"It is only upon the firm foundation stone of faith that true character can be formed. The current parishioners at St. Peter  Claver Catholic Church have a blessed and firm arch carrying them into the next generation. In Christ Our Lord, the cycle of life goes on..”





Why a Museum?

The idea of a museum has been proposed for years and finally the process has begun to “bringing it to life.” The museum’s primary mission is to preserve and maintain a permanent history for telling the legacy of the St. Peter Claver Catholic Parish in St. Inigoes, Maryland which dates back to 1902 when the first and only all Negro Jesuit parish in St. Mary’s County was born.


The Museum will be housed in McKenna Hall. The top-floor is targeted for an exhibition room, an office and a small gift shop. Some renovations to the building have been completed but more is underway.

Archives and Exhibits

Glass displays at The Museum will be on both a continuous and rotating basis. Changes will take place to relate to the permanent themes. The Museum will be promoted as an attraction of history, heritage and culture for tourists, school groups, family reunions and the local community.

Visit Us

The Museum is location in Southern Maryland at the St. Peter Claver Catholic Church just minutes from NAVAIR Station and Lexington Park, Maryland. Ample parking is available. Tour Buses are welcome. Click here for map to Church.

Contact Us

To make reservations, call 301-872-5460 or email:


The St. Peter Claver Catholic Church Museum
is a non-profit 501( c) (3), established in 2004, with #.............


Parish Life











The Cardinal Gibbons Institute

Cardinal Gibbons Institute 


"The mission of the Institute is to educate ourselves and the greater community at large of the important role Cardinal Gibbons Institute had in not just the community but the United States" 


The Cardinal Gibbons Institute was St. Mary’s County’s first high school built to educate Blacks.  Located in Ridge, Maryland, it provided academic, vocational and religious instructions to black students from across the United States.

In May 1917, land was acquired for the school.  Archbishop James Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore, Maryland donated $8,000 towards the purchase of the land. Consequently, the new school was named after the Archbishop – Cardinal Gibbons Institute.

The Knights of Columbus National Board of Directors donated $38,000 towards the erection of the school building.  In February 1922, Archbishop Michael J.Curley of Baltimore, Maryland approved the general plans of the Institute.

Cardinal Gibbons Institute was opened in September 1924 and dedicated in October 1924.  Victor and Constance Daniels were hired as the Institute's first principal and assistant principal.  The Institue's first graduating class held its commencement in June 1929.

Financial difficulties resulting from the Great Depression reportedly caused the closing of Cardinal Gibbons in 1933.  Cardinal Gibbons was reopened by Father Horace B. McKenna in 1936.  Nathan A. Pitts was hired as the Institute's principal in 1936.  In September 1952, the Oblate Sisters of Providence began their instruction at Cardinal Gibbons Institute under the direction of Mother Mary Anselm Bentley.

In June 1967, the last graduating class held it's commencement,  The school was closed due to new Maryland state laws regarding segregated education.  In April 1972, Cardinal Gibbons Institute, also known as the Cardinal Gibbons High School, long abandoned and vandalized, was torn down. In June 1997, the first Cardinal Gibbons Institute/High School class reunion was held.   


On May 28, 1988, at the 50th Anniversary of St. Peter Claver Church, Sister Mary Paul Lee proposed the idea of erecting a memorial in honor of Cardinal Gibbons Institute.  James B. Forrest, Sr. donated the first $100.00 towards the erection of this memorial.  In September 1988, the first meeting of the Cardinal Gibbons Institute Memorial Committee was held at St. Peter Claver Church's McKenna Hall.  In December 1988, work began on the renovation of the Institute's original cupola.

Generous donatrions, successful fundraisers and hard work on the part of the committee members and community supporters resulted in the completion of the memorial during the summer of 1990.  On September 1, 1990, the Cardinal Gibbons Institute Memorial was dedicated on the grounds where the education facility once stood. 

 Historical related pictures may be seen in the Musuem Photo Galley.


The Oblate Sisters at St. Peter’s

Mother M. Celestine, Sisters M. Martin and M. Techia



"The coming of the Oblate Sisters of Providence" was the answer to the fervent prayers of St. Peter Claver's congregation


During the pastorate of Father John LaFarge, S.J,, the Oblate Sisters of Providence were invited to St. Peter Claver Mission.  The day that the Sisters arrived in Ridge, November 5, 1924, was a highlight in the history of the parish.  Three Sisters, Mother M. Celestine, Sisters M. Martin and M. Techia were the first Sisters appointed for the work.  The day following their arrival, the Sisters opened school at one o'clock p.m..  Seventy-five children were present.

After living in the sacristies of the church, towards the end of February 1925, the Sisters moved into their new convent built by Father LaFarge.  School closed on June 10, 1925 and shortly afterward the Sisters returned to the Mother-house.  When school reopened on September 8th, the sixth grade was added.  Mother Katherine Drexel, foundress of the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament, Cornwell Heights, was contributing to the financial support of the school.  This support continued until 1941. 

In 1928, the grade school burned down.  When five Sisters returned in September, they courageously opened classes in the hall, where it was very inconvenient.  The Oblates made the best of the situation, rearranged things somewhat and got the school going long enough to prepare the children for Confirmation which was given by Bishop McNamara on November 14, 1928.

There were no classes during November because of the severity of the weather, the hall being without facilities for heat of any kind.  Father Thibbits, without delay, planned and began the building of a new school.  Bishop McNamara laid the cornerstone of the new school building on November 16, 1928.  The next day he blessed the convent which also had been enlarged.  There were eight grades in the new school which opened on December 3, 1928.

Due to the depression the Institute was closed.  In September 1938, the Institute reopened full-time under the title of St. Peter Claver High School.  In 1952, the Oblate Sisters assumed responsibility for the operation of the high school.  The Convent was enlarged to accommodate more sisters.  The Oblate Sisters of Providence taught at the Cardinal Gibbons Institute (also known as Cardinal Gibbons High School) from 1952 to the last graduation class in 1967.

In June 1967, the Cardinal Gibbons Institute was closed due to newly enacted Maryland State laws regarding segregation in education.  In Decembver of that year, the last two Oblate Sisters were withdrawn from the parish.

The Oblate Sisters of Providence who taught at the Cardinal Gibbons Institute from 1952 to 1967 were:

  • Sister M. Michelle Bell
  • Sistem M. Charles Jackson
  • Mother M. Anselm Bentley
  • Sister M. Paul Lee
  • Sister M. Carmela Ducan 
  • Mother Miriam Rogers
  • Sister M. Frances Gilpin
  • Sister M. Thomas Taylor
  • Sister M. Acquinis Huesner
  • Sister M. Guadalope Valdes

The following Oblate Superiors were stationed at St. Peter Claver Convent and School:

  • Mother M. Celestine Micheau
  • Mother M. Caillus Dedaux
  • Mother M. Damian Fassitt
  • Mother M. John Berchmans Thompson
  • Mother M. Andrew Payne
  • Mother M. Gabriella Jones
  • Mother M. Eucharia Carrere
  • Mother M. Cyprian Jones
  • Mother M. Anselm Bentley
  • Mother Miriam Rogers
  • Mother M. Theophane Bennett
  • Mother M. Carmel Curtis

Historical related pictures may be seen in the Musuem Photo Galley.





Mother Mary Lange

The Oblate Sisters of Providence was founded in 1829 by their foundress, Mother Mary Lange, O.S.I.  Today, we are praying to God through the intercession of Mother Mary Lange that she will be cannonized a Saint.  The Oblate Sisters of Providence was the first congregation of women of African descent.

On November 5, 1924, the Oblate Sisters of Providence arrived at St. Peter Claver's Parish.  The next day school was opened with 75 pupils in grades 1 through 5.  The first teachers were Mother M. Celestine, and Sisters M. Marte and M. Thecla.  They did not have a convent so they lived in the sacristy.

May 30, 1928, grade school was destroyed and the convent was damaged by fire.  While a new school was being built and the convent restored and enlarged, the nuns held classes in the Sodality Hall.

December 3, 1928, a new first through eight grade school was opened.  March 14 1952, the Oblate Sisters assumed responsibility for the operation of  the Cardinal Gibbon's Institute, which was the high school.  In 1965, St Peter Claver Parochial School closed because progress of integration of diocese schools led to decreased enrollment. 

Although, the Oblate Sisters of Providence are no longer with us they should always be remembered.  These women were dedicated because of their love of God.  They had strong faith, hope, and perserverance.They gave their strengths to us, who were poor,neglected and needed guidance.

We shall be eternally grateful to the Oblate Sisters of Providence.


The St. Peter Claver Elementary School


St. Peter Claver School










In 1916 St. Peter Claver Elementary Catholic School was constructed by Reverend Abraham J. Emerick, S. J.. It was a two-room school.

On November 15, 1924, three  Nuns arrived at the school. The Nuns opened school that same day at 1:00pm.  In 1928 the school was destroyed by fire. Classes were held in the Sodality Hall.
On Christmas Eve, 1927, Archbishop Curley and Father LaFarge donated $1,000.00 for a school bus. In May of 1928 the children took a trip to Washington, DC in their new school bus. Two days later the school burned down. So they opened school in the hall, long enough to prepare the children for confirmation.   On November 14, 1928 school was discontinued due to lack of heat.
In July 1931, Reverend Horace B. McKenna, S.J., became the pastor.
In 1940, Father Stephen Rudtke, Pastor of St. George’s Church, Valley Lee, MD., secured a bus and black children from that area were bused to St. Peter Claver Catholic School, to receive a catholic education.
By 1949, the enrollment had grown to 185 students. Two buses provided transportation for the gathering of children from a forty mile radius.
St. Peter Claver School at Ridge was the parochial school center for children from the first, second and eighth district.


The Pastors at St. Peter’s




 "It is only upon the firm foundation stone of faith that true character can be formed.  The current parishioners at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church have a blessed and firm arch carrying them into the next generation.  In Christ Our Lord, the cycle of life goes on."

St. Peter Claver Church of Ridge was not in existence when the black catholics attended Mass at various churches in the county,  Colored catholics attended Mass at St. Michael of Ridge, because they lived in the vicinity.  From St. Michaels residence, the Jesuits took care of St. Michael's, St. James, St. Inigoes and St. Peter Claver.

Priest who served at St. Peter Claver were:

  1. Fr. William J. Tynan, S.J. (Superior)
  2. Fr. J. B. Matthews, S.J. (Superior)
  3. Fr. Maurice Prendergast,S.J.
  4. Fr. Timothy O'Leary, S.J.
  5. Fr. Abraham J. Emerick, S.J.
  6. Fr. John J. McCloskey, S.J.
  7. Fr. Herbert J. Parker, S.J.
  8. Fr. John LaFarge, S.J.
  9. Fr. Thomas Miley, S.J.
  10. Fr. Aloysius M. Thibbits, S.J.
  11. Fr. John J. Scanion, S.J.
  12. Fr. Horace B. McKenna, S.J.(Superior)
  13. Fr. Charles A. Schnorr, S.J.
  14. Fr. Paul J. Rock, S.J. (Pastor)
  15. Fr. Lawrence V. Keegan, S.J.
  16. Fr. Robert O. McMain
  17. Fr. Anthony R. Griffin
  18. Fr. Christopher C. Twohig
  19. Fr. Charles D. Gorman
  20. Fr. Paul Gozaloff (Administrator)
  21. Fr. Francis Walsh, (Pastor)
  22. Fr. Charles McCann, (Pastor)
  23. Fr. Michael McMellone (Pastor)
  24. Fr. Patrick Smith, (Pastor)
  25. Fr. Moore
  26. Fr. Damian Shadwell, (Pastor)
  27. Current Pastor - Fr. Scott Wood

Father James Brent Matthews was native of Charles County who thoroughly understood the economy of the Negro and was a faithful friend to the colored people.  In 1918, Father Emerick built the second church at St. Peter Claver, a building of beautiful interior, seating 300 persons, constructed of wood.  In addition, he laid out St Peter's Cemetery and built its wayside crucifix.

Father Aloysius M. Thibbitts, S.J. came to St. Peter Claver in 1927. He was a clear and powerful preacher, a thunderous singer, a magnificent ceremonialist if not a liturgist.  He hunted the sick and the sinner, but also filled the church three times weekly for evening devotions with people who, in many cases walked two or three miles one way.

Fr. John LaFarge

Fr. John LaFarge took a most active part in the founding of Cardinal Gibbons Institute. Fr. LaFarge achieved remarkable financial and economic support for his parishioners.

Horace B. McKenna

In 1931, Horace McKenna had been designated pastor of the church of St. Peter Claver, the only black Jesuit parish, but his place of residence was at St. Michael's Jesuit community where he shared quarters with other Jesuits who were ministering at various nearby parishes.  "We had a pastor that stayed with us for twenty years, that was Haorace B. McKenna.  He is really like a father to us.  And he used to teach us bible class.  He taught us all our religion, and he used to come from our school and go over across the street to a high school, which was Cardinal Gibbons.  And each time I would see him coming and I was out for recess I would go and run and get his books and carry them for him...."  Ida D. Barnes Biscoe

Fr. Paul J. Rock

"...And then Fr. Rock came and that's when things picked up. He was actually very interested in the athletic program as well as the educational program."  Mother Mary Anselm Bently, O.S.P.  Fr. Rock was the last Jesuit Priest at St. Peter Claver.

Fr. Christopher Twohig

Fr. Christopher Twohig oversaw the closing of Cardinal Gibbons High School in June 1967.  Later that ear, the last two Oblate Sisters withdrew from the parish.  Fr. Twohig helped to establish the grade school building become the location for Ridge Day Care Center.

Fr. Frances Walsh

Decision was made for major renovations to the first floor of the grade school to become the new parish hall. Fr. Frances Walsh invites Archbishop Hickey to dedicate the new hall in the memory of Fr. McKenna. Fr. Walsh also helped to establish a Gospel Choir in October 1977.

Fr. Patrick Smith

Fr. Patrick Smith from Washington, D.C. was the first black pastor at St. Peters.  The Children's Gospel Choir was formed to sing at his going-away celebration in 1997.

Fr. Damian Shadwell

Fr. Damian Shadwell came to St. Peters as an associate pastor.  He loved being a priest at St. Peter Claver parish.  Like Fr. Mckenna, Fr. Shadwell's work at St. Inigoes became increasingly important to him each day that passed because he was steadily more aware that the pastoral ministry was the ideal vocation for him.  Fr. Shadwell was called "The Preacher Teacher".


Community Life

Community Life



Restoration and Renovation


Restoration and Renovation











Museum Proposal

Museum Proposal RFP is attached for review.