Although St. Agnes Catholic Church in Shepherdstown looks modern, its design hearkens back to the round churches of early Christianity, such as the 5th century Santo Stefano Rotondo in Rome.
Built in 2008, the exterior of the building is designed to reflect the symbol of the mandorla — the ancient emblem consisting of two circles coming together, overlapping to form an almond shape in the middle. The image symbolizes the divine and human coming together as one. The front of the building is concave, a representation of the church reaching out and embracing the community.
St. Agnes was built and named in honor of a Miss Agnes Gibson, a lay person who worked “so faithfully and laboriously in raising money for its erection.” Born May 4, 1853 in Frederick, Md., Gibson died Jan. 10, 1941 and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery. She taught music, Christian doctrine in Sunday School, and she directed the choir at St. Agnes.
St. Agnes is known as a “tithing parish.” Mentioned in Leviticus 27:30 “And all the tithe of the land, whether of the seed of the land, or of the fruit of the tree, is the Lord’s: it is holy unto the Lord,” 10 percent of Sunday offerings are designated for those in need. Parishioners are encouraged to suggest charities or community needs to be served. Among the recipients this year are ABLE Families, Birthright, Catholic Charities of West Virginia, Caring Cupboard, Good Shepherd Interfaith Caregivers and Jefferson County Community Ministries. Fifty percent of parishioners at St. Agnes are involved in ministry work.
The current pastor is Father T. Matthew Rowgh, who has served St. Agnes for 18 years. He studied at St. Mary’s Seminary and University in Baltimore and received a Ph.D. in pastoral counseling from Loyola University Maryland. He leads a congregation of 450 registered families and over 1,000 parishioners.
Service times are Saturday at 5:30 p.m. and Sunday at 8 and 10:30 a.m. Sacrament of Reconciliation is held at 4:30 p.m. every Saturday and by appointment. Special services during the year include a 5:30 p.m. and midnight Christmas Eve mass, and Christmas Day services at 8 and 10:30 a.m.
The church supports a plenitude of ministries. The congregation supports the needs of nearby Shepherd University students. Students are welcome to participate as active members of the parish. Other ministries supported include Good Shepherd Catholic Campus Ministry Center, a liturgical ministry, a music ministry and “OWLS.”
“OWLS” is an acronym for “The Older, Wiser, Livelier Seniors.” A social group of senior members, they gather on the first Wednesday of each month at the Parish Center. Outings and activities are planned that are spiritual, social, and informative. In the past, the group has traveled to the Basilica at Emmitsburg and the St. Elizabeth Ann Seaton shrine, filled backpacks at the beginning of the school year, provided migrant worker kits, and enjoyed periodic potluck lunches, theater, concerts, and other activities.
For more information about St. Agnes Catholic Church, call the church office at 304-876-6436 or go to the website www.stagnesshepherdstown.org.
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