Category Archives: Parish History

66 Years Ago…

Father Hennnegan

Our Founding Pastor, Rev. Francis J. Hennegan

On May 22, 1953, the Archbishop of Philadelphia,  John O’Hara, announced the establishment of a new parish dedicated to Saint Joseph, the patron of the Universal Church, to be situated in Cheltenham Township in Montgomery County.  The new parish would be made up of parts of Holy Angels and Saint Helena in Philadelphia and Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Cheltenham.

At the same time as Archbishop O’Hara announced the establishment of Saint Joseph Parish, he also announced the appointment of the founding pastor, Rev. Francis J. Hennegan, then assistant pastor at Saint Gabriel Church in Philadelphia.  Father Hennegan would assume the arduous task of starting the new parish on Friday, June 12, 1953.

We thank God for the abundant blessings that He has bestowed on our parish during these 66 years.  We pray for the many men and women who sacrificed so much to build the parish community that we enjoy being a part of today.  We ask our patron, St. Joseph, to continue to protect our parish family as we continue the mission to build up the Kingdom of God for generations to come.  St. Joseph, pray for us!

For a detailed parish history, click here:

In Loving Memory: Msgr. Richard J. Skelly

msgr-skelly

Please pray for the soul of Rev. Msgr. Richard J. Skelly, the third pastor of Saint Joseph Church, Cheltenham (1981-1987).  Msgr. Skelly passed away on Thursday, January 25, 2017.

The Reception of the Body will be held at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, Morton, on Thursday, February 2, 2017 at 4pm followed by a viewing.  A parish Mass will be held at 7pm.

Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. will celebrate a Funeral Mass for Msgr. Skelly at Saint Joseph Church, Aston (Delaware County), on Friday, February 3, 2017 at 11am.  A viewing will be held beginning at 9am.

Msgr. Skelly will always be remembered for his great love for the people of Saint Joseph Parish and his great love of sports (he had been Athletics Director at Bishop McDevitt High School for 23 years prior to his assignment at our parish).  Many parishioners fondly remember Msgr. (then Father) Skelly behind the wheel of the tractor cutting the parish field or behind the wheel of the parish school bus transporting students to various extracurricular activities.

Eternal rest grant to Msgr. Skelly, O Lord, and may perpetual light shine upon him.  May he rest in peace.  My his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.  Amen.

 

Parish History: 25th Anniversary Celebration (1978)

This is the thirteenth article in a series.  Here are the links for the first twelve parts:

Our Founding: June 12, 1953
The First Parish Meeting
Our First Christmas
The First Rectory, Part I
The First Rectory, Part II
Ground Breaking!
The First Convent
Church and School
The New Convent
The New Rectory
A New Pastor
Convent Explosion

Our parish’s second pastor, Father Richard B. Ward’s priorities centered principally around the church building and the sanctuary.  During the summer of 1976, the church was completely redecorate with the altars and statues refurbished, the walls painted a light gold and a matching gold carpet in the sanctuary and aisles.  At the same time, the hall in the rear was re-floored with an appropriate color tile.  In the summer of 1977, the usher’s room and the crying room were re-tiled, together with both sacristies and the passage behind the main altar.  The tiles under the pews were renewed and the pews cleaned and revarnished.  This work naturally took money, but due to the constant generosity of our parishioners, this work was squeezed into the annual budget.

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Our Parish History: Convent Explosion

This is the twelfth article in a series.  Here are the links for the first eleven parts:

Our Founding: June 12, 1953
The First Parish Meeting
Our First Christmas
The First Rectory, Part I
The First Rectory, Part II
Ground Breaking!
The First Convent
Church and School
The New Convent
The New Rectory
A New Pastor

On July 11, 1975, at about 8:45pm, a devastating blast shook the neighborhood.  Something mechanically had gone wrong with the water heater in the convent.  The boiler itself, the boiler room and the entire basement were blown apart.  The rear wall of the convent was split at the basement ceiling level almost the entire length of the building.  The next two days, Saturday and Sunday, workmen had to shore-up the wall all the way to the roof to prevent a collapse of the building.  The total amount of the damage, including furniture and other items was $157,823, which fortunately, was fully covered by insurance.

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Our Parish History: A New Pastor

This is the eleventh article in a series.  Here are the links for the first ten parts:

Our Founding: June 12, 1953
The First Parish Meeting
Our First Christmas
The First Rectory, Part I
The First Rectory, Part II
Ground Breaking!
The First Convent
Church and School
The New Convent
The New Rectory

To many of Saint Joseph’s parishioners, there was a void left in their lives by the death of their Founding Pastor, Rev. Francis J. Hennegan, one whom they looked upon as truly “Father.”  However, as happened many time in the past history of the Church and will continue to happen in the future history of the Church, God’s people would not be long without a shepherd and spiritual father.

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Our Parish History: The New Rectory

This is the tenth article in a series.  Here are the links for the first nine parts:

Our Founding: June 12, 1953
The First Parish Meeting
Our First Christmas
The First Rectory, Part I
The First Rectory, Part II
Ground Breaking!
The First Convent
Church and School
The New Convent

In typical fashion, our Founding Pastor, Rev. Francis J. Hennegan, who always thought of himself last, had to be almost forced into realizing that the rectory at 101 Hilldale Road could no longer accommodate the needs of a growing parish as well as the other two priests who were now living with Father Hennegan.  So in 1965, Father Hennegan undertook another building program – the construction of a new rectory.  In July 1965, the preliminary sketches for the new rectory drawn up by the architect Mr. Peter Getz were approved and on October 11, 1965, the bid to build the rectory for $110,000 was awarded to the builder, and parishioner Mr. James J. Clearkin.  By April 1966, the former rectory at 191 Hilldale Road was put up for sale.  (Not to worry – the original rectory has “remained in the family” – first by the Rogers Family and currently by the Duffy Family.)  By July 1966, the new rectory was ready for occupancy.

New Rectory

New Rectory

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Our Parish History: The New Convent

This is the ninth article in a series.  Here are the links for the first eight parts:

Our Founding: June 12, 1953
The First Parish Meeting
Our First Christmas
The First Rectory, Part I
The First Rectory, Part II
Ground Breaking!
The First Convent
Church and School

On March 15, 1959, at a meeting of Father Hennegan and the parishioners, an Executive Committee was established and given the responsibility of planning a fundraising campaign for a new convent.  The cost of such a building program was approximately $100,000.

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Our Parish History: Church and School

This is the eighth article in a series.  Here are the links for the first seven parts:

Our Founding: June 12, 1953
The First Parish Meeting
Our First Christmas
The First Rectory, Part I
The First Rectory, Part II
Ground Breaking!
The First Convent

Fr Garrity

Father Anthony Garrity

As the raising of Saint Joseph’s church-school combination building progressed, the parish began to grow in numbers and soon the Founding Pastor, Rev. Francis J. Hennegan, needed the help of an assistant priest.  The first assistant of Saint Joseph Parish was Rev. Anthony M. Garrity who was appointed on January 20, 1955.  However. Father Garrity’s stay among the people of Saint Joseph’s was short-lived because on March 11, 1955, Father Garrity was called to the Father to live with the Eternal High Priest forever.

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Our Parish History: The First Convent

This is the seventh article in a series.  Here are the links for the first six parts:

Our Founding: June 12, 1953
The First Parish Meeting
Our First Christmas
The First Rectory, Part I
The First Rectory, Part II
Ground Breaking!

The teachers in the new Saint Joseph Parish had first arrived from Saint Helena Parish on Wednesday, July 7, 1954.  The two teachers were Sisters of Saint Joseph, Sister Gertrude and Sister Marie Joseph, who came to teach catechism in the new parish.  Their first class of catechism was made up of six children.  These two Sisters were the first of a large number who would work with the parish priests to bring alive in the hearts of the children the mystery of Jesus Christ.

First Convent

First Convent – 7628 Waters Road.

Even before the first two Sisters arrived however, Saint Joseph’s Founding Pastor, Rev. Francis J. Hennegan had begun plans for a convent.  In April 1954, Father Hennegan negotiated to buy a new private home at 7628 Waters Road for a convent.  Three sisters were assigned to the convent and they opened the convent on Saturday, August 28, 1954.  A room on the second floor served as a temporary chapel.  The first Mass was celebrated in the improvised chapel on November 1, 1954 and through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Lynch, a monstrance was presented to the sisters for Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.

First SSJ Sisters

The First Sisters of Saint Joseph at our Parish – from left to right: Sister Silvanus, Sister Ann, Sister Miriam Carmel, Sister Hildegarde, Sister Angeline and Sister Helen Edward

With the opening of school in September 1954, two grades were housed in the convent.  During this first school year, the children’s Sunday Masses were celebrated in Saint Helena’s school auditorium.

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

Next week: The Church and School

Our Parish History: Ground Breaking!

This is the sixth article in a series.  Here are the links for the first five parts:

Our Founding: June 12, 1953
The First Parish Meeting
Our First Christmas
The First Rectory, Part I
The First Rectory, Part II

Saint Joseph Parish was progressing beautifully and so its Founding Pastor, Rev. Francis J. Hennegan, made plans for the building of the church and school building on the corner of Waters and Boncouer Roads.  Already in August 1953, Father Hennegan had sought permission to purchase a house to be used as a convent and to submit plans for the church and school.  Now on a sunny Sunday, June 20, 1954 at 3pm, the parishioners witnessed the very simple yet profoundly moving ceremony of the breaking of the ground.  The ground was blessed by Father Hennegan and the first spade of dirt was turned by Father Harron, then pastor of Saint Helena Church who was often referred to as the “Godfather” of Saint Joseph Parish.  The second spade was turned by Father Hennegan and the third spade by Mr. James J. Clearkin, Jr.Groundbreaking 1

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Our Parish History: The First Rectory, Part II

This is the fifth article in a series.  Here are the links for the first four parts:

Our Founding: June 12, 1953
The First Parish Meeting
Our First Christmas
The First Rectory, Part I

In a “Day Book” kept by the Founding Pastor of Saint Joseph Church, Rev. Francis J. Hennegan, we read that on Wednesday, March 3, 1954, the first Ash Wednesday in the parish was observed.  The Blessing of the Ashes and Mass took place with 68 parishioners in attendance and two altar boys, Robert and Eugene Corbett of Ninth Street.  Ashes were also distributed at 4pm and the Rosary, short talk and Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament was held at 8pm.

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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.

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Our Parish History: Our First Christmas

This is the third article in a series. Here are the links for the first two parts:

Our Founding: June 12, 1953
The First Parish Meeting

Every family looks forward to Christmas.  It is a time of getting together, exchanging gifts and an outpouring of love and good cheer.  Saint Joseph Parish is part of the family of God and the Church, so it was natural that the family of Saint Joseph’s would look eagerly toward their first Christmas together in 1953.

One looking back with the perspective of years, can only imagine what must have been the thoughts and feelings of those first parishioners as they gathered for their first Christmas Mass together.  How like the Holy Family were these parishioners!  They had no church building they could call their own, they possessed no altar but they had the most precious thing they could offer – themselves.  As they gathered at Saint Helena’s Hall, the parishioners witnessed the coming again of their Lord in the Eucharist.  It was a proud pastor, Rev. Francis J. Hennegan, and parishioners who listened to the Christmas carols played on the organ donated to the parish by Mr. and Mrs. Robert Brookover who, although not members of Saint Joseph Parish, endeared themselves to all by their generosity.  Mrs. Brookover accompanied Mr. and Mrs. Edward Irvine of Melrose Avenue in leading the parishioners in singing Christmas carols.

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

Next week: The First Rectory

Our Parish History: The First Parish Meeting

This is the second article in a series.  Click here for the first part.

The wise steward and pastor of the new Saint Joseph Parish, Rev. Francis J. Hennegan, set out immediately to become well acquainted with his people and the various situations of a parish.  To accomplish this, Father Hennegan called for a meeting of the parishioners at the Melrose Country Club for the evening of July 13, 1953.  The facilities of the country club had been procured through the generosity and efforts of several parishioners and friends.

This first meeting was an important meeting because here would be established the spirit and enthusiasm as well as the direction the new parish would take.  Parishes are built on prayer, sacrifice and goodwill.  Therefore, is was necessary that the 153 dedicated people who attended this first meeting knew full-well the great labor they were undertaking in building up the Body of Christ.  The first item on the agenda was a parish census.  Who were the parishioners of Saint Joseph and how many souls were within the parish boundaries?  It was essential for the progress of the parish to answer these two questions.

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63 Years Ago…

Father Hennnegan

Our Founding Pastor, Rev. Francis J. Hennegan

On May 22, 1953, the Archbishop of Philadelphia,  John O’Hara, announced the establishment of a new parish dedicated to Saint Joseph, the patron of the Universal Church, to be situated in Cheltenham Township in Montgomery County.  The new parish would be made up of parts of Holy Angels and Saint Helena in Philadelphia and Presentation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Cheltenham.

At the same time as Archbishop O’Hara announced the establishment of Saint Joseph Parish, he also announced the appointment of the founding pastor, Rev. Francis J. Hennegan, then assistant pastor at Saint Gabriel Church in Philadelphia.  Father Hennegan would assume the arduous task of starting the new parish on Friday, June 12, 1953.

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