CHESTER'S CENTURY OF CATHOLICISM
1842 -1942

By
REV. JOSEPH M. O'HARA, PH. D.

PASTOR OF OLD ST. MICHAEL'S, CHESTER, PENNSYLVANIA

Courtesy of Louis J. Warfel, loujwarfel@juno.com

THE PETER REILLY COMPANY
PHILADELPHIA
COPYRIGHT 1942 JOSEPH M. O'HARA

Introduction & Dedication  |  Contents
Part I  |  Part II  |  Part III  |  Part IV
(24-58)  |  (59-112)  |  (113-161)  |  (162-214)


Introduction
Foreword
Acknowledgments
& Preface

Introduction
by
Louis J. Warfel

It has been a pleasure for me to copy and format this book for use on the WWW. Father Joseph M. O'Hara left us a wonder-ful record of the history of Old St. Michael's. It is also a record of the priests and lay people of the parish who worked together to achieve difficult goals, often in times of great hardship.

For 25 years, except for two brief periods, my father Louis R. Warfel was the Sexton at St. Michael's Church. I spent may happy hours there with him doing little chores.

I have cherished the memory of those times throughout my life.

I hope that many people will enjoy reading the book. Many will, I am sure, find the names of their ancestors recorded here. When you do, if you have any little stories about them that you wish to share with me my e-mail is loujwarfel@juno.com

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CHESTER'S CENTURY

OF CATHOLICISM

1842 -1942

 

By

REV. JOSEPH M. O'HARA, PH. D.

PASTOR OF OLD ST. MICHAEL'S
CHESTER, PENNSYLVANIA

THE PETER REILLY COMPANY
PHILADELPHIA

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Nihll obstat
JOSEPH A. M. QUIGLEY

Censor Librorum

P1uiladelphiae, die 3 la mlii, 1942

Itnprimatur
. D. CARDINAL DOUGHERTY

ArchiepiscoPus Philadelphiensis

Philadelphiae, die la Augusti, 1942

COPYRIGHT 1942 JOSEPH M. O'HARA
Printed in U.S.A.

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"One generation buys or builds, another generation improves and adorns, and each generation uses and transmits for the use of others yet to come; bishops and priests having the burden of the administration and being sacredly responsible for its faithful performance. "-Cardinal Gibbons.

" He who records the good deeds of others is himself a doer of good deeds." -Archbishop Hughes.

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FOREWORD

By

THE RIGHT REV. MONSIGNORE PETER GUILDAY

S. Hist. D. (Louvain), LL.D., Litt.D., J.U.D.

Old St. Michael's-as it has affectionately been known for over a generation-is now rounding out a century of devotion to the Catholics of Chester. Pastors and people have labored in harmony since 1842 to create and to sustain spiritual ideals that have never been dimmed since Father Haviland's day. To one who was born and reared in the parish and whose earliest recollections center around the school and the altar, the moving chapters of Doctor O'Hara's history renew all these cherished memories of the past. He has written of Old St. Michael's in so intimate a way that the heart of every parishioner must be thrilled by the narrative.

We are fortunate in having Doctor O'Hara the chronicler of this century of our parochial

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life. His scholarship is known to the Catholic clergy of the entire nation by reason of his translation of the monumental Canon Law, by the Apostolic Delegate to the United States, the most Reverend Archbishop Amleto Giovanni Cicognani. This translation Doctor O'Hara made in cooperation with the Right Rev. Monsignor Francis Brennan, D.D., J.C.D., of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, now the first American member of the Sacred Roman Rota, in Rome.

The history of Old St. Michael's develops logically under Doctor O'Hara's skilled pen. The background of this the oldest town to be established in Pennsylvania is sketched and the beginnings of Catholic life in the opening decades of the nineteenth century are depicted from the oldest available sources. The building of the first church and school live again before our eyes. Old names, long since forgotten, appear again in this record as well as many others familiar to our generation. Some of the personalities connected with the parish, like Father James and Father Joseph as they were best known, stand out vividly in these pages.

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This book contains the heritage of the past which is now placed in our hands for information and spiritual edification. It should be in every Catholic home in the City of Chester. To Doctor O'Hara we extend our heartfelt congratulations on a task well done

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

The author here records his debt to His Excellency, the Most Reverend Bishop Lamb, for valuable suggestions and information; to the Right Reverend Monsignor Peter Guilday, S. Hist. D. (Louvain), LL.D., Litt.D., J.U.D., who read the manuscript and from his vast erudition made suggestions and corrections and who graciously wrote the Foreword; to the Reverend Dr. Joseph A. Ward, Librarian at our great diocesan Seminary at Overbrook, who read the entire manuscript and prepared a list of suggestions and corrections, and whose knowledge of sources was of inestimable value; to the Reverend Thomas F. Roland, O.S.A., Archivist at Villanova College, who compiled an account of the Very Rev. Dr. Moriarty, O.S.A.; to the Reverend Francis X. Doherty, C.M., for brief Latin accounts of members of the Congregation of the Mission who labored here; to the Reverend James A. V. Buckley, S.J., Vice-Principal of St. Joseph's College High School, Philadelphia, for an account of Father Sourin's later years after he had

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entered the Society of Jesus; to the many of our Diocesan priests who sent the author accounts of various happenings here and even journeyed to this Rectory for discussion; to the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus who sent an account of their first teachers who took charge of St. Michael's School (1881); to the Sisters of St. Joseph who furnished a list of their Sisters who taught in the School, beginning in 1913; to the Officials of the Chester Times who graciously gave the author access to their century old newspaper files; to the librarians of the research department of the Philadelphia Library at Nineteenth and Wood Streets.

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PREFACE

History is a systematic narrative of events. But alas! we mistakenly suppose that only past events are important, or rather that what is transpiring now is so well known that it will not be forgotten. The present writer was, some years ago, looking up the history of a little country parish. The founding pastor had written (in Latin) in the Baptismal Register an account of the opening ceremonies of the Church, at which Bishop Neumann, of holy memory, presided. The narrative ended- O'Brien fuji subdiaconus. Undoubtedly Father O'Brien acted as subdeacon on the occasion and was very well known then but I have not succeeded now in finding any data concerning him.

All of us are making history because all of us have part in events of greater or less importance. How many of us are recording history? Very few, I think. The age of diary-keeping and of scrapbooks seems to have passed and we do not encounter many annalists or archivists or incunabulists.

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As a late President of the American Catholic Historical Society said: "What mounds of obIivion are not men allowing to gather over, and deeply bury from us, the names and deeds of those who bore the burden of the early days and the heats in this now prosperous and happy land of ours! Surely, it is easier to rescue these records now, even at the expenditure of some trouble and outlay, than to trust to an uncertain future. If gratitude fail us, at least let economy make us jealous guardians of the treasure of heroism and faithfulness which the past has left us. For, after all, no one is sufficient to himself. We need the help of others; and, for a fact, we are debtors all, individuals and nations, to those who have gone before. Traditional power, whether moral or physical, is a great inheritance; and the example of noble deeds, and of faithful service to God and to one's fellow-man, nerve and encourage even the strong and the brave.

Moreover, if each age does owe at least something to the ages of the past, it also, in turn, has a debt to the generations that are to come.~~ 1

(footnote)

1 Rev. Henry T. Drumgoole (later Rt. Rev. Monsignor), Records, Vol. XV, pp. 2, 3.

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And so in preparation for the centennial of Saint Michael's Parish the following pages have been gotten together. The facts therein contained are widely scattered in various books, publications and other monuments. It is hoped that this little volume will give something of permanence to past good deeds or be an inspiration to some one of more leisure and skill to write a larger history.

The book is written primarily for the faithful of this parish as a thank offering for present and past cooperation and as a memorial of days that are forever gone.

The history of a parish deals of necessity with such things as the acquiring of ground, the erecting of buildings (church and school and convent and rectory) and the repairing and restoring and remodeling of these buildings as the years go on. Perhaps too much stress has been placed on such matters in many parish histories.

Of more importance, such histories treat of the personality of those administering religion, the various pastors and assistant pastors. Necessarily, however, the greatest and best portion of church history is, at least on earth, largely unknown

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because it deals with immortal souls and the influence of God's grace upon them. Such things are hidden in the mind of God and, indeed, can be fully understood only by Him.

A parish is, of course, not an isolated or inexplicable phenomenon. It does not spring up suddenly and, as it were, of itself. It presupposes a history of Catholicity before its inception; for its continuance men and women must live a life in conformity with certain regulations whilst unhesitatingly believing certain unalterable teachings. In other words the Catholic Church is a body of doctrines to be believed and a way of life to be lived.

True indeed "of old there were not distinct parishes, but the bishop exercised the care of souls throughout his entire diocese through priests whom he sent, as he saw fit, from the Cathedral to the various parts of the city and the diocese to exercise the sacred ministry. These priests could be recalled at the will of the bishop. But as time went on and the number of Christians grew greater, little by little the custom arose, and was later decreed by the sacred canons, that dioceses be subdivided into parishes for the better and safer rule of souls; and

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that to each parish be assigned its own pastor who by reason of his office would be bound to care for that portion of the flock entrusted to him, with fixed boundaries, under the Bishop or Ordinary of the whole diocese." 2 (Author's translation.)

Indeed the organic law of Christ's Church treats specifically and in detail of parishes and pastors. For instance: "The territory of every diocese shall be divided into distinct territorial parts; and to every part shall be assigned its own church with specified people; and over it shall be placed its own rector, as its proper pastor, for the necessary care of souis." (3)

Thus parishes are sanctioned units in a diocese and the diocese is a unit in the Church Universal. In the Mystical Body of Christ the faithful have broken to them the bread of life in Holy Commun-ion and in holy preaching by their pastors who are, in truth, canonical personages but subject to the chief pastor of the diocese, who is called the Ordinary or Bishop. The bishop in turn is subject to the Supreme Pastor of Christendom, our Holy

(footnote)

2 Acta et Decreta Ccmcilii Plenarii Ba1timorensi.~ TerHi, Caput n. 31.

3 Codes Iuris Ccrnonici, Can. 216, 1.

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Father the Pope, the Vicar of Christ on earth. Thus in due order and harmony is the whole Church united to its Divine Head in heaven, Jesus Christ.

Saint Michael's parish, like every other parish, began with Episcopal sanction and blessing and under very definite regulations. Its pastors and assistant pastors have not been elected by the people but are appointed by the supreme authority of the diocese which alone avails thus to appoint or to remove, in accordance with the sacred canons.

The more clearly to accomplish the purpose of this book it has been deemed suitable to give brief biographical sketches of the illustrious John Carroll, first Bishop of this territory, and whose Jesuit confreres labored here so zealously and so successfully; of the intellectually gigantic Bishop Kenrick, who gave permission for the parish; of Father Sheridan who was first pastor; of Father Sourin and the famous Dr. Moriarty, O.S.A., both of whom preached at the dedication ceremonies; of Dr. Win. O'Hara who first baptized in St. Michael's church; of the pastors, Fathers Haviland, James Timmins, Joseph Timmins, Edward Curran and the

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present incumbent. Nor have the early assistants before Father Haviland been neglected. Indeed a complete list of all the priests who served here and their dates of coming and leaving will be found in Chapter XVIII.

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Index

CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

I INTRODUCTORY 23

II BISHOP JOHN CARROLL 32

III OUR DIOCESE 43

IV BISHOP KENRICK 46

V THE STATE OF CATHOLICITY . 55

VI THE FOUNDING OF ST. MICHAEL'S 59

VII CHURCH RECORDS 67

VIII THE CORNER STONE LAYING . ... 73

IX THE SOLEMN BLESSING 78

X OUR FIRST PREACHERS 86

XI OUR EARLIEST CLERICAL BENE

FACTORS 93

XII OUR FIRST RESIDENT PASTOR .... 101

XIII REV. JAMES TIMMINS 113

XIV REV. JOSEPH F. TIMMINS 127

XV REV. EDWARD F. X. CURRAN . .. 134

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CONTENTS

 

XVI REV. JOSEPH M. O'HARA, PH.D... 138

 

XVII R E C E N T IMPROVEMENTS AND

REPAIRS 144

XVIII PRIESTS OF ST. MICHAEL'S 162

XIX FIRST MASSES . 167

 XX THE PRESENT-DAY ST. MICHAEL'S 175

XXI OUR HEAVENLY PATRON .. 194

XXII DAUGHTER PARISHES . . . 201

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Louis J. Warfel, loujwarfel@juno.com


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

2001 John A. Bullock III.

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This page last updated 10/18/05