Where Saints Have Prayed

Church History

Saint Alphonsus Church, a landmark at Saratoga Street and Park Avenue in downtown Baltimore since 1845, designed by the eminent architect Robert Cary Long in Southern German neo-Gothic Style, was once dubbed "the German cathedral."   Is is patterned after St. Stephen's in Vienna.  St. Alphonsus Church is included by Dr. Phoebe Stanton in her book, The Gothic Revival and American Architecture (Johns Hopkins Press), as a notable example of that style in America. In addition, St. Alphonsus Church in included in Lois Zanow & Sally Johnston's Monuments to Heaven - Baltimore's Historic Houses of Worship, (AuthorHouse, 2010).  For seventy-two years, the church served a German community, while the attached rectory functioned as provincial headquarters for the Redemptorist Fathers and Brothers.

No less than eleven parishes were established by the Redemptorists from Saint Alphonsus, as well as missions as distant as Strassburg, Pennsylvania and Martinsburg, West Virginia.

In 1917, with the German community dispersed and the Redemptorist provincialate moved to New York,  Saint Alphonsus was acquired by the Roman Catholic Lithuanian Parish of Saint John the Baptist, which then assumed the name of the church and reopened the school, functioning across the street since l847.

For generations, Saint Alphonsus Church served by archdiocesan priests, has also served downtown workers, shoppers, and visitors to the city with conveniently scheduled services,  especially the Novena to Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. It is the rare Catholic who has lived in Baltimore during this era who has not prayed in Saint Alphonsus Church. Even first-time visitors remark about the prayerful atmosphere of the church.

Saint John Neumann lived in the present rectory as rector, master of novices, and vice-provincial. Another rector, Father Francis X. Seelos, C.SS.R., has been beatified. When he is canonized, Saint Alphonsus will be the only parish church in this country, and perhaps in the world, to boast of two former pastors as canonized saints.

Moreover, Blessed George Matulaitis once visited Saint Alphonsus, as did Archbishop Teofilius Matulionis, a possible candidate for beatification as a martyr.   St Alphonsus Parish: where saints have prayed!  This makes St Alphonsus one of the great "treasures" of the Catholic faith in our country......a shrine, a place of pilgrimage, a sign of hope, a powerhouse of prayer!

Today, Saint Alphonsus has less than three hundred registered families scattered throughout the State of Maryland, only about one-tenth of whom frequent Saint Alphonsus for daily Mass. In 1995, the church was designated as an Archdiocesan Shrine. The departure of many businesses from downtown in the past two decades has greatly diminished weekday attendance.  Sunday and weekday attendance is no more than 300 at all services (and there are many!). Because of these weak number, it has been difficult for St. Alphonsus Church to operate on a balanced budget.  Only with God's help have we been able to survive.

Saint Alphonsus School, which in 1998 marked 150 years at its present location, had been merged with the Basilica School and served 210 pupils, almost entirely African Americans from all over the city and surrounding counties. Besides, providing the building rent-free, Saint Alphonsus Shrine also subsidized the school at the level of $5,000 annually, although not a single pupil was from the parish.  Unfortunately, the school closed its doors in June, 2002.

The mission of Saint Alphonsus is to minister to a far-flung Lithuanian community and to those who feel the need for more traditional services (Saint Alphonsus is the designated home to the Tridentine Mass, every Wednesday at 12:10 pm, Saturday at 12:10 pm, Sunday at 11:30 am and Holy Day), while reaching out to a new generation downtown, a link between old and new Baltimore.

St. Alphonsus was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.  It was named an Archdiocesan Shrine by William Cardinal Keeler in 1994, awarded the 2013 Historic Preservation Award and named a National Shrine by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2014.