York Town Square

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St. Mary’s Church product of 19th-century York County language wars

This stained glass window from St. Mary’s Catholic Church in York was removed in March 2008 for restoration. A historical program on this landmark church is set for Sunday, Nov. 2. (See additional York Daily Record/Sunday News photos below). Background posts: Conewago Chapel steeple worker wondered if he’d ever get up there: Now, ‘Here I am’ , People of varying religious groups founded York County and St. Pat’s: A church without a steeple … by design .
In the mid-1800s, language wars hit York County’s churches.
For example, the debate over whether services would be conducted in English or German caused St. Paul’s Lutheran (English) to separate from mother church Christ Lutheran and Trinity German Reformed (English) to separate (at least in part) from what is today called Zion German Reformed or Zion United Church of Christ.
York’s Catholic congregation dealt with the language issue in the opposite fashion. The mother church (English) is called St. Patrick’s today, but St. Mary’s Church was built in 1852 to accommodate German-speaking Catholics… .

In recent years, the traditionally German St. Mary’s congregation has played host to numerous Latino festivals.
The book “St. Patrick’s Church, 1776-1976” summarizes the creation of St. Mary’s this way:

“The church is in close proximity to St. Patrick’s, but it must be remembered that it was built not to serve a territory but rather a growing group of people, the German Catholic immigrants, who wished to hear the gospel proclaimed in their mother tongue.”

Sometimes, St. Patrick’s is referred to a church with Irish roots, but it was the only Catholic church in York until St. Mary’s was formed and served as home to Catholics of many nationalities.
For those seeking more information about St. Mary’s, the South Central Pennsylvania Genealogical Society will meet at the church for its November program.
James Geubtner will make a presentation with intriguing title: “St. Mary’s Parish, from the German-speaking parish of 1852 through 150 years to the English/Spanish multicultural parish of today.”
The program is set to begin at 2:30 p.m. at the church, 309 S. George St. For details, contact Cynthia Hartman, 717-927-9396.
Geubtner served on a committee that developed a commemorative booklet detailing the church’s history.
The genealogical society regularly sponsors interesting programs, and it promises to keep its
streak alive with this one.

The church hopes to restore other windows as money permits.