“On a Monday morning, on September 6th, 1915, amid torrents of rain, five sisters, Sister Superior M. Vincentia, Ven. Sr. M. Quirilla, Sr. M. Clementia, Sr. M. Nivarda and Sr. M. Melinda accompanied by good Ven. Sr. M. Materna (from the School Sisters of Notre Dame), boarded the train at Union Station for Bryantown, Maryland…where we were met by Rev. P.E. Conroy, Pastor of St. Mary’s Church in Bryantown, and two gentlemen members of the parish…They escorted us by way of automobile to our new home and Mission, a distance of eight miles from the Waldorf Station, out in the real woodland…At our new convent we were heartily greeted by many of the parishioners…The rest of the day was spent in receiving and entertaining callers.”
*Excerpt from the book Common Bond – St. Mary’s Church, Bryantown, Maryland which was authored by John E. Potyraj and published in 1993 by Steeple Press on the Bicentennial Anniversary of St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Bryantown, Maryland. The excerpt, which appears on Page 43 in the book, is from a journal kept by the School Sisters of Notre Dame and it provides a vivid impression of the beginnings of education at St. Mary’s Parish.
St. Mary’s Elementary School was established in 1915 in two different buildings: one for white children and one “colored” children.
In the early 1900s, Father Conroy, then Pastor of St. Mary’s Parish, established a school for the purpose of educating children of color in the surrounding communities of Bryantown. The school became known as “St. Mary’s Colored School.” The school opened with an enrollment of 122 students. The cost to attend was $5 per year per student. School buses were unavailable to the students who attended St. Mary’s Colored School, but this did not deter these students’ dreams of receiving a Catholic school education. They would walk great lengths over very dusty roads during the warm seasons and snow covered roads during the winter months, because they knew that education would definitely improve their standard of living. A typical school year would begin after Labor Day and conclude on or about June 15th.
The building was a two-story structure that housed grades 1-8. During the winter months, this two-story facility was heated by a single wood stove. In later years, a coal furnace was installed. The older male students were responsible for keeping the school heated throughout the school day, which required them to cut wood and shovel coal.
In 1915, the School Sisters of Notre Dame from Baltimore, Maryland arrived to take leadership over and provide guidance to the school. The school was always staffed with loyal teachers who were dedicated to providing a quality education.
During the early years of the school, many were instrumental in assuring that the funding to operate the school was available. In addition to providing monetary support, many also provided essential items such as food and clothing for the students of the school.
In the 1960s, there was a federal government mandate to integrate all schools thus bringing to an end the era of school segregation, as well as an end to “St. Mary’s Colored School.” Former students of this school now had the opportunity to attend other private or public schools in the surrounding area.
On August 13, 1969, demolition of the old school was completed. However, the spirit continues to live on in the minds and hearts of those who attended “St. Mary’s Colored School.”
On September 20, 1998, a memorial was dedicated as a tribute to the many African Americans who were blessed with the opportunity of obtaining a Catholic school education at St. Mary’s Colored School. The high moral standard and unending sense of ethics that was instilled in these students at St. Mary’s Colored School enabled them to become productive citizens and make some very positive contributions to our society. Below is an image of the Memorial. This beautiful brick Memorial is located to the right of St. Mary’s Church.
St. Mary’s became the home of Notre Dame High School (for white youth) in 1923. Notre Dame High School actually became an accredited institution in 1925. All three schools were taught by the School Sisters of Notre Dame for approximately 80 years. Notre Dame High School was closed in June of 1967.
St. Mary’s Parish dedicated a new elementary school for all children in November 1967. This is the school we have today.