Saint John the Baptist


Founding Pastor: Fr. Martin T. Quinn
Parish Founded: Designated as a parish on July 6, 1940, after being a mission church of Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church (Winchester) for over 50 years.
Church Dedication: September 7, 1884, by Bishop John Keane
Additional Dates of Importance:  June 24, 1998: A larger adjacent church building was dedicated. 2003: Original 1884 church was designated part of the Front Royal Historical District and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

What Makes This Parish Unique?

Saint John Church is an epicenter of Catholic activity! Within its parish boundaries there are numerous Catholic enterprises and educational institutions. From these organizations a strong Catholic community developed around Saint John the Baptist Church, which has grown to attract very large families and young adults alike. Many of Saint John's parishioners have moved to the Front Royal area specifically for the Catholic kinship and to raise their families in a supportive Catholic atmosphere. The fruit of this robust Christian hamlet is an active, growing Catholic population and many religious vocations. St. John Church often has the largest number of seminarians and sisters in formation than any other parish in the Diocese.

Parish History:

Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church of Front Royal, Virginia, was built as one of very few “memorial” Catholic churches in the United States dedicated to an individual. That individual is a man named John Carrell Jenkins. Therefore, the history of the Jenkins family becomes part of parish history.

The Jenkins family is traced back to some of the earliest Catholic pioneers to come to America in the 1600s. Their Catholic faith passed from generation to generation and, by the mid-1800s, Thomas and Louisa Jenkins were prominent Catholic figures in Baltimore, Maryland, excelling in business and philanthropy and active in Church affairs. Thomas and Louisa had been educated at Saint Mary and Saint Joseph Academy in Emmitsburg, and in her youth, Louisa personally knew Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton. Together Thomas and Louisa had 10 children; their oldest son was named John Carrell Jenkins.

John Carrell Jenkins was born on June 14, 1834. Known as “Carrell” to his family and friends, he grew up in Baltimore and was a member of what is now known as the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1846, Carrell entered Mount St. Mary's College Preparatory School in Emmitsburg, graduating in June 1850 at the age of 16. He then went to work as a clerk in his father's leather merchant business.

Carrell was described by family as “easy in manner and gentle in voice… generous to a fault, especially to those in distress; praising the good qualities and suppressing the faults of others.”

When he was a young man in his 20s, riots and uprisings in the city of Baltimore became more frequent. Carrell joined the Maryland Guard to help quell the violence and protect certain parts of the city. The Maryland Guard became a prestigious military organization at this time. Locally and nationally the unrest came to a head, and Carrell was caught up in America's Civil War. But only four months in, he contracted typhoid fever. His cousin, E. Courtney Jenkins, was with him and wrote about their war experience.

Courtney wrote, “There was no more cheerful or faithful soldier in that little army of 5,000 men than was Carrell Jenkins, and it became proverbial that even the 'nine-days-in-the-week' rain, as the boys called it, could not wash out the droll humor and light-heartedness of Carrell.”

In late September 1861, Carrell fell ill and was removed to a sick wagon. With Courtney as his nurse, they began an arduous journey of over 50 miles to the nearest hospital in Warm Springs, Virginia. It was a difficult ride over mountains and across rivers.

When they arrived in Warm Springs on October 1, typhoid fever and pneumonia were confirmed. When on October 10 Carrell was told that there was no further hope for his life, he begged his cousin and caretakers to pray for and with him. And when told that no priest was available, he clutched his blessed medal and scapular that hung around his neck and made his peace with God. He left affectionate and tender messages for all at home and thanked others for their care of him.

On the morning of October 11, 1861, John Carrell Jenkins passed away. His body was taken by train to Richmond, where a funeral took place at the cathedral with the bishop officiating. Carrell's remains were temporarily buried on the cathedral grounds until four years later when his father was able to take him home to be laid to rest alongside other family members.

Approximately 20 years later, the Jenkins family requested that a chapel be built somewhere in western Virginia in memory of Carrell. The request was granted by Bishop John Keane of Richmond, and the cornerstone was laid on October 7, 1883, in Front Royal, Virginia.

It is said that the first Mass ever held in this county of Warren was celebrated in a railroad camp in 1872 by Rev. John Joseph Kain of Harper's Ferry. Until Saint John Church was built, Mass was celebrated in the homes of the Macatee and Crudden families.

The land upon which Saint John Church was built was donated by George and Henrietta Macatee. Henrietta was a distant cousin to John Carrell Jenkins. The architect was Major R. J. Black of Richmond. Construction began under Sacred Heart's pastor in Winchester, Rev. Denis J. O'Connell, in 1883. O'Connell was appointed rector of the North American College in Rome, and so the church was completed under his successor, Rev. James B. O'Reilly. The Jenkins family paid for the entire church to be built and even provided the pews, bell, altar, sacred vessels and vestments. Some of these items are still in use at Saint John Church.

Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church was dedicated on September 7, 1884, by Bishop John Keane, who was assisted by Fr. O'Connell; Fr. Foley of Baltimore was the celebrant of the High Mass, with Fr. O'Reilly assisting.

A marble tablet was placed on the wall of the Church where it remains today, reading:
Pray for the Soul of John Carrell Jenkins - Died October 11, 1861 - Out of Whose means Principally this Church has been Erected

Saint John Church was a mission church with priests from Winchester coming once a month to administer the Sacraments and celebrate Mass. On July 6, 1940, Saint John was designated as a parish, with its first pastor being Fr. Martin T. Quinn.

On June 24, 1998, a new larger church was dedicated next to the original, under the pastor, Fr. William Ruehl. The original church was designated part of the Front Royal Historical District in 2003 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A renovation of the original church was undertaken in 2006-2007 and it continues to serve as an adoration chapel to this day.


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