Rosaria House resident Anthony Pedone embraces the archbishop at the parish Mass.
Rosaria House resident Anthony Pedone embraces the archbishop at the parish Mass.
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The opening song at Mass on Nov. 8 at St. Rose of Lima in Gaithersburg, "Welcome to this House," written by parishioner Remi Fonseca Bauer, set the stage for a morning when Archbishop Donald Wuerl blessed Rosaria House, a new group home there for three men with developmental disabilities.

"This is a very special moment, not only for the parish, but for the archdiocese and the county, as we undertake this wonderful act of cooperation and service," the archbishop said at the Mass he celebrated before blessing the home.

The house was constructed on St. Rose of Lima property, near the rectory, with more than $700,000 in construction funding from Montgomery County's affordable housing fund. Jubilee Association of Maryland will provide residential support services, while St. Rose of Lima parishioners will work with Potomac Community Resources to provide enrichment opportunities for the residents.

Dignitaries attending the dedication for Rosaria House included Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett; Montgomery County Council President Phil Andrews; Gaithersburg Mayor Sidney Katz; and District 17 Del. Jim Gilchrist.

This is the first project of Rosaria Communities, a newly established non-profit owned by the archdiocese that plans to provide additional affordable housing for persons with intellectual and physical disabilities, and work in partnership with parishes, service providers and other public and private groups.

"The Rosaria Communities home is intended to be a visible manifestation of God's love in the world, a visible manifestation of faith transforming and changing the world," the archbishop said.

The new Rosaria House, which parishioners began planning almost a decade ago, will offer a home "reflective of the faith and love of their neighbors," Archbishop Wuerl said. "...May it always stand in the midst of this community, not only as a sign of what God can do, but as a sign of what we can do."
In a note in that weekend's parish bulletin, Msgr. Paul Dudziak, St. Rose's pastor, introduced his new neighbors and the parish's "new friends" - Anthony Pedone, James L'Heureux and Stephen Roldan, three young men with Down syndrome who now live at Rosaria House.

Accompanied by family members and parishioners, the three men brought up the offertory gifts to Archbishop Wuerl at the Mass, and each man hugged him.

In remarks after Communion, Thomas Welch Jr., the president and CEO of Rosaria Communities, thanked the St. Rose parishioners for their support of the project. "Your presence reminds us of the call to love as Christ loves," he said.

After Mass, parishioners and visitors processed from the parish church to Rosaria House, located near the rectory. As Archbishop Wuerl blessed the white frame house, he prayed, "Inspired by His teachings and example, seek to make this house before all else a dwelling place of Christ's goodness and love."

Leggett, interviewed after the dedication, praised the project as "a wonderful partnership." He said Montgomery County "can't do it alone" - the support of congregations can help such efforts succeed. "This is a good use of tax dollars," he said.

Mary McGinnity, a St. Rose parishioner and the executive director of the archdiocesan Department of Social Concerns, helped plan the home. "It truly is a community partnership," she said, comparing it to "an Amish barn-raising."

When St. Rose parishioners were planning their new church, they decided to devote 10 percent of the parish's grounds - just more than one acre - to housing for people with disabilities. The home includes a large dining room and living room, and rooms for the residents and for a live-in employee who assists them.

Marie "Lulu" Roldan, whose son Stephen now lives at Rosaria House, called it an answer to her prayers. "Now I can close my eyes, and I know he's being taken care of in a very special way," she said. "...This is his home now. He is so happy."

Laura Wallerstedt, a St. Rose parishioner whose cousin Anthony has found a home at Rosaria House, said, "It's such a tremendous blessing for us as a community, and a wonderful opportunity for us to reach out in our own backyard."

She sat beside her cousin at the Mass, and he joined in the prayers and singing. "He feels like such a part of the community," she said.