ST. ALPHONSUS RODRIGUEZ PARISH in Woodstock, Maryland was founded by the Jesuits in 1869 and continues to serve God as a community of believers living the Gospel of the Risen Christ. As a congregation united in the Catholic Faith, we recognize that each person is created in God`s image and, in the spirit of Vatican II, we welcome all to share in our celebration of Christ`s love for us. St Alphonsus is a faith community of people of all ages who pray, worship, and share in the grace of the sacraments. Through hospitality, service, and instruction in the teaching of Jesus Christ we grow spiritually and spread the joy of knowing our Lord and Savior to our children and neighbors. Central to our mission is communicating the Good News of the Risen Lord, Jesus Christ; welcoming the participation of all in the activities of the parish and the joy of the Eucharistic Celebration; providing education in the message of Christ`s love; and reaching out in love, justice and compassion to those in need. With gratitude for the rich heritage of our past, with a renewed commitment to be a living and growing community of faith, hope and love, and with openness to the challenges of the future, we invite all to give generously of themselves so that we may grow together and so fulfill our mission to be a living sign of God`s saving presence in our world today.
History and Heritage
Jesuit Presence in the Parish – Give a brief accounting of the relationship of the Society with the parish in terms of shared history and culture.
“Know the gift; live the gratitude.”
St. Alphonsus Rodriguez parish Motto
The arrival of the Jesuits in the Patapsco Valley begins the story of the birth of the spiritual community of St. Alphonsus. There is no way one can separate our history as a people and a parish from that of the Society of Jesus in Central Maryland. Form the beginning, the residents and the Jesuits were part of each other’s lives, in a partnership that would survive floods, wars, natural disasters, financial hardship, and anything else one could imagine.
Sometime during the 1850’s, the Society of Jesus discerned the need for a secluded, yet conveniently located, house of studies and began searching for a suitable location, eventually finding their way to Woodstock, arriving on January 10, 1866 and opening Woodstock College in October, 1869. The Catholic population in the Patapsco Valley was served mainly by Jesuits form the College in their spirit of service to others. In Woodstock, Mass was often celebrated in the Stackhouse Store (now the Woodstock Inn) and, although only 35 in number, local Catholics formed the nucleus of a parish. The first parish Baptism was performed on August 8, 1869; the first marriage was celebrated on April 25, 1870.
As the parish grew, the Chapel in the College basement was used for Mass and Sunday School. When the chapel became inadequate to meet the needs of the growing parish population, some of the scholastics and priests went to work in the fall of 1884, cleaning and leveling the area near the entrance of the College. This land was donated to the parish for a church, which was built by parishioners. On April 30, 1889, the church was dedicated in honor of St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, a Jesuit brother who had been canonized in September, 1888.
The first pastor, Fr. Salvator M. Brandi, S.J., was responsible for eth unique dedication – as the only parish in North America under the patronage of the gentle Jesuit doorkeeper of Majorca. Like the newly canonized widower who became a Jesuit brother, the Catholic farmers and quarrymen of Woodstock were of humble station, faith-filled, undeterred by setbacks, and inspired by the spirit of St. Ignatius Loyola to “see God in all things” and to “be men[and women] for others,: a spirit and mindset still prevalent in the parish today.
In four short years (1968-1972), the world the parishioners knew changed forever. The destruction of the first church by lightening was followed closely by the closing of both the parish school and Woodstock College. Working together, the men and women of St. Alphonsus built the present church on land donated by departing Collegians, celebrating the first Mass in the new church on Christmas Eve, 1971. The new church incorporated liturgical symbols from the College chapel, such as the statues of Mary and St. Joseph and the Stations of the Cross.
The end of the 1980 recession and the acceleration of development in eastern Howard County brought rapid growth to St. Alphonsus Rodriguez Church. The number of families in the parish increased from 233 (1985) to 667 (2011). In the middle 1980’s, two stained glass windows recovered from the Woodstock College chapel, honoring St. Ignatius at Manresa and St. Alphonsus Rodriguez, were installed in the church. Ten more stained glass windows honoring the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and Jesuit saints were commissioned.
As the twentieth century became the twenty-first, St. Alphonsus Church continued to grow and change with the world around it. The liturgical, educational, evangelical, social justice, and social ministries grew in proportion to the size of the faith community. The parish’s increasing human and physical resources allowed broader participation in local, regional, national, and international programs. Always rooted in its Ignatian tradition and mission, the parish continues to thrive in its heritage, Ignatian identity and spirituality.
But the parish is far more than its history and repository for artifacts from the Jesuit College in Woodstock. The St. Alphonsus parish community continues to foster its identity, mission and spirituality in the way of Ignatius, offering many opportunities for Ignatian formation beginning with the Spiritual Exercises and ‘way of proceeding’