Once the center of the religious, social, educational and even financial lives of thousands of Baltimore 's Bohemian (Czech) families, St. Wenceslaus Church now struggles to maintain its position as a neighborhood anchor in a radically different East Baltimore . The once predominately Czech neighborhood surrounding Johns Hopkins Hospital began a rapid decline following the social upheaval of the I 960s. Now, with the city enjoying an upswing in population for the first time in de cades and Johns Hopkins expanding its medical and research facilities, there is hope that Wenceslaus, Joannes Nep, Maria and Josephus, the four bells in the Italianate east tower, will again ring over a thriving Baltimore neighborhood.
By 1870 Baltimore was already home to about a thousand Roman Catholic Bohemians; in the ensuing decade, as immigration swelled, Baltimore 's Bohemian Catholic population grew to over five thousand. During this time the leaders of the Czech community in Baltimore pressured the Archbish9P of Baltimore to secure the services of a Bohemian-born priest to minister to the growing Bohemian community. They even collected the money to pay for the passage of the eagerly anticipated Bohemian priest. In 1871 the Reverend Wendel in Vacula arrived from Bohemia and began organizing the congregation which later became St. Wenceslaus. The new parish was intended for the use of not only the Czechs in Baltimore , but also the Poles and Lithuanians. By 1879 , despite the opening of a parish school, tensions among the Czechs, Poles and Lithuanians grew. By 1882, the Archbishop of Baltimore, James Gibbons, felt compelled to appeal to the Provincial of the Redemptorist priests in America to send a priest to assume charge of the Bohemian Church in Baltimore . Archbishop Gibbons wrote that, "We will never have permanent peace until your fathers have control of the Parish, ... For the present please send some priest who speaks a little Bohemian, and you will give me great joy."
In November of 1882, the Archbishop's request was granted and Reverend Jan Jenc and' a lay brother, Nepomucene, arrived from Bohemia and undertook the care of the now nearly five thousand members of the St. Wenceslaus congregation. The sixty-five year old Father Jenc threw himself into his work with great zeal and was eventually given two assistants as the parish continued to grow. A new church was purchased in 1886 and a cloister for the Redemptorist priests as well as a convent for the School Sisters of Notre Dame, who had been given charge of the school, were added to the property. When the new church was dedicated in December of that year, Cardinal Gibbons praised the congregation for, "gracefully submitting," to a city ordinance forbidding band music on the streets on Sundays and said that, "We are justly proud of our quiet and peaceful Christian Sabbath."
By the beginning of the Twentieth Century, the Bohemian community in Baltimore had established itself in the northeast part of the city near Johns