Our Lady of Pompei Catholic Church
South Conkling & Claremont Streets, Baltimore, Maryland
Serving God's people since 1923
Our Lady of Pompei is a Roman Catholic church ministering to the community of Highlandtown in Baltimore, Maryland. Our feast day is celebrated on the second weekend in October.
Our Lady of Pompei was founded as a parish in 1923 in order to serve the Italian immigrant community in Baltimore. Construction of the church began in 1923 and was completed the next year; the first mass was held on June 1, 1924. The church was founded by the Vincentian Fathers. The first pastor and founder was Fr. Luigi Scialdone, C.M. (Congregation of the Mission).
After spending 17 years of missionary work in the land of China, Fr. Luigi Scialdone, C.M. came to Highlandtown. The archbishop at the time, Michael J. Curley, appointed Fr. Scialdone pastor of the scattered Italian flock. Archbishop Curley reflects on Fr. Scialdone’s work in his letter of April 7, 1934: "He began his work under the most difficult circumstances … The Italian flock was scattered. Very little attention had been paid to them." Work began on January 16, 1923
Over the next 50 years, Our Lady of Pompei continued to be an anchor in the Highlandtown community. The parish school offered K-12 education and Sunday School. Parishioners enjoyed the feast day celebration and processing throughout the Highlandtown neighborhood and hosted an annual bull roast and summer street carnival.
In the early 1990s, both the parish and the neighborhood were currently experiencing very difficult times. Enrollment in the parish school was declining and families were leaving the city. New realities were setting in - the polarization of the population which consists of two groups, the very young and the very old, the increased presence of transients, and growing financial difficulties for the parish and the people.
In 1991, the Vincentian Fathers left Our Lady of Pompei, and the decision was made to join the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Fr. Lou Esposito, current pastor, petitioned Archbishop Keeler to take charge of Our Lady of Pompei. In that letter his Superior General, Fr. Esposito spoke of the decision he made "after a long period of storming heaven and earth." He had the sad duty of requesting the necessary dispensation from his religious vows with the Vincentian Fathers in order to be incarnated into the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Fr. Lou led the parish in a time of rebuilding.
In 2008, in response to the growing Hispanic community, Our Lady of Pompei began offering mass in Spanish. Fr. Luis Cremis joined the parish, from a mission in Peru, to assist with the expanded ministry. Parish life was reinvigorated! The parish school combined with the parish school of St. Elizabeth's of Hugary to form Archbishop Borders School. This was a K-8 school administered by the Archdiocese of Baltimore operated in the Our Lady of Pompei school building.
Unfortunately, in 2011, then Archbishop Edwin O'Brien, decided to consolidate the Spanish ministry in East Baltimore to one church. The Archbishop Borders School was also moved. Not permitted to offer Mass in Spanish, many of the newer parishioners, who made Our Lady of Pompei their home, were uprooted.
The parish began facing similar problems to the early 1990s - a polarization of two groups, a stable elderly population but a very small number of youths, parish financial difficulties, and decreased participation.
Since 2011, Our Lady of Pompei had been in talks with various organizations to lease the empty school building. The goal was to provide a service to the surrounding community such as an adult learning center or housing for refugees. Unable to secure a use of the building, Our Lady of Pompei, in conjunction with the Archdioses of Baltimore, decided to sell the school building by the end of 2014.
In August 2013, Bishop Madden visited Our Lady of Pompei and spoke with the parishioners. He heard the determination of the parishioners that Our Lady of Pompei is not dead. The message was clear - we require some help from the Archdiocese but we want Pompei to live on!
In July 2014, Fr. Lou Esposito celebrated his 50th anniversary of priesthood and 50 years of continuous ministry to one parish - Our Lady of Pompei. Somewhat of a bittersweet moment, the anniversary celebration was the last event that was in the school hall before the sale is finalized in August 2014.