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Religious foundations in Cumberland page 6

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1853 twelve Jewish families were known to be in Cumberland which then had a population of 6150. The twelve families were sufficient to warrant the establishment of a congregation. On April 27th of that year this group of families met for that purpose. They must have proceeded to petition the Maryland General Assembly with diligence, for within less than a month, on May 23, 1853, the date from which we account our founding, the legislature of Maryland granted B'er Chayim its charter." (Quotation from Centennial Booklet of B'er Chayim Congregation).

Four years after the founding of the first Jewish Society another religious movement took its rise in Cumberland which resulted in one of the first Religious Orders of the Catholic Church to have originated in the United States.

In the membership of the Redemptorist Monastery, then associated with the Parish of SS. Peter and Paul in Cumberland, Maryland, were four young priests burning with zeal for the conversion of America. They were Fathers Clarence Walworth, Isaac Hecker, Augustine Hewitt and George Deshon. They were joined by Father Baker. All five priests were converts to Catholicity, coming from various Protestant backgrounds. Judging from their names most were German Protestants. They were English speaking Catholic priests, and prided themselves in being Americans. They were living in a Redemptorist Community the majority of whose members were foreigners, and who spoke only in a foreign tongue.

The five priests held several conferences relative to a more effective means of reaching the American unchurched. Finally, they asked their Superiors if a Novitiate could be established for English-speaking novices. The proposal was neither received nor encouraged by the Superiors. Other quiet talks took place. Father Isaac Hecker took the initiative. In behalf of his associate priests he left the monastery August 5, 1857, and started for Rome. His departure was considered a violation of the Vow of Obedience, and he was dismissed from the Congregation August 29th of that year. The remaining four urged Father Hecker to appeal to the Propaganda Society, and the Holy Father. It was shortly afterwards that they too were released from the Redemptorist Community. This was March 16, 1858. Under the sanction, and by the approval of Archbishop Hughes of New York they began the organization of a new society. Father Walworth, not agreeing, withdrew and took a pastorate in the Albany Diocese. Father Hecker became the first Superior. June 19, 1858, the cornerstone of their church was laid, and dedicated to St. Paul The Apostle in New York City. Thus Cumberland, Maryland, can lay claim to one of the first Catholic Orders originating in the United States, known throughout the world today as The Paulist Fathers. The story of the origin of the Paulist Fathers in Cumberland is to be found in "A Century of Growth," Volume I, by Father


Felix G. Robinson


Collection Location:
Ruth Enlow Library, Oakland

Original Size:
22 x 15 cms

Maryland, History


Western Maryland Regional Library
100 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, Maryland 21740

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