A Jubilant Jubilee at St. Hugh's
An archbishop led the Mass at St. Hugh's Catholic Church on June 8, but it was a Wheaton priest who provided the emotional focus for the church's Jubilee celebration.
Cardinal James Hickey, archbishop of Washington, presided over the service which marked the congregation's fiftieth year as a parish (a congregation with its own priest). Before June 1947, Catholics in Greenbelt belonged to the Berwyn parish.
The homily (sermon) was given by Father Robert G. Amey, pastor of St. Catherine Labouré in Wheaton. Father Amey spoke about the parish's first priest, Father Victor J. Dowgiallo; he said that Father Dowgiallo had chosen the church's name because a pastor he admired was named Hugh. Father Dowgiallo needed to choose between several saints called Hugh, and he selected the saint who was bishop of Grenoble in France. "Grenoble – Greenbelt," Father Amey said amidst much laughter.
Father Amey also talked about his own connection with the "warm community" of St. Hugh's; he served as associate pastor at St. Hugh's between 1970 and 1981. "I can honestly say that I was happy every day that I was here," he told the congregation.
He made this statement while fighting back tears and was awarded by applause from the large congregation that had assembled in the church that day.
Afterwards, members and guests of St. Hugh's gathered downstairs in Grenoble Hall for a reception. Here an exhibit was set up tracing the history of the parish. The exhibit used service programs, sports trophies, and other such memorabilia to mark the important events in the church's history, such as the December 1988 fire which caused St. Hugh's School to move its classes temporarily to Mishkan Torah Synagogue.
Many of the items gave evidence of changes in the Catholic Church over the past fifty years. Pictures of sisters (nuns) in stiff habits were accompanied by a 1973 picture of a sister wearing a simple dress, and sweater. Early pictures showed the church's altar against the wall, its position until the Catholic Church moved its altars into a freestanding position.
Another piece of paper, dating from 1967, showed a Caucasian child feeding Asian, African, and Indian children; it read, "This certificate of adoption is issued to Grade 4-B as a souvenir of the ransom and baptism of an adopted pagan baby named Alberta Marie."
The fiftieth anniversary exhibit has ended, but anniversary celebrations at St. Hugh's will continue through the fall.
Greenbelt News: Looking Back – St. Hugh's Becomes a Parish (July 31, 1997)
Greenbelt News: St. Hugh's Turns Fifty (June 1, 1997)
©1997 Heather Elizabeth Peterson