay, but those other items must go.

A statue of the Virgin Mary has been removed from its traditional place on the side altar. It stands in the foyer, ready for removal. Its fingers have broken off and lie at its feet.

“Something should be done to stop this wholesale scavenging,” said Mary Ellen Hayward, an architectural historian who has published several books on Baltimore. “This is a true city landmark. It is equally important to preserve its interior.”

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  • kevin

    The springtime of Vatican II continues.

  • Melody

    At least it will still be used as a church; not a bar or a nightclub like some I have seen. I’m sure it is sad, though, for those parishioners who still remain in the neighborhood. A few weeks ago Dcn. Greg featured a diocese which had a warehouse used to store statues, etc. from discontinued parishes so that they could be re-used. Would be nice if there was something like that in every diocese.

  • Fiergenholt

    Melody:

    “for those parishioners who still remain in the neighborhood”

    How much you want to bet there are NO parishioners who remain in that neighborhood?

  • Melody

    Fiergenholt, you are probably right. People have to go where they can find jobs, if there is no way to make a living near their old neighborhoods, they will be gone.

  • sjay

    This has nothing to do with the “Spirit of Vatican II.” The neighborhood long ago became less Catholic and attendance probably began dropping in the time of Pius XII as the Irish American population in Baltimore suburbanized. As the article indicates, St. Peter and two other Catholic churches in West Baltimore were merged almost a decade ago and chose to worship in one of the other two churches. As a side note, all of the parishes in Baltimore have been instructed to make plans to cluster with other parishes. My parish is partnering with four others.

  • Barbara P

    How do you know what would have happened had Blessed Pope John not listened to the Holy Spirit and convened the Council? If Vatican II had not happened the Church might have been in a more difficult place today. You really have no basis to say that the Church today would have been the same as it was in 1958 had Vatican II never happened. I trust that the Council did God’s Will in opening up the windows of the Church.

  • http://www.gerardnadal.com Gerard Nadal

    Deacon Greg,

    Not so long ago, you posted a story about a place (in Philly??) where sacred objects, statues, windows, etc. from old Churches were stored. If memory serves, it is against Canon Law to sell these objects. So what’s going on here with Saint Peter’s?

  • deacon john m. bresnahan

    Projections into the future are notoriously inaccurate. In my city a few decades ago they closed dozens of public grammar schools as Irish, Italian, etc. parishoners moved out to the suburbs. Then instead of “mothballing” them for future use–they sold all the schools off for condos and offices.
    Time goes by and now my city’s schools are bulging at the seams with new immigrants–Hispanics, Asians, etc. And now the city relies on a lot of ratty trailer portable classrooms as it decides how many new schools they will have to spend a fortune on building.
    Maybe more energy and organizational help and leadership from dioceses could be put into helping individual parish communities grow and thrive in the churches they are now in. I know that in most dioceses that close a lot of churches, the local parishes in trouble may have received some diocesan charitable financial help to stay afloat for awhile. But rare is the diocese that first organized professional help to get in the parish trenches to help individual parishes implement vibrant strategies for survival, growth, and financial stability.
    The claim is made that –Well! no parishoners now live in the neighborhood of the church that needs to be closed. Yeah–they’re all going to the evangelical or fundamentalist churches apparently like the one buying St. Peter’s. Churches whose passion for evangelization is like a fire in the belly –a fire that is usually strongest in its leaders.

  • http://www.gerardnadal.com Gerard Nadal

    Amen, Deacon Bresnahan!!

    We built an empire and got into choosing managers to maintain it. Managers aren’t evangelists. We need evangelists sitting in those cathedras now.

  • daisy

    Having seen this neighborhood of course the church is closing. There are a lot of places in Baltimore that are best seen from the safety of a locked and moving car.

  • deacon john m. bresnahan

    daisy–I don’t know about the Baltimore neighborhood in question. But it seems every one of the toughest neighborhoods I have seen or visited has its share of evangelical Protestant or Protestant fundamentalist churches (many storefront churches). Are we Catholics gutless wonders when it comes to evangelization??? You may ride through St. Peter’s neighborhood cringing in fear, but according to the story it is a Protestant church community which is buying the large church–presumably to expand as we Cowardly Catholics high tail it elsewhere. We take up Sunday Mass collections to support all sorts of social work stuff groups ( too many now found to be in cahoots with anti-Catholic groups or programs)—so why can’t we at least do more collections to maintain Catholic parish presence in neighborhoods like St. Peter’s looking forward to the day “God grants the increase” and a resurrected parish brings back the reason a church like St. Peter’s was built in the first place.

  • Rudy

    Indeed Kevin: It’s emblematic.

  • Paul

    I am a parishioner of St. Peters. St. Peters was a flourishing Parish until they closed the school and did a major renovation to the church. The church was very ornate and very well kept. The Archdiocese of Baltimore gave up on St. Peters after they closed the school and this renovation. When the church needed a new roof. It was the Parishioners and not the Archdiocese that had it replaced. When the pipe organ wanted to be restored in the 1970′s again it was the Parishioners and not the Archdiocese that raised the money. The Parishioners can thank Father Donnellan for the decline of St. Peters. As far as going into the neighborhood. I travel from Southern Pennsylvania to St. Peters and many traveled from the suburbs of Maryland also.

    We had a very active Parish Council, Choir, and CYO. All of that disappeared in the late 1970′s. So I ask you do not criticize the Parishioners look at one priest and the Archdiocese.


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