During his tenure as Archbishop of Washington, DC, James Cardinal Hickey recognized a growing need for an elementary school to serve upper Montgomery County. He envisioned a regional school attended by children from numerous parishes. A meeting was convened with the pastors of seven upper county parishes: Our Lady of the Visitation, Darnestown; St. Mary’s Shrine, Barnesville; St Paul, Damascus; St. Rose of Lima, Gaithersburg; Mother Seton, Germantown; St. John Neumann, Gaithersburg; and Our Lady of the Presentation, Poolesville. The pastors unanimously agreed to the formation of a regional school – the first Catholic elementary school in the Archdiocese in 30 years.
Mary of Nazareth School opened on August 29, 1994 in a converted barn on the old Boyer farm property in Darnestown, MD. The same property is home to one of our seven school parishes: Our Lady of the Visitation. The parish, led by founding Pastor, the Rev. Dr. Raymond Fecteau, postponed the building of the church until Mary of Nazareth School was open to students. Sr. Frances Stavalo, M.P.F, of the Religious Teachers Filippini was the first principal, leading the school for eight years. Sisters from her order helped staff the school, as well as teachers from the Sisters of St. Frances of the Martyr St. George, and lay teachers. Sr. Elaine Bebyn, M.P.F., another Filippini religious, succeeded Sr. Frances as principal for the 2002-2003 school year. Mr. Michael J. Friel, the first lay principal, has been leading our school since the 2003-2004 school year.
The present school building, dedicated by Cardinal Hickey, was completed in 1996. It includes classrooms for kindergarten through eighth grade, a science lab, a computer lab, a multipurpose room, kitchen facilities, a health room, teachers’ lounges and administrative offices. Subsequent modifications provided space for the chapel, preschool, library, academic resource center, and rooms for the extended care program. Mary of Nazareth purchased the Katie Fitzgerald Center in 2012, which has been an invaluable asset to the school community. During the school year, the KFC is used as a gymnasium for physical education as well as school-wide events.
Cardinal Hickey’s vision of a regional school for upper Montgomery County has grown into a thriving community. The school is faithfully supported by devoted families from seven parishes and a dedicated faculty and staff. Our current enrollment has grown from the first days in the barn with 87 children to over 500 students.