Parishioners gathered at St. Michael’s Church in Baden, Md., on Oct. 16 to celebrate the feast of St. Michael and the church’s 100-year Jubilee Mass and lunch.
Washington Cardinal Wilton Gregory celebrated Mass, which was concelebrated by Father Mark Cusick, pastor of St. Michael’s, and Father Alain Colliou, pastor of Our Lady Help of Christians Parish in Waldorf, Maryland. Because St. Michael, the church’s namesake, was an angel, the cardinal opened his homily by asking the congregation if they had ever seen or spoken to an angel.
“In faith, we rejoice today, not in bricks and mortar, but in the continued trust of this Catholic community. St. Michael’s is much more than a building, as you obviously know. It is a living family of believers,” Cardinal Gregory said.
The cardinal went on to talk about the importance of the parish community and how it contains “so many dimensions…that point to the future,” including its youth programs and religious education. Cardinal Gregory praised the parish priest, Father Cusick.
“You have a young pastor and one about whom I continue to hear many words of encouragement and compliments. Father Mark is another sign of the vitality of this parish,” Cardinal Gregory said.
Ordained in 2013, Fr. Cusick has been a priest for nine years and has been at St. Michael for one year.
“I love being here, I love the community, I love that it is historic, and we have this opportunity to get to know the roots of our parish a little better and also to bring more participation,” Fr. Cusick.
After Communion, Cardinal Gregory blessed the newly renovated statue of Saint Martin de Porres. Previously, the figure was in use until the 1980s, when it was relegated to the basement.
“The statue fell underground, no one knew what happened to it, and it got into a bad state and someone said we would like to take it down and see if we can do it again,” Fr Cusick said. “We brought in someone, an artist, to take it and redo it.”
Saint Martin de Porres was born in Peru in 1579 and was a member of the Dominican Order. He is the patron saint of social justice, racial tolerance and mixed race people. It was crucial that the statue be blessed, according to Father Cusick.
“[It was important to have the statue blessed because] it was restored and brought back into the church, so we wanted to honor that heritage of the African-American faith and the Catholic faith, and just have it represent more of our people,” Fr. Cusick said.
Virginia Jones grew up attending Mass at St. Michael’s and now volunteers in the choir. She married at St. Michael’s four years ago, after what she called a “drought” of marriages that the church experienced for about five years. Her parents married nearly 50 years ago.
According to Jones, community is central to the longevity of the church.
“Strong tradition and community, there are a lot of older families here who have been here for generations, and I think that really helps when it comes to bonding people,” Jones said. “And faith, of course.”
Jones believes the familiarity of parishioners is also influenced by the location of the church, which is in a rural section of Maryland.
“We are a more rural and relaxed parish, it is, once again, very friendly. So many of these families are here [for generations]. I went to school with them, my mom went to school with their parents, and it brings a sense of community that I think is harder to find in other transitional areas,” said Jones.
Members of the Knights of St. John were also present, Commanderies 309, 373 and 370.
William Young, vice president of Commandery 309, said he enjoyed Cardinal Gregory’s homily.
“The homily was very impressive, [Cardinal Gregory] was about to talk about the celebration of St. Michael’s Church and also the Archangel St. Michael, how it connects with the two, it was impressive, and I’m sure it was appreciated and impressed the whole congregation,” Young said.
Other events to celebrate the church’s 100th jubilee included a fried chicken picnic dinner, which Father Cusick said served about 130 people in the church hall, and a T-shirt that was sold to commemorate the event.