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St. Michael's Roman Catholic Church

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The original St. Michael's Church
Corner Stone laid Sept. 29, 1842

The architect was Napoleon LeBrun, Esq., who was also the architect of the Cathedral of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia.
(Photo from the church's 150th Anniversary book)

An old photograph of the present St. Michael's Church
Corner Stone laid
Nov. 1, 1874

Interior view - September 1956
Photo courtesy of Joe Smagala

Edgmont Ave. above 7th St.
Chester, PA

In 1993, St. Michael's, along with five other Chester Roman Catholic churches, were merged into the Saint Katharine Drexel parish.

Former Pastors  |  Assistant Pastors 1942-1992   |  Priests in Residence
Church History  |   Membership Directory
| St. Michael's Cemetery
St. Michael's School | Personal Stories & Recollections

The following records for this church were acquired and copied by Helen M. (Webber) Imburgia for the Delaware County Historical Society in 1986-1987:

Book I Baptisms 1841 - 1845 & 1845 - 1867
Marriages 1846 - 1866
Confirmations 1845 - 1860
Book II Baptisms 1865 - 1883
Marriages 1867 - 1883
Confirmations 1873 - 1879 & 1893 - 1920
Book III Baptisms 1884 - 1906
Marriages 1884 - 1906

If you have any information and or pictures that you would like to contribute about the history of this church, please forward it to john@oldchesterpa.com


Former Pastors

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Rev. Patrick F. Sheridan
First Pastor of St. Michael's

(Photo from the church's 100th Anniversary book)

Rev. Patrick Francis Sheridan
     (ordained November 4, 1841)
     Pastor: 1842-1850 (Non-resident Pastor)
     Died: July 9, 1879

Rev. Arthur P. Haviland
     (ordained June 29, 1850)
     First Resident Pastor: 1850-1877
     Died: May 22, 1886

Rev. James Timmins
     (ordained July 6, 1871)
     Pastor: 1878-1911, 1917-1929
     Died: April 24, 1929

Rev. Joseph Timmins
     (ordained January 31, 1886)
     Pastor: 1911-1917
     Died: July 15, 1917

Rev. Edward F. X. Curran
     (ordained June 16, 1903)
     Pastor: 1929-1936
     Died: July 15, 1943

Rev. Joseph M. O'Hara, Ph.D.
     (ordained May 29, 1909)
     Pastor: 1936-1956
     Pastor Emeritus: 1956-1963
     Died: September 15, 1963

Rev. Msgr. Francis A. Higgins
     (ordained May 29, 1930)
     Pastor: 1963-1977
     Pastor Emeritus: 1977-1988
     Died: May 11, 1988

Rev. William J. Benonis
     (ordained May 10, 1952)
     Pastor 1977-1982
     Later Pastor of Notre Dame de Lourdes, Swarthmore, PA

Rev. Richard T. Powers
     (ordained May 18, 1963)
     Pastor: 1982-1983
     Later Pastor of Incarnation, Philadelphia, PA

Rev. Raymond J. Himsworth
     (ordained May 19, 1962)
     Pastor: 1983-1990
     Later Pastor of St. James, Elkins Park, PA

Rev. Michael J. Ryan
     (ordained May 20, 1972)
     Pastor: 1989-through the 150th anniversary in 1992


The Rev. John J. McKenna, assistant Rector until 1925
The Rev. David J. Kane, assistant Rector 1925-
The Rev. John F. Resch, assistant Rector 1949


 

Assistant Pastors
1942-1992
Rev. Daniel P. Lenahan, ordained 1936
Rev. Joseph F. Resch, ordained 1936
Rev. James P. Brennan, ordained 1939
Rev. Thomas J. Corrigan, ordained 1940

2/7/2006:
Rev. Thomas J. Corrigan (Later Monsignor Thomas J. Corrigan) was ordained on May 22, 1937 - NOT 1940.
Thank you.
His Nephew,
Stephen Corrigan

Rev. Francis N. McDevitt, ordained 1941
Rev. James F. Soreth, ordained 1941
Rev. Paul J. Carey, ordained 1942
Rev. William Mooney, ordained 1943
Rev. Joseph F Sikora, ordained 1943
Rev. Arthur W. Nugent, ordained 1947
Rev. John F. Fahy, ordained 1948
Rev. James B. Sheridan, ordained 1950
Rev. George A. Gormley, ordained 1954
Rev. Joseph T. Kane, ordained 1962
Rev. Joseph J. Gallagher, ordained 1963
Rev. Gerald A. Kelleher, ordained 1963
Rev. James McCusker, ordained 1964


 

Priests in Residence Rev. John J. Dunion, ordained 1939
     Professor, St. James High School

Rev. Bartholemew P. Fair, ordained 1940
     Professor, St. James High School

Rev. Francis M. Egan, ordained 1945
     Professor, St. James High School

Rev. Michael C. Picard ordained 1966
     Professor, Cardinal O'Hara High School

Rev. Michael J. Flood, ordained 1968
     Professor, Cardinal O'Hara High School


 

Church History

Louis J. Warfel, loujwarfel@juno.com, has transcribed the complete text of Rev. Joseph M. O'Hara, PH.D.'s Chester's Century of Catholicism 1842-1942 for us.  Please see that work for a more complete history of the first 100 years of St. Michael's church.


"The Catholic Church of "St. Michael the Archangel," at Chester, owes its foundation to a number of Irish Catholics employed in Judge Leiper’s quarries, who having no place of worship nearer than the church on Dennis Kelley’s property at Cobbs Creek, or James Willcox’s Chapel at "Ivy Mills," about nine miles distant, agreed among themselves to contribute towards the erection of a church building more convenient; and for the purpose of obtaining the aid of a Catholic Priest to organize a congregation among them, they applied to the Rt. Rev. Bishop Kendrick of Philadelphia, who appointed the Rev. Father Sheriden, now the venerable pastor of St. Paul’s Church in that city, to attend them. Under his direction and guidance, a lot was purchased in Chester for the purpose of erecting thereon a new church for their accommodation. The corner stone was laid Sept. 29, 1842, and on June 25, 1843, the church was dedicated to Almighty God, under the patronage of St. Michael the Archangel, in the presence of a very large assembly from Philadelphia and the surrounding country. This structure is of stone from Leiper’s quarries on Crum Creek, of the Gothic style of architecture, 42 by 72 feet, with a square tower, and spire 100 feet high, surmounted by a gilt cross. In the tower is hung a fine toned bell, 1000 pounds in weight, which is rung twice a day. A sacristy, 12 by 22 feet, has been erected adjoining the church on the south side.

"A parsonage, 34 feet square and three stories high, was erected on the church lot by the present pastor, the Rev. Arthur Peter Haviland, who, with his assistant, the Rev. Hugh McGlinn, reside therein. An additional lot adjoining the church property, was purchased in 1866, and on it in 1871, was erected a parochial school-house, 60 by 24 feet, and two stories high, capable of accommodating 500 children. It is used for a Sunday School, with about 300 scholars in attendance, and as a day school for male and female children on separate floors, under the care of two teachers. The average attendance is 180 scholars. The expense of supporting both schools is defrayed by the congregation.

"The congregation of St. Michael’s when its first resident pastor, the Rev. Arthur P. Haviland, was appointed, July 12, 1850, numbered about 250; now, owing to the rapid increase of the population of Chester, it is somewhat more than 2000, for whose accommodation there are four services on Sunday, to be continued until a large church will be erected, for which arrangements are already made.

"Since writing the above, the old church edifice, so long a marked feature of Chester, has been torn down, and a more imposing, spacious and commodious building is in the course of erection on the site of the old structure, and is rapidly approaching completion. The corner stone of the new church was laid on Nov. 1, 1874, by the Rt. Rev. Bishop Wood, with appropriate ceremonies. The cost of the new church will be about $70,000. The height of the tower from the ground, of stone, will be 96 ft., upon this there will be a wooden spire of 84 ft., making a total height of 180 feet. The length of the building will be 167 ft., breadth 67 ft. The basement has been finished and occupied for about two years (1877). The masonry and stonecutting of the new church are being done by Ramsden Rawnsley. The erection being made under the direction of the Rev. Mr. Haviland, the pastor.

..."Previous to the installation of the resident pastor, clergymen from Philadelphia officiated as temporary Missionaries at St. Michael’s, among whom may be mentioned Rev. Thaddeus Amat, the Principal of the Theological Seminary of St. Charles Borromeo, Philadelphia, now Bishop of Monterey, California; also, Rev. Dr. O’Hara, now Bishop of Scranton, Pa., the congregation being small and not able to support a resident pastor."

Chester (and its Vicinity,) Delaware County in PA – Published 1877 – John Hill Martin, Esq.
fully indexed by John A. Bullock III., Graphic Details Publications

The "Old St. Michael's Catholic Club" was founded in December 1947 in the club auditorium at 8th & Edgmont Ave.

Note: This building now houses the St. John A.U.M.P. Church


A good source of information would be:

PHILADELPHIA ARCHDIOCESEAN HISTORICAL RESEARCH CENTER
(610-667-2125)
FAX 610-667-2730
Thanks to David Andrews


Personal Stories
& Recollections
"I also have fond memories of many of the priests of the parish during those years. I became an altar boy in 1963 under the direction of Fr. Joseph Sikora. In those days, the altar boys had to know all the prayers of the Mass in Latin. Fr. Sikora would take us all up to the 3rd floor of the school, which served as both an auditorium and gymnasium, where he would write out the prayers on a chalkboard. We would then copy them in our notebooks so we could study and memorize them. We had to hold classes on the third floor because there were no spare classrooms. The school had only eight classrooms (one for each grade), four on the first floor and four on the second floor.

When Fr. Sikora was transferred, Fr. Joseph Kane became moderator of the altar boys. Fr. Kane was one of the most popular priests (along with Fr. Dunion) ever to serve at St. Michael's. He came to the parish in May of 1962, a newly-ordained priest fresh out of the seminary. He's now a Monsignor, and pastor of St. Robert Bellarmine parish in Warrington, Pa. We still keep in touch. Outside of my family, Fr. Kane was one of the three people who I consider to have been most influential in my life. 

Fr. John Dunion, although only "in residence" at St. Michael's while a teacher at St. James, and later at Cardinal O'Hara high school, was as popular as any priest the parish ever had. Everyone was saddened when he passed away suddenly in August of 1967. 

Fr. Francis Higgins, who was eventually named a Monsignor, was the pastor. I remember he always said the 8:00 AM Mass on weekdays. I also remember the day I dropped the missal and bookstand while serving Mass for him, just missing his foot.

One priest who you omitted from your list was Fr. James Rodgers. He was only at St. Michael's for a few months during the summer of 1964. Fr. James McCusker was supposed to be Fr. Kane's replacement when he was transferred in the spring of 1964, but he had been sent to Puerto Rico to learn Spanish because of the increasing number of Hispanic parishioners. So Fr. Rodgers was sent to St. Michael's until Fr. McCusker finished his studies in September. Fr. Rodgers was notorious for oversleeping --- not a good thing for a priest assigned to say the early Mass. I can remember serving one 6:30 AM weekday Mass celebrated by Fr. Rodgers that didn't start until almost 7:15 AM. He was definitely not a morning person.

Thanks for providing this opportunity to recall so many memories from years ago. Perhaps some of my former classmates will read this and add their own memories of a great parish. St. Mike's may be closed now, but it will never be forgotten."

Joe Smagala

"My great-great grandfather was one of the stone mason's that built St. Michael's Church.   He lost an eye from a stone chip while building the church."

Albert E. Warburton III


2000, 2002, 2004, 2006 John A. Bullock III.

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This page last updated 02/24/07