We have started collecting an "oral history" of the Saint Ambrose parish community. Please share your story with us! Email us at AmbroseHistoryProject@gmail.com
or call the rectory at 301-773-9300 and someone will call you back!
My name is Evelyn Cunningham. My Husband Joe and I moved to Cheverly in August 1949. We started attending St Ambrose when it was still in the little mission chapel. The chapel is gone now, it was bulldozed to make way for the completion of Route 50. Back then Cheverly only comprised about a third of the number of homes that it has now and many of the side streets were not through streets, including our own Parkway! Several streets had not yet even been established!
"Most of us were young and able-bodied, and so after we bought the land, we all banded together, construction workers all the way to the town doctor, and we just started cutting down the trees and clearing the land on our own."
Saint Ambrose's present property was a forest. Most of us were young and able-bodied, and so after we bought the land, we all banded together, construction workers all the way to the town doctor, and we just started cutting down the trees and clearing the land on our own. Among us, someone always had some helpful contact or favor they could call in to obtain for us the heavy machinery we needed: Log chains, chainsaws, tractors, etc. to remove all the stumps and brush. Tom Ashe was especially involved because he was a builder and member of the parish; he built many of the homes during the rapid expansion of Cheverly during the 1950s and 1960s. After the work sessions, the men always went off to the Friendly Inn for a chat and refreshments.
Father Fannon, for whom the parish hall is named, was most appreciative of all our hard work and would always arrange a catered dinner for the couples, with everyone dressed for the occasion, of course. Unfortunately, he died of a heart attack shortly after we finished building, while saying his Office in the Rectory den, but at least he was able to see all his hard work through to completion.
We built the school and gym first. Hard work was the name of the game, especially for the men. They did cement work. Joe had never done cement work before, but he was able to learn enough to help construct the steps at the school and the sidewalks around the property. The men did whatever tasks were necessary--the cement work and a lot of their other handiwork is still in use at the parish today! Needless to say, the experience served them well around their own homes; the ladies profited quite a bit from loaning their husbands out!
Our parish was rich with so much talent. Every parishioner had something unique to offer, and offer it they did! Together, we could get anything accomplished. I have had a wonderful life as a member of St Ambrose, and I hope all of you can have as fond memories as I do.
"They asked my husband, Bob Simpson, who understood more about gambling and how to make money, to take over."
My name is Sue Simpson, and I have been at St Ambrose for many years.
I remember when they started having the Las Vegas nights in the mid 1970s. The first one was fairly successful and made several thousand dollars for the School. But then they asked my husband, Bob Simpson, who understood more about gambling and how to make money, to take over. He is the one that booted out the buffet dinner from the event so people had more time to gamble and so the whole hall could be used to hold more people. We would sell sandwiches and drinks still, through the kitchen window, but if you wanted to sit you had to play cards too! The first casino night Bob ran ended up making more than $20,000 for the school in a single night! So, they were eager to keep him on, and he organized the events for the next 4 or 5 years. But it didn't last long, because the County made the gambling and liquor licenses more restrictive. You could not just have volunteers walk in and serve drinks anymore, they had to get background checks and affidavits and such before they could help. Also, with the gambling, we had to start playing for tokens and prizes rather than money, that made them stop making so much money, and they eventually petered out. I don't know what the status of that is now, if they ever tried to revive it.
That is just one of my many memories of my time at Saint Ambrose, I hope you can find some memories of your own.
"My youngest points up at the Crucifix above the altar and asks me, 'Mommy, who's that guy on the high dive?'"
My name is Linda Carr, and I just wanted to take a moment to share with you a fond memory of my time here at St Ambrose. We first came to the parish in 1982. Now I have a lot of kids, and I used to be a Director of Religious Education, and so I was taking my kids to Church and trying to explain everything to them to keep their interest. Well, It was Summer of that year, and at home we were watching the Olympics on TV. So, when we get to the Church and I am talking to my kids, my youngest points up at the Crucifix above the altar and asks me, "Mommy, who's that guy on the high dive?" I guess he needed a little more religious education! Now, every time I look at that cross, I remember that funny story.
St Ambrose is home for me, and I hope you can form your own memories here too.
My name is Luanne Smith, I have been a parishioner at Saint Ambrose for a very long time.
"We were all prepping for the ceremony... when the power went out...we lit some candles and started cooking with gas. "
Back in 1980, there was a wedding for someone in the Curley family. We were all prepping for the ceremony downstairs in Fannon Hall, when the power went out. We panicked because we were on a very tight schedule to get all the food and the Church ready for the wedding. So, we lit some candles and started cooking with gas. Well, then the window wells of Fannon Hall flooded, and then the whole hall. It was a mess! We were still cleaning up while the Mass was going on upstairs! But, we got it done before anyone came down. No one knew until much later that we pulled off several minor miracles preparing that Reception dinner!
What a crazy memory! I love my parish, and I hope you have memories that let you say the same.
My name is Evelyn Cunningham. My Husband Joe and I moved to Cheverly in August 1949, nearly from the beginning! Our First Pastor, Monsignor Joseph C Fenton, was a wonderful historian and teacher at Catholic U, but he was also a great organizer at our little mission church as well. His sermons were really inspiring too. He would tell us about the history of the chapel in which we celebrated Mass, dating back to its earliest days; this was the old chapel before we built the new Church. The chapel was always filled wall-to-wall with people.
"Once I was helping him and he dropped a hamburger on the ground. It was covered with leaves and small debris...He shrugged and said, 'these little specks look like pepper anyway' and put it back on the grill for a few minutes! I don't know who got that burger, but no one complained!"
Monsignor Fenton was also fond of the youth. Frequently, he would arrange cook-outs at the Quinn's small farm on Sunday afternoons. Monsignor would grill the hamburgers! Once I was helping him and he dropped a hamburger on the ground. It was covered with leaves and small debris, but he just looked at me with exaggerated concern and said, "Well, the Lord wouldn't want us to waste it." He then bent over, picked up the burger and brushed the larger leaves off of it. He shrugged and said, "these little specks look like pepper anyway" and put it back on the grill for a few minutes! I don't know who got that burger, but no one complained!