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A 'people's church,' Resurrection of Our Lord celebrates 50 years

A 'people's church,' Resurrection of Our Lord celebrates 50 years
Longtime Resurrection Church parishioners, from left, Bernard Buczynski, Michael Robertazzi and Raymond Szyperski stand with the Rev. Mark Bialek in the sanctuary. (Photo by Matt Hazlett)

A church that grew up with Maryland City will celebrate its golden anniversary in a big way on Sept. 20. Parishioners and clergy at Resurrection of Our Lord Roman Catholic Church have planned an afternoon Mass followed by a semiformal gala at Laurel Park that evening.

In his first visit to the parish since being appointed archbishop, the Most Reverend William E. Lori, of Baltimore, will be the main celebrant at the Mass. The Rev. Mark Bialek, senior pastor at Resurrection, said he and other priests who have or currently serve the parish will assist.

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"I think the anniversary celebration is a tremendous opportunity to celebrate the many accomplishments of the parish … as well as a springboard to a very bright future proclaiming the joy of the Gospel," Bialek said.

Michael Robertazzi, one of the church's longest-standing members and a National Security Agency retiree, said that Resurrection has been a "people's church" since its unique beginning.

In the early 1960s, the parish existed only in the hearts and minds of a small group of determined Catholics living in what the Maryland City Corp. had begun developing as "Meade City."

"Most of the people moving to Maryland City worked at NSA and that's why they settled there," said Corrine Mohnasky, a 35-year church veteran and chairwoman of the Anniversary Planning Committee.

At that time, the closest Roman Catholic churches were St. Mary of the Mills in Old Town and St. Nicholas on Contee Road, under the Archdiocese of Washington; and St. Lawrence Martyr in Jessup, under the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Lacking a home parish, they organized as the Catholic Community of Maryland City and began meeting at the Laurel Shopping Center's movie theater and worshipping in private homes.

Ray Syzperski — another founding member who, like Robertazzi, retired from NSA — said that Walt Smallets served as chairman of the original Finance Committee and led the early fundraising.

"The reason we picked him was because he was chief of finance at NSA," said Syzperski.

In 1963, the Rev. E. Gerard Huesman, pastor of St. Lawrence Martyr, agreed to serve as the Catholic Community's spiritual adviser and began celebrating Sunday Mass at the Daily Double Bingo Hall on Route 198, fondly known as "St. Bingo's" or, spelled in reverse, "St. Ognib's."

Syzperski said the owner, Helen McGarvey Saul, who was Jewish, quickly became a kind and generous friend. When the Catholic Community tried to pay rent for use of the hall, Saul would return their checks along with ones she wrote as donations in the same amount.

The Catholic Community of Maryland City was able to purchase a house to serve as its central meeting place on Horsehead South and formed a corporation in 1967.

The following year, the Archdiocese of Baltimore appointed the Rev. Richard C. Mitchell as pastor and approved the name Resurrection of Our Lord as the parish name.

Joseph Chalhoub, John Cinotti, John and James Byrne and Tom Ryan served on two grounds committees that searched for land to build the church and community center, and the Archdiocese purchased 1,200 acres on Brock Bridge Road in 1968.

Currently under renovation, the church campus on Brock Bridge Road has changed some since its construction by the Gaudreau Construction Co. in 1970.

Father Kitko Hall and a prefab house (assembled by members of the Men's Club) where the church offices reside were added, and the historic farmhouse that once housed pastoral associates Ann and Mary Hartnett (nuns who are siblings) were lost in a fire during the blizzard of 2010.

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In 1980, the church acquired two slivers of wood that believers hold to be from the Cross, which are currently enshrined inside the church proper, and beautiful stained glass windows symbolizing the resurrection of the sun were recently installed.

Today, the Resurrection parish has grown from about 90 to 1,000 families, according to Mohnasky. Nearly half the parishioners are Hispanic, while others have Italian, Polish, German and Asian heritages.

The church celebrates Mass in Spanish and English, and holds folk music services with guitars and an annual polka Mass. Parishioners come from Maryland City and all over Laurel, and the surrounding tri-county area to worship; some travel from Washington and Virginia.

"Amongst the different generations and cultures, and the diversity represented in our parish, I find the spirit of welcome and fraternity amazing," said Bialek.

"This is family," said Robertazzi.

"This church has always been home to me," added Mohnasky.

Bernie Buczynski served as the master of ceremonies at the rainy groundbreaking on Palm Sunday in 1970 and for the modest 25th anniversary celebration in 1989. Buczynski, Robertazzi, and Syzperski have shared parish and civic life, and friendship for half a century.

In the 1970s and '80s, more than a dozen men from Resurrection would dress up as Santa Claus at Christmastime and knock on every door in Maryland City, handing out candy canes, said Buczynski.

Syzperski said his current passion is to teach English to Resurrection's Hispanic community (the bulletin is painstakingly printed in English and Spanish).

In June 2013, the parish held a crab and shrimp feast to kick off its 50th anniversary year.

Mohnasky said the Sept. 20 Mass will be simulcast into Father Kitko Hall since the church only holds about 400 people and many more are expected to attend.

After the liturgy, about 400 will attend the gala at the Carriage Room at Laurel Park. A 22-piece big band from Baltimore, the Shades of Blue Orchestra, will perform.

The gala will begin with a social hour of music and hors d'oeuvres at 6 p.m., followed by dinner and a program honoring everyone who's helped Resurrection flourish, and then dessert will be served.

Mohnasky said there's been a good and escalating response for tickets sales and sponsorships since many parish families have recently returned from summer vacation. The money raised will first pay the costs of the anniversary celebration; any excess will help with kitchen and bathroom renovations at the church.

The tickets required to attend the Sept. 20 anniversary Mass are free; tickets to the evening gala cost $50 per person. Both are available through the church office. Gold sponsors can buy a full-page ad in the program and four tickets for $1,000; silver sponsors can buy a half-page and two tickets for $500; and individual sponsors can write a four-line message for $25. For information, contact Corrine Mohnasky at 410-792-7982 or rool50a@gmail.com.

Resurrection Church timeline

1960: The Maryland City Corp. purchases 1,200 acres of land adjacent to Fort Meade and begins building houses.

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Early 1960s: The Catholic Community of Maryland City forms; parish families meet at the Laurel Shopping Center's movie theater and teach classes in private homes.

June 23, 1963: The Rev. E. Gerard Huesman from St. Lawrence celebrates Mass for CCMC at the Daily Double Bingo Hall on Route 198 for the first time.

September 1963: Woman's Guild forms with Helen D'Angelone as the first president.

June 1964: Men's Club forms with Richard Norsworthy as the first president.

Fall 1965: Parish choir formed under the direction of John Byrne.

February 1967: CCMC purchases a house on Horsehead South intended to become the parish rectory and builds a chapel in the basement.

1968: Archdiocese of Baltimore purchases 22 acres on Brock Bridge Road between Route 32 and Route 198. CCMC elects the council and sets up the corporation.

Feb. 17, 1968: After many requests for a pastor, the Rev. Richard Mitchell is appointed by the Archdiocese of Baltimore and Resurrection of Our Lord is approved as the parish name.

March 11, 1970: Groundbreaking for the new community center to be built by the Gaudreau Construction Co. is held on Palm Sunday.

Dec. 24, 1970: First Mass is celebrated at the new church; Mitchell assists during services.

1971: Mitchell leaves the church due to illness; the Rev. Joseph Kitko becomes pastor.

1972: Rectory, garage and storage area are built.

1980: Two slivers of wood that believers hold to be from the Cross are donated and enshrined in the church.

Early 1990s: Men's Club assembles a prefabricated house for Kitko to live in.

June 1999: Kitko retires after 28 years.

July 1999: The Rev. John Wielebski begins serving the parish.

2009: Wielebski leaves the parish, church functions without a parish priest.

January 2011: The Rev. Mark Bialek joins the parish.

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