Who We Are
Constructed in 1914, St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church is located near the historic village of Overlea in the Fourteenth District of Baltimore County. The Gothic Revival-style St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church sits on a sloping lot on the northeast corner of Belair Road and Willow Avenue. The Church was started with a strawberry festival that netted $500 and the site of the Church building was purchased on April 14, 1913 for the sum of $3,800. On September 20, 1914, the cornerstone of St. Michael the Archangel Church was laid. St. Michael’s is now a bilingual parish of nearly 2,000 families. St. Michael’s primary mission is to “Joyfully proclaim the presence of Jesus to the total community.” St. Michael’s does this through the evangelization of children, families, and adults through St. Michael School, Religious Education, as well as through our many Faith Formation activities. Formal evangelization programs include “Discovering Catholicism,” which reaches out to the uninitiated and to anyone seeking a deeper relationship with God through Jesus Christ His Son, or who seek to enrich their understanding of the Catholic faith and the Catholic Church. There are regular and widely attended faith enrichment and formation programs offered throughout the year which have included Scripture studies, the “Christ Life” evangelization series, Catholic book clubs, “Meeting Christ in Prayer,” the Theology of the Body, the Discernment of Spirits, small Christian communities in our Hispanic ministries, as well as a host of other programs covering areas in evangelization, prayer, theology, and spirituality. We also proclaim Jesus Christ through our active service and justice ministries including a very active Pro-life ministry, St. Vincent de Paul Society, local Food Pantry ministry, advocacy, and monthly distributions to many charities from our Poor Box collections. We proclaim Jesus Christ to our neighbors that we serve including the sick, the elderly, the homebound, and those in area nursing homes and rehabilitation centers. We proclaim Jesus Christ most importantly through the celebration of the Sacraments, through our prayer, worship, and devotions, and most especially through the daily and weekly celebration of the Eucharist, where we strive to foster a prayerful atmosphere where one can come to know and love Jesus Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field.” (Matt. 13:31NAB). One hundred years ago in Overlea, Maryland, it was a strawberry seed. The Catholic people of Overlea, after garnering support from His Eminence, James Cardinal Gibbons for a church, began their fundraising efforts to make The Church of St. Michael the Archangel, Overlea a reality with a strawberry festival that netted $500.00 ($12,032.83 today). The 150 by 300 foot lot on the northeast corner of Belair Road and Willow Avenue was purchased on April 14, 1913 for $3,800.00 ($91,449.49 in 2014) and immediately, work began to construct the basement church that we now know as the Marian Chapel.
The first mass for this new community was celebrated on October 26, 1913 in the room above Moeller’s Grocery Store on Belair Road. While the church building was being constructed, mass continued to be celebrated in the room above Moeller’s Store (which at one time served as Overlea’s Town Hall and is now the Natural History Society of Maryland), as well as in the Fisher home on Linden Avenue. The basement church’s cornerstone, blessed by Bishop Owen Corrigan, was laid on September 20, 1914 and on November 22 that same year the first mass was celebrated in the new basement church.
The parish community of St. Michael’s flourished. In June, 1918 the cornerstone of the upper church was laid. Our church bell was dedicated in June 1926. On January 30, 1928, Archbishop Michael Curley dedicated the completed church. In August, 1926, St. Michael’s School opened for grades 1-4. By 1930, the school was teaching grades 1-8 in a temporary building and spaces in the basement of the church. The Church of St. Michael the Archangel was a vibrant and growing part of the Overlea community.
Although the building of the church was completed, St. Michael’s was far from resting. Among the ongoing milestones in the 1930s was its connection to Baltimore County’s sewer system and 1931’s addition of a pipe organ for the church, costing $4,500.00 ($70,534.54 today).
The 1940s brought plans to build a school building to accommodate the burgeoning student population of the surrounding community.
The mid 1940s through the 1950s continued as a time of great growth for St. Michael’s. The plans for the new school were realized along with the construction of a rectory and convent, all completed in 1950. However the school had to be expanded as soon as it was finished and in 1953, its third floor was added. Despite this addition, even more school space was needed. The people of St. Michael’s once again met the need and in January 1959, ground was broken for the St. Catherine Labouré Hall. Labouré Hall, as it became known, was opened for the beginning of the 1959 school year. But new buildings were not the only changes the parish would see.
In the history of our Catholic Church worldwide and in Overlea, the 1960s was a time of great transformation. Vatican II would change many aspects of our liturgies including their language, worship space, music and the new roles of participants. Priests began to face the congregation. The communion rails were removed. Podiums were added, altars changed and lay people were able to distribute the Eucharist. The laity assumed more active roles in the parish and on May 28, 1968 St. Michael’s Parish Council had its very first meeting. There was much work to be done, including the church’s 1968 second major redecoration. Many of the changes mandated by Vatican II were completed during the 1970s, including the beginning of the Lector and Extraordinary Eucharistic Minister programs. St. Michael’s now included ministry to senior citizens, a folk mass with guitars, and religious education programs for adults as well as the existing programs for children. God’s Little People pre-school and kindergarten programs began and in 1973, a school board was established. But the St. Michael’s community still had more to do.
In January 1981, St. Michael’s temporarily closed the doors to the upper church while it was extensively renovated with the objective of restoring it, as nearly as possible, to its original design. The end result was a worship space even more beautiful than anyone conceived and that with minor updates, we continue to enjoy, today. Never static, the 1980s saw more changes to the parish.
Steps were taken to make improved use of the building that once served as the convent including moving the God’s Little People Pre-School Program into the large ground floor spaces of the former convent. Conscious of being energy efficient and with an eye toward better serving the entire St. Michael’s community, many other changes were made to the convent and main school buildings. Among the significant improvements to the church was the installation of a ramp at the northeast entrance of the church, making it more accessible to the mobility challenged, and the complete rebuilding of the church’s 65 year old organ. Through it all, liturgy, ministry, evangelization, outreach, and fellowship in the community continued to be hallmarks of our parish.
The Marian Chapel was renovated in the 1990s and St. Michael’s readied itself for the new millennium. In the first decade of the 21st century, the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, which was in the former convent, was converted into office space and an oratory was established for those wishing to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament. Subsequent years saw renovations to the church, gym’s kitchen, Labouré Hall, and parish grounds.
With great excitement, in 2007 our parish welcomed members of the Hispanic Community to St. Michael’s. Full members of our parish family, many celebrate mass in Spanish each week in the renovated Marian Chapel. Important milestone celebrations in our parish are now bilingual. We launched our year-long Centennial Celebration at our Annual International Festival in September 2013 where we learned more about the many and diverse cultures represented in our parish by sharing our foods and entertainment in a spirit of fellowship and welcome.
Over the last century, our parish has been blessed by the service of many. Priests, deacons, sisters, and seminarians from diverse religious communities have served our parish. Ursuline Sisters , Daughters of Charity, Jesuits, Benedictines, Franciscans, and Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart, to name a few, have woven pieces of themselves and their faith into the tapestry of our parish’s history and the minds and hearts of the community. Some have faded into obscurity. Others have been humble servants who will be remembered if only by those whose lives they touched. Some have gone on to receive special recognition in their vocations. Countless people, lay and religious, have answered the call to serve our parish over the last 10 decades. In retrospect, it seems that we have always been blessed with the right people at the right time.
From the very start, community was and still is paramount at St. Michael’s. It is not merely a place of worship. Over the years, one may have had the opportunity to participate in various ministries and activities, including church and oyster suppers; bazaars; youth dances; intermural sports; carnivals; amateur theater productions; card and dance parties; bull roasts; and of course, the strawberry festivals. Numerous clubs, groups, committees and fraternal organizations, such as the Young People’s Club, CYO, Youth Group, Ladies of Charity, Ushers, Liturgy Committee, Holy Name Society, Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops for all ages, Home School Association, Welcome Committee, Archangel Players, Catholic War Veterans of America, Healthcare Committee, Catholic Daughters of America, Secular Franciscan Order, Peace and Justice Committee, Religious Education, St. Vincent de Paul Society, Legion of Mary, all manner of music ministries and a variety of other opportunities, far too many to list here have brought people together and sometimes formed lifetime friendships. Even though our society has become more mobile, there are still many families in the parish who have been part of this community for generations, some of whom can trace their family connection to our parish’s earliest days.
For one hundred years, the parishioners of the Church of St. Michael the Archangel, Overlea have tended the seed that was planted and striven to “Joyfully proclaim the presence of Jesus to the total community.” By the grace of God, we will continue this mission and tradition long into our second century.