OF CATHOLIC EDUCATION
first presence of Catholic education in Frederick was in
1756 when Father John William, S.J. established a school by Mr.
John Cary. Because of the Penal Laws, Catholics were not
allowed to practice their religion openly until 1776 when our
nation gained its independence. This restriction along with
the suppression of the Jesuits from 1773 to 1806, did not
deter the Jesuit priests who continued to minister to the
Frederick community. Whether the educational endeavors started
by Father Williams continued during this period is not known.
1792, Father John DuBois was named pastor of the Frederick
church (a chapel on the second floor of the priest's residence
built by Father Williams and dedicated to St. Stanislaus Koska).
On May 15, 1800. Father DuBois laid the cornerstone of the first
St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church in Frederick.
Father DuBois left Frederick in 1806 for Emmitsburg where he
founded, in 1806, Mount Saint Mary's College and Seminary. In
1809, Elizabeth Ann Seton established the religious order of the
Sisters of Charity and a private academy for girls in Emmitsburg.
Today, Mother Seton Elementary School continues her tradition of
Catholic education for both boys and girls.
1822, Father John McElroy was sent to Frederick to assist Father
Francis Maleve. Upon Father Maleve's death that same year,
Father McElroy began his very noteworthy stay as pastor until
1845. In 1823, it became obvious to Father McElroy that a school
was needed in the Frederick community. He negotiated with Mother
Seton's Sisters of Charity in Emmitsburg and in January 1824
five sisters opened St. John's Female Benevolent and Frederick
Free School. Realizing the need for academic education of boys,
Father McElroy began a subscription in the spring of 1822 for
the building of a school. St. John's Literary Institution began
classes in 1829. For a period of about 25 years St. John's
College (known by this name throughout the State) was a rival of
Georgetown and counted among its graduates Enoch Louis Lowe who
was to become the youngest Governor ever elected in Maryland and
Admiral Winfield Scott Schley. Roger Brooke Taney was an early
Trustee of the school. In 1853 a large expulsion of students
occurred. The students could not be adequately monitored. The
boarding "College" ceased but St. John's Literary
Institute continued as a school for boys in Frederick.
McElroy was also instrumental in bringing the Jesuit Novitiate
to Frederick in 1834. This institution was present in Frederick
until 1902 when the Jesuits left Frederick for St.
Andrews-on-the-Hudson in New York. Father McElroy also was
responsible for building the present St. John's Church which was
completed and consecrated in 1837. Father McElroy left Frederick
in 1845 to become the Army's first chaplain in the Mexican
American War. In succeeding years Father McElroy founded a free
school for black children in Washington, D.C., the first such
school South of the Mason-Dixon Line, and founded Boston College
where he was elected its first president in 1863. In 1873 he
returned to Frederick where he died in 1877, the oldest living
Jesuit in the world at that time. It was later written of Father
McElroy that "there is hardly a work carried on today by
the Catholic Church in this country, of which Father McElroy did
not in some way lay the foundation. Yet, no word of his
indicated that he considered himself more than a simple priest
and an unprofitable servant."
1846, the Sisters of Charity found it necessary to withdraw from
Frederick. The Visitation Sisters from Georgetown came to
Frederick and began the Ladies Academy of Visitation. Presently
known as Frederick Academy of the Visitation the sisters
continue to operate a boarding and day elementary school for
girls (especially Spanish speaking students). Catholic education
for boys continued at St. John's Literary Institute by the
Jesuits until 1902 when the Jesuits left and the school and
church property were turned over to diocesan priests from
Baltimore. This education was continued by lay teachers until
1915 when Father William Kane, the diocesan pastor, persuaded
the School Sisters of Notre Dame (S.S.N.D.) to staff the school.
The old Literary Institute building was about 100 years old and
was inadequate to accommodate the boys and girls who now
attended St. John's. The old building was torn down and the new
St. John's was built on the same site in 1925. This classic
school building housed both the elementary and high school until
1958. An eight room addition was added in 1953 to accommodate
the rapidly increasing enrollment.
purchase of the Himes mansion (Prospect Hall) in 1958
provided the parish with 32 acres for the high school and
relieved the crowded condition at the Second Street location.
This historic mansion, which was built in the early 1800's,
along with St. John's Literary Institute, which founded in 1829,
is a fitting combination of history and tradition. Additional
classrooms were added along with a gymnasium in 1959.
S.S.N.D.'s announced in 1972 that they would be withdrawing from
the high school. St. John's ceased being a parish high school at
that time but because of the concern of many parents and friends
for continued Catholic secondary education in Frederick, the
school continued to operate as a private high school under the
charter originally granted to the Jesuits. St. John's Elementary
School was located on Second Street in the classic 1925 building
and was designated a regional elementary school and
the S.S.N.D. left in 1995. The school is now located on
Opossumtown Pike and is administered and
staffed by lay personnel.
education in Frederick began and continues today because of the
ideals and dedication of strong individuals with a vision. St.
John's is more than the name of a parish in Frederick; it has
meant Catholic education for thousands of Frederick County
residents for over 170 years. The vision of Father McElroy
continues through the efforts of the Friends of Catholic
Education and schools for new and expanded facilities to meet
the ever increasing Catholic school educational needs of
McElroy was a man of character and determination in any endeavor
he undertook. It is also written of Father McElroy that
"his was of noble character; massive and grand as some
rugged mountain peak; tender and sweet as the last ray of
sunlight that lingers upon its summit, sound and prudent in
judgment, broad and comprehensive in his views, careful and
deliberate in coming to a decision, but swift and untiring in
its execution." These same qualities have been evident in
Father McElroy's successor Jesuits, diocesan priests, S.S.N.D's,
Sons of the Holy Family, and lay men and women that have been
involved in Catholic education at St. John's over these many
years. With God's help, St. John's will continue under the
leadership of those with these same qualities.
John's Regional Catholic School, Frederick, MD
John's Catholic Prep High School, Frederick, MD