Jubilee – SFDS Incorporation as Independent Parish

In 1964 after 98 years as a mission church, first to St. Ignatius, Hickory, 1866-1873 and then when Fr. O’Connor was transferred from St. Ignatius in the Fall 1873 to St. Stephens, Bradshaw, 1873 to 1964. The Mission parish, one of the largest in the region by the early 1960’s, existed 90 years with only 1 weekly Mass on Sunday. So, 53 years ago May 13, 1963, SFDS became incorporated as an independent Parish. St. Francis was raised to the status of an independent parish by Lawrence Cardinal Shehan. Papers in the church archives show signatures of Cardinal Shehan, Rev Austin Healy and Rev Edward Sargus of St. Stephens who would be the last Pastor to lead SFDS as a Mission. The letter of original Articles of Incorporation read as follows: “Corporate name: St Francis de Sales, Abingdon, Roman Catholic Congregation and Date of Approval May 13, 1963. The purpose of the Corporation is ‘to frame rules, regulations and ordinances for divine worship and advancement of interests of St Francis de Sales, Abingdon, Roman Catholic Congregation”. It was signed by Archdiocese parties, Most Reverend Lawrence J. Shehan, Most Reverend T. Austin Murphy and Reverend Austin L. Healy in April 10, 1963  letter of Approval. The State Taxation records show transfer of Parish from St. Stephens on that same date. There had been 12 pastors from St. Stephens with dual responsibilities for both parishes from 1873 to 1963. In 1964 Fr. Wolfe was appointed pastor of newly incorporated St. Francis de Sales. Once the “big-city priest adapted to the fried-chicken–dinner mentality of rural Harford County” he moved dynamically to lead a period marked by new life and positive change. Parish boundaries increased and by late 1960’s St. Francis was serving Catholics within a 67 mile perimeter.