Our Parish History: The First Rectory, Part I

This is the fourth article in a series.  Here are the links for the first three parts:

Our Founding: June 12, 1953
The First Parish Meeting

Our First Christmas



First Rectory

The First Rectory at 101 Hilldale Rd.




Anxious to be even closer to his people and to provide them with a more convenient location so that daily Mass could be offered in the new Saint Joseph Parish, Founding Pastor, Rev. Francis J. Hennegan, received permission on June 15, 1953 from Archbishop O’Hara to purchase a house to be used as a rectory.   The Oak Lane Manor Realty Company was building a series of houses on Hilldale Road.  In June 1953, Father Hennegan signed an agreement of sale to purchase a house that would be constructed on Lot #578.  The house and ground would cost $25,000.  In January 1954, the new rectory was ready for occupancy at 101 Hilldale Road.

Now, Father Hennegan had a base of operation and he could fulfill his dream of a chapel where daily Mass and evening devotions could be held.  Many families held card parties and cake sales to help furnish the rectory.  Others offered their services to help take care of the pastor and rectory.  Prominent among these were Mrs. Annie Brennan and her daughter, Catherine, who worked to keep the rectory neat and clean.  Mr. James Hennegan (Father Hennegan’s brother), his wife, Helen, and their daughters, Mary Ellen and Roseanne, also spent many hours taking care of things.  Mr. Harry Stuker did a great deal of shopping and cooking for Father for quite some time.

The first order of business was to prepare a place for Mass.  The living room and dining room were converted into a temporary chapel and the first altar was a converted vestment case obtained from Saint John the Baptist Church in Philadelphia.  The first Baptism in the temporary chapel was Regina A. Larkins, the daughter of Joseph and Regina Larkins, on February 21, 1954.  On Saturday morning, February 27, 1954 at eight o’clock, the first Mass was celebrated in the rectory and served by John Becker.

On Monday, March 1, 1954 at 6:45am, Mass was said for the first time in the rectory for parishioners to attend.  Mrs. Joseph Doyle was the first adult to receive Holy Communion in the temporary chapel along with Michael Becker, the server, Mr & Mrs. John Becker, Sr. and Al Sheppard.

Excerpts from the Saint Joseph Church, Cheltenham, Silver Jubilee Memorial Book
(written in 1978 by Rev. John B. DeMayo)

Next week: The First Rectory, Part II