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Church of the Ascension set to celebrate centennial

Church of the Ascension in Arbutus will celebrate a very special birthday Sunday.

The Halethorpe parish will gather for a special Mass on May 12 at 10:30 a.m. to celebrate its 100 years of worship, fellowship and service.

"It's going to be huge," said lifetime parishioner Mary Hoban, a lector at the centennial Mass.

Hoban, chairwoman of the Catholic church's centennial committee, predicts that more than 300 parishioners will attend the service.

Bishop Denis Madden, auxiliary bishop of Baltimore, will preside, she said.

Hoban said the celebration kicked off May 19, 2012, featuring a variety of activities, ranging from the sale of merchandise bearing the church's logo to a church picnic to a trip to Radio City Music Hall.

She said she has attended Mass at the church on Poplar Avenue for her entire life and went to school there. The school was among 13 the Archdiocese closed in 2010.

She said she was thrilled to be in charge of planning the centennial celebrations and has enjoyed seeing parishioners, both young and old, enjoying the events.

"This is kind of a really big deal for us," the 53-year-old Arbutus resident said.

"It's nice you can be a part of a celebration that's 100 years old.

"When you've got something as big as this, you've got to plan it right," Hoban said. "It's exciting to see your parish hit that 100 mark."

Ascension parish was established after its first Mass on May 1, 1913, a Thursday in that year's liturgical calendar that marked the Ascension of Christ.

The church originally was located at the intersection of Fairview and Linden avenues, according to the parish history from the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

It was called "The little church on the hill" until the building burned down in 1916.

It then moved to its current location where Poplar and Maple avenues intersect with Potomac Avenue in Halethorpe.

The church grew from about 100 people to currently serve about 900 families in the area.

"This parish is multigenerational," Hoban said.

"We're a very welcoming community, it's a very faithful community," she said. "I think a lot of people have a lot of ownership and pride of this parish, which is a big thing."

Hoban said one of the biggest contributors to the parish's recent success has been the addition of the Rev. John Williamson as pastor.

"There have been a lot of people who have come back to church because of him," Hoban said.

"He brings a lot of life and vitality to this parish," she said.

Williamson said he has enjoyed working with such a community oriented parish.

"Ascension's been a wonderful experience," Williamson said. "It's a great community that's very dedicated to this parish."

He said the church community is active in putting together fundraisers to ensure the success of the parish.

"Not every parish I've been at has there been that willingness to roll up your sleeves and put in a 12-hour day to pull off a bull roast," he said.

He said he is looking forward to the centennial celebration and that, for a parish to thrive for so long is a testament to its parishioners.

"I think it shows the commitment of the community," Williamson said. "There's a sense of ownership."

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