Our Lady of Victory Parish, Arbutus, Baltimore, Maryland (affectionately called OLV), was founded in 1952, in response to the post-war economic growth and “baby boom.” The parish was first housed in the former St. Mary’s Industrial School at the corner of Wilkens and Caton Avenues (later the location of Cardinal Gibbons School). The school had closed 2 years earlier, after serving the poor Catholic boys in Baltimore for 84 years.
The new parish, led by Father John Peacock, celebrated the first Mass on September 15, 1952. Volunteer parishioners had moved the pews from the original third floor chapel to the first floor dining rooms that would be transformed into the church. But because this site was so close to St. Benedict’s Church, it was determined that Our Lady of Victory should move. Father Peacock purchased the land we currently occupy on Wilkens Ave. in 1954; 4 acres from Ascension Parish (which had planned to establish a mission parish on the property) and 10 acres from St. Charles College (now Charlestown).
The cornerstone of the new church/school building was laid on July 26, 1956. In accordance with Archbishop Michael Curley’s focus on education, especially Catholic education, the parish first built a school building, with the intent to build a separate church to be built later on the field across the stream. Father Peacock celebrated the first Mass in the temporary church (originally planned as the auditorium for the school) on February 10, 1957, and the school opened in September 1957 for grades 1 through 4. The Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur staffed the school, assisted by some lay teachers. By 1959, Father Peacock determined that the school needed more classrooms and a multipurpose hall, which opened in 1962. At that time, the school had 16 classrooms, 8 sisters, 6 lay teachers, and approximately 600 students. That year also saw the first kindergarten class and the first graduating class from the school.
Father Peacock retired in 1972, and Father Thomas Byrd became the pastor. At that time, it became clear that the plans for building a separate church were unrealistic, so the parish began renovation to convert the temporary church to the permanent worship space. New stained glass windows, new lighting, and a new organ were installed, and the pews from St. Mary’s Industrial School were refinished. This renovation turned the auditorium into our current church. In the early 1980s, under the leadership of Father Chris Carney, the parish undertook another renovation of the church to redesign and enlarge the sanctuary and add a sacristy and Marian Room (originally used as a “crying room”).
When Father Timothy Klunk became pastor in 2000, it was clear that the church was in need of renovation again. The pews needed major repairs, and because the cost estimate for this work was $30,000, we were required to apply for approval of the project from the Archdiocese. We were told that we should “think bigger,” and that we needed to develop a Master Plan. Over the next 2 years, the Pastor, Pastoral Council, Pastoral Staff, Finance Committee, and school Principal worked to develop the Master Plan for the entire parish community. They looked closely at all of our facilities and projected the needs for the future. Phase 1 of our Master Plan included redesigning the interior of the church and adding a gathering space. In 2004, the parish rolled out the “Continuing the Tradition of Victory” fundraising campaign to fund this work; construction began in the summer of 2008.
While construction was underway, parishioners celebrated Mass in the school hall. It was a joyous day when we were able to move back into the church for the first Mass in November 2009! Another joyous day occurred on March 13, 2010, when then Archbishop Edwin F. O’Brien concelebrated a Mass with Auxiliary Bishops Denis J. Madden and Mitchell T. Rozanski to bless the completed church.
One of the highlights of our project was the installation of the seven historical stained glass windows in the gathering space. These windows were given to Our Lady of Victory parish when the chapel at St. Mary’s Industrial School was demolished, and were in storage for the past 50 years. The plan was to install the windows when the parish built the permanent church. Five of the windows depict the life and death of Jesus (the Annunciation, Nativity, Crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension); the other two depict the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Coronation of Mary. They have been restored and now grace the gathering space.
In 2016 Fr. John Rapisarda was named Pastor. For the previous 5 years, Fr. John had been assigned as Chaplain/Director of UMBC Campus Ministry. As Pastor of OLV, Fr. John has integrated the UMBC “Catholic Retrievers” into Parish life. With activities at both UMBC and OLV, our Parish has seen a new infusion of young adults and the Retrievers have found a new spiritual home.
For the first time in nearly 20 years, the Archbishop has assigned OLV an Associate Pastor. Fr. Joshua Laws comes to us as a newly ordained priest in his first pastoral assignment. Fr. Josh has spearheaded a renewal of the Parish Youth Ministry and lends his previous teaching experience to OLV School Religious Instruction.
After more than 50 years, Our Lady of Victory is still a thriving faith community serving approximately 618 families. The parish has a flourishing school and religious education program for children. The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) and music programs also continue to serve the parish. Parishioners serve as Eucharistic Ministers to the Sick and Homebound, as well as various social action activities, including working with the Respect Life ministry and operating a food pantry on Saturday mornings, distributing food that is donated by parishioners.