The Catholic Church came to Lewes, DE in 1902, when a mission priest from St. John The Apostle Church in Milford, DE made occasional trips to Lewes to hold Masses in a small second floor room in the old firehouse building at the corner of Third & Chestnut Streets. Services continued at that site until 1915, when the Catholic population outgrew the available space.
At that time, a modest two-story frame building was purchased and moved to Market & Orr Streets and was named St. Michael's Catholic Church, a Mission Church of St. John The Apostle. In 1905, when St. Agnes by the Sea opened in Rehoboth, many Catholics from Lewes traveled to Rehoboth to attend Mass, and attendance dwindled at St. Michael's. The fate of St. Michael's is uncertain. It was either moved or demolished when the telephone company purchased the land.
In 1905, The Most Reverend Bishop John J. Monaghan of the Wilmington Diocese purchased several cottages and a vacant lot covering the entire length of the ocean front block between Brooklyn and Laurel Streets in Rehoboth Beach. He presented the property to the Franciscan Teaching and Nursing Order as a summer vacation retreat for sisters. A small chapel was established and later expanded to a frame church to accommodate Catholic worshipers. On August 9, 1906, St. Agnes by the Sea opened as the first Catholic Church in our resort area. The Church was named in honor of Sister Agnes, the first Mother Superior of U.S. Franciscan Order.
Over the next few years, a rectory opened as well as two large cottages situated between the Church and rectory. The Rehoboth Beach Camp Meeting Association of Methodist-Episcopal Church originally owned the land. At first, St. Agnes was open only during summer months. Reportedly, the nuns helped the survivors of the two shipwrecks that occurred at the end of Brooklyn Avenue. In 1946, the Franciscan Order converted the buildings for rentals and called them Star of the Sea.
In 1962, the Church was damaged beyond repair in a storm and was razed to make room for apartments. In the 1970's, the entire Franciscan property was leased to developers who constructed the Star of the Sea high-rise condominiums, which exist today. As the Catholic population grew, the Wilmington Diocese purchased property at the corner of King Charles and Laurel Streets and built St. Edmond's in 1939.
Named for Bishop Edmond Fitzmaurice, St. Edmond's continued as a Mission Church of St. John's in Milford until 1952 when it became a separate parish under its first pastor, Msgr. Francis J. Desmond. Originally, St. Edmond's was open only on Sundays during the winter. In 1954, St. Edmond's built an elementary school, staffed by Benedictine nuns from Ridgely, MD, which was adjacent to the Church. Students attended from Georgetown and the surrounding areas; however, the school closed in 1969 when the community of nuns was obliged to withdraw. The classrooms are presently used for Religious Education classes for St. Edmond. St. Jude’s used the classrooms until June, 2007. During Msgr. Desmond's pastorate, three missions were established: St. Ann's, Bethany Beach (1955); St. Michael the Archangel, Georgetown (1956); and St. Jude The Apostle, Lewes (1960). St. Michael's became a separate parish in 1957; St. Ann's, in 1972; and St. Jude's in November 2002.
In 1959, the Diocese bought land north of Five Points in Lewes and built the Shrine of St. Jude, a Mission Church to St. Edmond's. In the early 1960's the Church was open every weekend but was closed from Labor Day to Memorial Day because of low attendance. Beginning in the early 1970's Masses were celebrated from May to October. By 1984, St. Jude's was opened from the second Sunday of March until the Sunday after Thanksgiving. With the growth of the Catholic population in our area, St. Jude's celebrated weekend Mass by the late 1980's.
The Shrine of St. Jude, Mission Church of St. Edmond Church, became a separate parish on November 30, 2002, with Rev. James D. Hreha as its Founding Pastor. Bishop Michael Saltarelli presided over the Dedication and Consecration of the new parish. Since its dedication, St. Jude The Apostle has grown tremendously. The parish has grown from 941 families at the dedication in 2002, to its current registration of 1800 families as of November, 2012.
In the summer of 2003, Bishop Saltarelli visited St. Jude The Apostle to dedicate the Parish rectory, so that the parish clergy would have a place to live. At the same time the Bishop dedicated the building that would temporarily house the parish offices, library and meeting rooms. The dream for this building was to become a Chapel for daily Mass and Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration at some time in the near future.
On September 22, 2007, all the hopes and dreams of the parishioners of St. Jude The Apostle Parish who had worked and sacrificed their time, talent, and treasure became a reality. Bishop Michael Saltarelli again visited St. Jude The Apostle Parish to dedicate two new buildings: The Parish Life Center, where we now gather to meet, celebrate and socialize; and the Religious Education Center, also home of the Parish offices - both places where parishioners can enjoy the fruits of their labors.
The Religious Education Center is a place to educate our children in the faith. Religious Education classes are held September to May. Also offered are Summer Enrichment Programs for young children. Parishioners can gather for Pastoral Council, Finance Council, Liturgy, Christian Formation, Salt and Light, Parish and Family Life, Building and Maintenance, Knights of Columbus, Columbiettes, and St. Vincent de Paul meetings. The Religious Education Center houses a parish media center/library for anyone interested in learning more about the faith, seeking answers to questions, or doing research.
The Parish Offices are located at the west end of the Religious Education Center building with a separate entrance. This portion of the facility houses the offices of the Pastor, Associate Pastor, Deacons, Business Manager, Development Office and Administrative Staff.
When Bishop Saltarelli blessed and dedicated the new Religious Education Center and Parish Life Center in 2007, one dream was realized, but another lingered: converting the office building into a Eucharistic Chapel. On November 30, 2009 that dream was made real when we celebrated the Dedication and Blessing of the new Eucharistic Chapel. Today we celebrate our Daily Mass in the Chapel along with Eucharistic Adoration of Our Lord.
The Church was closed in January, 2012 for the first phase of renovation. This included new ceiling tiles, staining of woodworking including the crucifix and sanctuary furniture; paint in the sanctuary; carpet; new sound system; music boards; refurbishing of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph statues; new lights on the altar; Venetian plaster added to the Shrine of St. Jude; new side doors; and renovation of the bathrooms. The Church opened for the summer with a second phase of renovations continuing in the fall. This included installation of a Eucharistic wood carving from Italy, moving of the St. Joseph statue to establish a unified Holy Family shrine, and addition of Venetian plaster and wood frames to the back wall. The Reconciliation Room also had a complete makeover.
On June 24, 2015, Rev. Thomas A. Flowers became the second pastor of St. Jude’s and Rev. Jones Kukatla became the Associate Pastor.
On May 1, 2020, Msgr Charles Brown became the Parish Administrator