Old Bohemia Historical Society started to raise funds by raising awareness about the repairs and renovations on the steeple. The project will cost about $130,000.


    ‘Old Bohemia’ is getting some much-needed renovations.
    The church’s official name is St. Francis Xavier Church. The nickname is Old Bohemia because it is located on the Old Bohemia River in Warwick, Md.
    “It was right next to the river,” said Old Bohemia Historical Society President Marji Matyniak. “The name caught on and it just stuck.”
    Old Bohemia Historical Society started to raise funds by raising awareness about the repairs and renovations on the steeple. The project will cost about $130,000.
    On Saturday, May 16, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., there will be a garage sale at the church to raise funds for the church repairs. “Old Bohemia” is maintained by the Old Bohemia Historical Society, which raised it’s own funds. Donations may be sent to the Old Bohemia Historical Society, P.O. Box 61, Warwick, MD 21912.
    Old Bohemia is approximately 305 years old. It was first built in early 1700s. It is located on the 1,000-acre Bohemia farm from when the Jesuits lived there in the early 1700s.
    That first building, which is the rectory, was torn down in 1825 and rebuilt that same year. The current church building was built in 1897. The bell tower was constructed in 1857.
    A 1912 fire burned the church to the ground, leaving only the frame standing. The current structure was rebuilt in one year.
    The bell tower is currently being renovated because the spire and belfry were rotted. The belfry is where the bell is held. The spire is a pyramidal structure on the top of the bell tower. The woodwork is being finished now.
    The church sat idle for about 27 years until the early 1960s, when it was donated to the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington.
    When the church was restored approximately 13 years ago, the bell tower was not. This is the first time the bell tower has been renovated. In 2002, the rectory was restored, adding the museum. The old barn, which has been there since the 1700s, belonged to the Jesuits when they owned the property, was restored three years ago consisting of all outside work. The framing and some materials were replaced. It was also re-covered with cedar siding. The rectory building is the old church building where mass was held because of a law that prohibited churches.
    “Preserve, protect and restore, that’s our motto,” Matyniak said.
    The bell tower is being recreated to its original form. The steel is reinforcement for underneath the bell and spire. There was pressure on the outside of the old structure, which caused everything to fall down and twist.
    “It’s like a cake,” Matyniak said. “If the bottom layers don’t hold up, the top falls.”
    The entire bell tower is being reinforced. The construction started at the end of December. They expect to be finished by the end of May.
    “It was rotted out and we had a leakage of water.” Matyniak said. “It was old and leaky. The damage was done. We didn’t expect this. Water leakage caused more damage.”
    Old Bohemia holds mass four times a year. The last mass held there was April 19. The last one before that was in October 2008. Another service will be held on Sunday, May 17. A Sept. 27 mass is also planned. The church is also used for weddings, funerals, and tours of the steeple and museum in the rectory. The church receives a lot of public support to celebrate Eucharist.
    Old Bohemia Historical Society Vice President and Building Chairman Denis Kwasnieski said the history is too rich to forget about.
    “She’s been here a long time and once we get it done, she’ll be here another 300 years,” he said. “The work being done right now should last for the next three generations. That’s what we’re doing. We’re preserving it for generations to come. It’s a beacon for hope and religious freedom.”
    Matyniak said it all goes back to Old Bohemia Society motto.
    “Religious freedom. It’s a symbol of that,” she said. “It’s the mother church of the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington. It all started here. In 1704, the Jesuits moved here to escape persecution. There’s a lot of history here. It is the beginning really.”