OUR MISSION: Established in 1822, Saint John the Evangelist Congregation is a welcoming, worshiping, Catholic community, rooted in Jesus Christ, ministering to all, bonded by faith, directed by hope, and growing in love. St. John’s is committed to living out by our words and actions the call to spread the Good news of Jesus Christ.
The oldest Catholic parish in Baltimore County
HISTORIC ST. JOHN THE EVANGELIST CATHOLIC CHURCH
LONG GREEN VALLEY, MARYLAND
The oldest Catholic parish in Baltimore County is celebrating its 186th anniversary this year. St. John The Evangelist traces its origins to Jesuit priests who rode through the Maryland wilderness like their Protestant counterparts to serve the religious needs of families living on the farms and estates surrounding the port of Baltimore.
Located in Long Green Valley near Baldwin, Maryland, the church began as a mission of St. Ignatius in Harford County. St. Ignatius is the oldest Catholic church in continuous use in the Archdiocese of Baltimore and still stands in Hickory, Md., near U.S. 1 about 3 miles north of Bel Air.
The Maryland colony had been established in the Seventeenth Century by Catholics with a practical sense for the necessity of religious toleration. But by the beginning of the Eighteenth Century, European religious strife had spread to colonial councils and even the Maryland Catholics were forbidden to conduct public religious services except in their private homes.
The Jesuits acquired their own properties and road rural circuits dressed as ordinary citizens with their vestments and chalices hidden from public view in saddlebags. Priests running a small plantation near Deer Creek built St. Ignatius in 1792, after the Maryland Constitution of 1774 had removed the restrictions against public worship. (Jews, however, did not acquire full civil rights in Maryland until 1826.)
The Rev. Timothy O’Brien was the pastor at St. Ignatius in 1822, when a wooden frame church was built at Long Green. Perched on the ridge dividing Long Green and Dulaney Valleys, it was called St. John’s on the Ridge. For decades it was maintained as one of the rural missions for the priest at St. Ignatius, who frequently suffered from lack of financial support.
The frame building was destroyed by fire in 1855, about the same time the church acquired its first resident pastor. Using land bought from members of the Jenkins family, faithful supporters of the church from its beginning, a stone church was erected that same year and still stands. The new location was one and one half miles to the southeast of the original building.
There are various beliefs regarding donations to the handsome stone church that Fr. Jacob Walter, the first resident pastor, built. The Baltimore Sun of March 4, 1906 says, “Devout Catholics always, when the Catholic Church on the ridge was burned, the home of Betsy Hillen Jenkins became the place where mass was celebrated…” “In time Betsy Hillen Jenkins gave the land on the Jenkins Homestead where St. John’s Roman Catholic Church now stands, and Mr. Philip Jenkins contributed the stone from Sleepy Hollow quarries on the plantation…”
However, Baltimore County Land Records state that Edward F. Jenkins and his wife Sarah sold Archbishop Kenrick two acres for $5 on November 20, 1855, part of a tract called Browns Farm and part of the estate of Josias Jenkins, deceased, “in trust nonetheless for the use and benefit of the congregation of the Roman Catholic Church of Saint John the Evangelist, to be used by said congregation as a place of worship.” This was a two-acre site on Long Green Pike, which was then called the Northern Branch of Harford Turnpike Road.
On July 22, 1855 Archbishop Kenrick laid the corner stone and the Rev. F. X. Boyle preached at the ceremony. Following the occasion Archbishop Kenrick adjourned to the Jenkins Homestead and, in his first administration of Confirmation in that area since becoming the Ordinary of Baltimore, conferred the sacrament on 25 persons.
St. John’s was probably a typical American country church in Victorian times, solid in construction and gothic in design. The large granite stones were hauled from the Jenkins quarry in a steady procession by four-horse teams. The builders were Abram Spicer and Sons. It is not recorded that an architect was engaged. The new St. John’s was completed and occupied in an astonishingly short time, the first Mass being celebrated on December 30, 1855. On July 20, 1856, Archbishop Kenrick consecrated the new church, two days less than a year from its cornerstone ceremonies.
The church slowly prospered and added to its membership. A school was started and after several reverses developed into a success. Its modern origin dates to 1947 with the coming of the School Sisters of Notre Dame.
A noticeable shift from city to suburb began in the 1940’s and with it growth in church membership, a process still underway. A modern church, seating 700, was dedicated in 1969. The original 1855 church was completely refurbished in 1997 and is now in daily use for Mass, weddings and other services.
The parish now has 1600 families within an area of about 60 square miles, in both Northern Baltimore County and Western Harford County.