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)


Part III

CHAPTER XIII

 

REV. JAMES TIMMINS

The third pastor of Old St. Michael's was Rev. James Timmins. His career in the priesthood and pastorate was long and useful and merits careful recording here.

 

James Timmins was born in Easton, Pa. of Irish parents, Thomas and Mary Timmins, on 12 July, 1847, just five years after this parish was founded. As there was not at that time a parish school in his native town, he made his elementary studies in the public school. Later he attended Lafayette College and St. Bonaventure's College at Alleghany, N. Y. and St. Charles Seminary in Philadelphia. He was ordained 6 July, 1871 by Bishop Wood in the Cathedral in Philadelphia. Father Timmins thus forms a link between the old Seminary at 18th and Race Sts. and the new Seminary at Overbrook. He made his theological studies at the former and was a member of the last class to do so. He was ordained during the Summer vacation. On Saturday 16 September,

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1871 the building at Overbrook, Pennsylvania, was occupied for the first time by the entire student body.

Father Timmins' first appointment was at St. Patrick's, 20th and Locust Streets, Philadelphia, as assistant to Rev. James E. Mulholland. Here he remained for nearly three years until (in 1873) he was transferred to St. Michael's Chester, as assistant to Father Haviland. This, his first mission to Chester, was very brief, for after three months we find him again in Philadelphia as assistant to Rev. Francis P. O'Neill at St. James', 38th and Chestnut Streets. Four years later Father Timmins was transferred to St. Teresa's to assist Rev. Hugh Lane (See above, Chapter XI) the founder of that parish. This was in 1877. On 12 July, 1878, on his thirty-first birthday, he was made pastor at St. Michael's, Chester, to succeed Father Haviland who, as we have seen, had resigned because of ill health. The appointment was signed by Archbishop James Frederick Wood, D.D.

Father Timmins was then only seven years in the priesthood but to native ability he added the experience gained in four parishes, including St. Michael's. Money was scarce, the church edifice

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not completed and times were none too good. But with characteristic energy and zeal the new pastor attacked the problems that confronted him. He finished the exterior of the church and added the roof of the upper church. The cross for the tower was solemnly blessed, 3 October, 1880, by Archbishop Wood and raised to its place.

So expeditiously was the interior finish of the church carried on that the completed edifice was dedicated to God, 5 November, 1882. The solemn ceremonies were performed by the Rt. Rev. Jeremiah F. Shanahan, D.D.,1 (first) Bishop of Harrisburg. The remarkably artistic Stations of the Cross, still in use in our Church, were installed by Father Timmins in 1888.

As we have already seen, our parish school was opened by Father Haviland in 1871 in a humble, frame two-story structure, 60 by 24 feet. It is to be noted, however, that the building was constructed for school purposes and on a plot of ground purchased specially by Father Haviland five years previously. The school-house was not, a made over dwelling or other building.

(footnote)

1 Bishop Shanahan was ordained 3 July, 1859 by Bishop Neumann in the Church of the Assumption B.V.M., 12th and Spring Garden Sts., Philadelphia. He became head of our preparatory Seminary in Philadelphia. He was consecrated 12 July, 1868. Died 24 Sept. 1886.

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Saint Michael's school was the first parish school in Delaware County. At first the teachers were of the laity. Miss Anna Regina Gilfeather (2) taught the girls (on the second floor) and also acted as church organist. Messrs. McCarey and Philip Lennon taught the boys, on the ground floor. The school was located to the south of the present school building, about where our girls' playground now is. It had an entrance from Seventh Street and also from the churchyard or cemetery. At the end of the scholastic year of 1874 the school building was turned into a temporary chapel pending the building of the new church.

In 1881 the Reverend Pastor invited the Religious of the Holy Child Jesus to take charge of the parish school. They acceded to his request, thus inaugurating a charge that was destined to last for more than three decades of years. The first principal was Mother St. Martin, who was accompanied by Mother Ita and Mother Mary Columba. There were also lay teachers.

(footnote)

2 Miss Gilfeather was married to Mr. John Bonner in this church, 10 July, 1872. Father Hugh McGlinn officiated.

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From the beginning, the relations between the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus on the one hand and the St. Michael's clergy, parents and pupils on the other were most cordial. The school progressed spiritually and academically. The Sisters are still remembered gratefully after a lapse of 29 years.

In 1888 the pastor began the erection of our fine parish school building at approximately 126 E. 7th Street. It is a three story edifice of Leiper's granite, with a ground area of 4653 square feet. There is a basement with heating plant and storage rooms, whose floors are of concrete. The third floor is entirely taken up with an auditorium and stage; the other two floors have each four commodious and well lighted classrooms. The building was completed in 1889. A massive organ was installed in the choir about this time.

On 18 June, 1905, Father Timmins made note in the Baptismal Register: "The new baptismal font made at the Protectory"(3) was first used today."

In 1906 finding the old Rectory, built in 1854 by Father Haviland, in disrepair and not sufficiently large for the needs of a growing parish, Father Timmins built the present, splendid and

(footnote)

3 The Philadelphia Proteclory for Boys, Phoenixville, Pa.,conducted by the Brothers of the Christian Schools.

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commodious stone priests' house. It is said that he to a great extent drew up the plans himself.

Upon the death of the venerable Father Owen P. McManus, pastor (since 1895) and founder of St. Monica's church, 17th and Ritner Sts., in the southern part of Philadelphia, Father Timmins asked to be transferred there. His request was granted and he remained pastor of that thriving parish from 28 August, 1911 until 24 July, 1917. After the death of his brother, Rev. Joseph F. Timmins (15 July, 1917), Father Timmins was again appointed pastor here, by the Most Reverend Archbishop Edmond F. Prendergast, D.D., 24 July, 1917, after Father had celebrated his seventieth birthday.

 

Death of Father Walsh

The close of the year 1918 was saddened for the clergy and laity of Old St. Michael's by the sudden and unexpected death of Father John W. Walsh. Father Walsh had been stationed here nearly three years and had endeared himself to clergy and people by his kindliness, his priestly piety and zeal. in the midst of the joyous festivities of Christmas, on Friday 27 December, 1918, the young priest was found dead in bed.

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He had not appeared at the usual hour for holy Mass and investigation disclosed that he had during the night entered into eternity. It has been noted that death exacted a heavy toll of our clergy during the year 1918.

Father Walsh was ordained to the sacred priesthood, 24 May, 1902 by Archbishop Prendergast and served in several posts in our Archdiocese. On 5 April, 1916 he was sent to St. Michael's to assist Father Joseph Timmins and later Father James Timmins.

His obsequies were held on Tuesday, 31 December (1918). The Office of the Dead was recited at 9:30 o'clock. Father Timmins presided at the Office and celebrated the Solemn Requiem Mass that followed it. Rev. Patrick J. Gallagher, beloved Rector of St. Madeline's parish at Ridley Park, Pa., was deacon; Rev. Bernard A. McKenna, S.T.L. was subdeacon. The sermon was preached by the Rev. Thomas J. Hurton, P.R. Members of the clergy formed the honorary pallbearers. The active pallbearers were chosen from parishioners of the Most Blessed Sacrament Parish (where Father Walsh was formerly stationed) and from St. Michael's. In the latter group the Society of St.

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Vincent de Paul was represented by Messrs. John J. Buckley and James A. Clark.

In 1927 the fine old bell that had been installed in the original church of St. Michael in 1858 and later removed to the present edifice (in 1874) was found to be cracked beyond repair. Father Timmins announced this fact to his congregation and the present bell weighing 1200 lbs. was donated (12 September, 1927) by Mrs. Peter J. Nolan in memory of her husband. The ancient and beautiful ceremony of consecrating the new bell was performed on Sunday, 2 Oct. 1927. The Officiant was the Rt. Rev. Monsignor Thomas F. McNally,(4) LLD.; the deacon was Rev. Robert J. Thompson, rector and founder of St. Robert's, Chester; the subdeacon was the Rev. A. L. Ganster, founder and rector of the church of the Resurrection of Our Lord, Chester, and an intimate friend of Father Timmins. The Master of Ceremonies was the Reverend John J. Toner, then a curate at Old St. Michael's. The sermon was preached by the eloquent Rt. Rev. Monsignor

(footnote)

(4) Monsignor McNally is at present the greatly loved Rector of the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Jenkintown, Pa. He has since made addresses in Chester. He is the author of several books, one of which Doctrinal Sermon.s is in constant use in this parish for the instructions of converts.

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Charles F. Kavanagh, rector of St. Katharine's Church at Wayne, Pa.

 

Death of Father Kane

Less than a week after the joyous event just recorded the Angel of death again visited this parish and with terrific suddeness. Father David J. Kane, a kindly and conscientious priest, a beloved curate here for three years, was returning from a sick-call on Friday night, 7 October, 1927. Father Kane, as usual, was absorbed in thought and prayer and was oblivious of his dangerous surroundings. As he crossed Ninth Street at Madison Street he was struck by a truck, sustained a fracture of the skull and died in an hour. The grief of the parish at the loss of this considerate and zealous Curate was augmented by the suddeness of his taking off. He had been ordained only twelve years and five months.

In his declining years Father James, as he was affectionately known to so many, left a great deal of the more burdensome details of administration to his able assistants. He spent much time at his residence in Atlantic City, invariably returning, however, for the children's Mass on Sunday. He

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had lived so long that he had become a tradition in the Diocese. Every priest, no matter how young, had at least heard of Father Timmins. But the long-est lane must have its turning and the longest story its ending. Early in the year of 1929, the aged priest suffered a severe attack of influenza and his convalescence was slow and incomplete. A complication of diseases set in, headed by that complaint that has ever baffled medical skill, old age. Father Timmins quietly passed away in Taylor Hospital, Ridley Park, Pa., 21 April, 1929 in the eighty-third year of his age and the fifty-eighth of his priesthood.

The entire neighborhood of the parish paid a last respect to the dead priest, who had served so long in the community. Both Catholic and non-Catholic paused to pay him homage. Delegations from all St. Michael's organizations, other parishes in Chester and from St. Monica s parish, of which Father Timmins, as we have noted, had once been rector, attended the funeral services.

The Lessons of the Of ficium Defunctorum, which began at 9:30 o'clock, were sung in the

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following order: 1, the Rev. Patrick J. McCabe; 2, the Rev. Edward F. Cunnie; 3, the Rev. James

J. Duffy; 4, the Rev. John P. Mealey; 5, the Rev. Hugh P. Read; 6, the Rev. James T. Higgins; 7, the Right Rev. Monsignor James P. Turner, D.D., Prot. Ap.; 8, the Rev. Robert J. Thompson; 9, His Eminence, the Cardinal. The Rev. Gerald P. O'Hara, D.D., J.U.D., was Master of Ceremonies, assisted by the Rev. Robert J. Cassidy.

The Solemn Requiem Mass (coram Cardinali) was celebrated at 10 o'clock by the Right Rev. Monsignor Eugene Murphy. The Rev. Peter J. McGarrity was deacon, and the Rev. Augustine L. Ganster was sub-deacon. His Eminence, who gave the absolution of the body, was assisted by Monsignor Turner and Father Duffy. A touching discourse was delivered by the Right Rev. Monsignor Charles F. Kavanagh, rector of the Church of St. Katharine, Wayne.

Interment was made in a plot between the rectory and the church, beside the grave of the deceased priest's brother, the Rev. Joseph F. Timmins, where the final blessing was given by Father Ganster, and the priests sang the

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Benedictus. The pallbearers were Thomas F. Dolan, James A. Clark, Thomas F. O'Melia, Hugh J. Friel, Philip A. McMunigle, Daniel C. Doherty, John J. Buckley and George P. Layer.

Father James Timmins died possessed of a considerable fortune. His people had, we are told, been mill owners in Easton for some years and were able to leave to their son a large sum of money. This in the course of his long life had by natural increase and by shrewd investments enormously increased. Amongst the benefactions of Father Timmins' Will was the sum of $100,000 towards a St. James High School for Boys in Chester. This school is now a reality.(5)

The sturdy, self-reliant figure of Father Timmins was for many years a familiar sight in Chester. He was noted as an eloquent and scholarly speaker, a keen man of business, a patriotic citizen of Chester, with a wit always quick and sometimes mordant.

The present writer remembers vividly visits made as Superintendent of Schools to St. Michael's school and the pleasing impression made on him by the children of the parish; also the size and scholarly variety of the pastor's library.

(footnote)

5 Opened, 2 Sept. 1940 and conducted by Diocesan Priests.

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The Sodality of the Blessed Virgin Mary

This society of Mary's devout clients, that has meant so much in the history of the Church as well as of this parish, was organized in St. Michael's in 1870 by Father Haviland, under the title of the Immaculate Conception. The Sodality prospered and has never ceased to function in the life of this venerable parish. May celebrations are held every year and new members are received into this society of chosen souls. We give here an account of a very beautiful celebration held during the pastorate of Rev. James Timmins. On Sunday evening, 26 May, 1895 the church was thronged by faithful parishioners. Three hundred Sodalists all clad in white proceeded up the main aisle of the church, chanting the Litany of Loreto. The vocal numbers were Greeting to May, Bring Flowers of the Rarest. These were followed by the crowning of the Statue of the Blessed Virgin by Miss Mary Agnes Crumbie. The Sodalists then sang The Evening Hymn and Father Francis Aidan Brady of Media preached an eloquent discourse. The whole congregation sang the Hymn to St. Joseph and the Hymn to the Sacred Heart. There followed a Procession of the Most Blessed

 

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Sacrament, closing with Benediction. The Rev. Joseph V. Sweeney of Ivy Mills was the Ofliciant. Miss Madeline Messick and Miss Nellie Finegan assisted at the organ.

It is to be noted that Father James Timmins was pastor here from 12 July, 1878 to 28 August, 1911; and from 24 July, 1917 to 21 April, 1929, a service, in all, of just less than 45 years. He was succeeded in the pastorate by his brother whom he later succeeded. Of the long career of Father Joseph Timmins we shall treat in the next chapter.

 

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CHAPTER XIV

 

REV. JOSEPH F. TIMMINS

Joseph Timmins was, like his brother James, born in Easton, Pa. The date of his birth was 31 January, 1858. He was ordained to the priesthood 26 June, 1886 by Most Rev. Patrick John Ryan, D.D. in the Cathedral of Philadelphia. His first appointment was as assistant to his brother, Rev. James Timmins, at St. Michael's, Chester. Here he spent the whole of his priestly career (31 years) as curate and pastor.

When the Rev. James Timmins became pastor of St. Monica's in Philadelphia, Father Joseph, as he was called to distinguish him from his brother, was appointed pastor here by the Most Reverend Edmond F. Prendergast, D.D., Archbishop of Philadelphia. This was in 1911.(1)

Father Timmins had then been curate for twenty-five years; his pastorate was destined to

(footnote)

(1)Archbishop Ryan had died 11 February, 1911 after governing the See of Philadelphia from 8 June, 1884. Archbishop Prendergast reigned from 27 May, 1911 till his death, 26 Feb. 1918.

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last for oniy six years. In that brief while he made notable improvements in the parish properties, ably seconded by his curates, the Rev. John W. Walsh and the Rev. Thomas L. Clooney, with the splendid cooperation of the faithful parishioners.

"On June 18th, 1916, a Committee of Laymen met with the Priests of St. Michael's Church to consider ways and means for the execution of much needed and urgent improvements on this Church. After discussing the contemplated improvements for some time, the Committee adjourned to meet the following Thursday evening, June 22, 1916, at the Rectory. At this meeting a Committee was appointed with full power to proceed with the improvements, and organized as follows: Reverend Thomas L. Clooney, treasurer; Mr. John J. Buckley, Sr., Chairman, and Mr. James Clark, secretary." 2

Mr. John B. Buckley, Sr., father of Dr. Paul A. Buckley, while not a native of the parish, lived in it for over forty years. He was very active in civic as well as parish matters. His chief concern (footnote)

2 Cf. The Catholic Church Monitor by Rev. Thomas L. Clooney.

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however, was with the Conference of St. Vincent de Paul of which he was a member for many years and of which he served as President for several terms. As Chairman of the above mentioned Committee, he was largely instrumental in raising funds for the church improvements. He died 10 Nov., 1929.

Mr. James A. Clark served most faithfully as Usher in Old St. Michael's for forty years and during the administration of four pastors, Fathers James Timmins, Joseph F. Timmins, Edward F. X. Curran and Joseph M. O'Hara. He was also very active as a member and as President of the Conference of St. Vincent de Paul. He died 6 July, 1937. The splendid tabernacle that adorns our Main Altar was donated in his memory by his brother, Andrew A. Clark.

The improvements thus arranged for were extensive and carefully completed. The church was given an entirely new electric light system; a new wooden floor was placed as a base for the pews; the aisles and the platform in front of the sanctuary rail were widened and covered with terrazzo with an ornamental border of tiles; new and artistic pews and confessionals were installed; a wainscoting of native Vermont marble was placed throughout the

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nave of the church and in the vestibule; marble steps were installed in the vestibule.

Before this (in 1913) Father Joseph Timmins had purchased the large Harvey Residence at 312 E. Broad Street to serve as a home for the Sisters of St. Joseph whom he had invited to take charge of the parish school. This building he almost doubled in size and by improvements and repairs turned into a comfortable, home-like convent. On 21 May, 1914, ground was broken for this addition. The work was completed, 12 February, 1915.

We have seen that the Religious of the Holy Child Jesus had, at the request of Father James Timmins, assumed charge of our school. That was in 1881. By the mutual Consent of Father Joseph Timmins, Pastor, and the Motherhouse at Sharon Hill, the Sisters relinquished this post in 1913. The Sisters began to feel that the journey to and from Sharon Hill was burdensome, whilst Father Joseph felt that the teaching Sisters should be resident in the parish. Accordingly, on 3 September, 1913, the Sisters of St. Joseph came to the parish to take

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charge of the school. There were Mother Mary Louis, Sister Dolorine, Sister Paschaline, Sister Rose Angela and Sister Rose de Lima, all of whom are affectionately remembered by many of the present parishioners.

On 8 September, 1913, the Pastor, Rev. Joseph F. Timmins, celebrated Holy Mass for the reopening of the school. There was an enrollment of 369 pupils, 85 of whom were new (boys 178, girls 191). As eight teachers were required to staff the school, the Pastor retained three lay teachers who had taught in the school with the Sisters of the Holy Child Jesus. These were the Misses Sarah Gallagher, Margaret Corcoran and Alma O'Connor. The fourth lay teacher came from Philadelphia, Miss Elizabeth Gallen.

The Children's May Procession, now so dear and familiar a feature of our parish life, was held for the first time on Sunday, 17 May, 1914. On 27 March, 1914, four additional Sisters were sent from the Motherhouse at Chestnut Hill, thus making for the first time in parish history the full complement of Religious teachers.

In the long span of years (61) that the parish school has had Religious teachers, many devout

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Sisters and splendid teachers of both above mentioned communities have taught here. Many are remembered; some alas! are forgotten. Doubtless all their names are in Community Archives. All undoubtedly are in the eternal memory of God. The parish here records its debt to them.

The church improvements were almost finished when Father Timmins died of post-operative complications. His death took place in the Rectory, 15 July, 1917. His funeral on Thursday, 19 July, 1917, was a civic as well as a religious function. Solemn Pontifical Mass de Requie was celebrated by the Rt. Rev. John J. McCort, D.D.(3), then auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia. The deacon of the Mass was the Rev. Michael Gormley of Frazier, Pa., the sub-deacon, Rev. Lawrence A. Deering, pastor of the church of the Nativity B.V.M. at Media, Pa., and a native of this parish. The Master of Ceremonies was the Rev. Thomas F. Clooney, assistant rector of the parish.

Rev. James Timmins succeeeded his brother in the pastorate here; and completed the improve-ments that he had begun. He placed a floor of

(footnote)

(3) Bishop McCort died 21 April, 1936. as Bishop of Attoona, Pa.

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marble tiling in the sanctuary and installed the splendid Munich stained glass windows.(4)

While not so well known in the Diocese as his brother, Father Joseph Timmins is remembered for his kindliness and affability and his care of the children of the flock.

(footnote)

4 A list of the donors of these windows is not at present available.

 

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CHAPTER XV

 

REV. EDWARD F. X. CURRAN

 

Father Curran was appointed pastor here on Friday, 10 May, 1929, by his Eminence, Dennis Cardinal Dougherty, Archbishop of Philadelphia. Edward Curran, the son of James and Hannah Curran, was born in Mauch Chunk, Pa., 5 October, 18 68. His ecclesiastical studies were made at Mount Saint Mary's, Emmitsburg, Md. There Father Curran was ordained, 16 June, 1903, by the Rt. Reverend Edward P. Allen, D.D. (died 21 Oct. 1926), Bishop of Mobile, Alabama, and former President of Mt. St. Mary's.

For a brief while he labored at Wilmington, Delaware, and was then appointed assistant rector at the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Front and Allen Streets, Philadelphia, of which the Rev. Michael J. Rafferty (later Rt. Rev. Monsignor) was rector. Here Father Curran remained from 1904 to 1909, when he was transferred to the Church of St. Anthony of Padua Philadelphia, to assist the Rev.

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William P. Masterson and, after his death, the Rev. Francis Aidan Brady.

Recognizing his ability as an organizer, Father Curran's superiors appointed him to inaugurate a parish in the city of Reading. There he founded St. Margaret's, 8 February 1920. With zeal and vigor the new pastor labored at the task of seeking out and organizing the faithful, of providing buildings and the necessary funds. After some years, however, ill health compelled him to relinquish his post. He then resided for some time at St. Patrick's Rectory in Philadelphia and acted as Chaplain to the Religious of the Sacred Heart at Overbrook.

In St. Michael's Father Curran labored assiduously for the upkeep of the parish buildings. In particular he restored and beautified the rectory, as the home of the priests of the parish and the place of resort of the parishioners.

He also devoted time and money and care to St. Michael's Cemetery which he left as a pride to the people of the parish. He made new roads, razed a two-story frame house in the front and thus was able to open a new and beautiful section for burials. He also put the church basement in

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splendid condition, laying a new floor and painting the walls and ceilings. It thus served admirably for parish meetings and entertainments.

In 1936, failing in health, he requested a smaller and quieter parish. Accordingly, 30 January, 1936, he was transferred to the pastorate of St. Lawrence's Catasauqua, leaving behind him in Chester a host of friends and well-wishers.

On 23 November, 1934, God called out of this world the devout Mrs. Mary Boylen Kelly who had figured so long and so prominently in the life of the parish. For many long years she was both organist and choir-leader. She also, for some years, trained a boys' choir that was unsurpassed in its rendering of sacred music. Her loss was keenly felt not only by her relatives and friends but also by the many who had enjoyed the high quality of the church music.

In September, 1935, Miss Gertrude Hefton (now Mrs. Edward C. McGinley), at the invitation of Father Curran, took over the direction of the choir and the playing of the organ. Her work, both instrumental and vocal, has merited high encomiums. As chairman of the Choir Committee she was instrumental in raising funds

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to purchase the two large paintings, one of St. David, as representing the music of the Old Testament and one of St. Cecilia, as representing the music of the New Testament. These paintings now adorn the Organ-loft.

 

 

 

 

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CHAPTER XVI

 

 

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

(Written by the Rev. John J. Moran)

ttJoseph O'Hara was born on Friday, 25 April, 18 84, in Our Mother of Sorrows Parish, West Philadelphia, the fifth child of Michael and Sara McFadden O'Hara. His early training was given by the Brothers of the Christian Schools and at the Roman Catholic High School for Boys at Broad and Vine Streets, Philadelphia. He was ordained to the priesthood in the Seminary Chapel, Overbrook, Pa., on 29 May, 1909, by the Most Reverend Edmond F. Prendergast, D.D.,(1) of happy memory. He was appointed Assistant Rector of the Annunciation B.V.M. at Shenandoah, 11 June, 1909, the Rector being the Rev. Lemuel B. Norton (since dead). On 13 January, 1911, he was made assistant rector of the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, Philadelphia, and served there under three (footnote)

1 Bishop Prendergast was consecrated 24 Feb. 1897; appointed Archbishop, 27 May, 1911; died 26 Feb. 1918.

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pastors the Rev. 'William J. Higgins, S.T.L., the Rev. Francis J. Clark, and the Rt. Rev. Monsignor Daniel J. Gercke.(2)

"On 21 October, 1919, Father O'Hara was ap-. pointed by His Eminence Dennis Cardinal Dougherty,(3) Archbishop of Philadelphia, to be Assistant Superintendent of Schools; on 19 September, 1922, he succeeded the late Rev. John E. Flood as Superintendent of Schools. On 5 August, 1926, he was appointed Rector of St. Lawrence's Church, Catasauqua, Pa., and on Thursday, January 30, 1936, Rector of St. Michael's, Chester. Father O'Hara was given the degree of Doctor of Philosophy by St. Joseph's College in Philadelphia, conducted by the Fathers of the Society of Jesus, 12 June, 1925. He is the author of The Laws of Marriage, Old Testament Types of Education, Vitalizing English, The Curriculum as a Builder of Character. He is also co-translator with Dr. Francis Brennan, Auditor

(footnote)

2 Monsignor Gercke has been the Most Reverend Bishop of Tucson, Arizona, since 21 June, 1923. Fathers Higgins and Clark have gone to their eternal reward.

3 Archbishop Dougherty was enthroned as Archbishop of Philadelphia, 10 July 1918. He was created Cardinal-Priest, 7 March, 1921, the first Philadelphia Prelate to bear this distinguished honor.

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(Judge) of the Sacred Roman Rota, of Archbishop Cicognani's monumental work on Canon Law.(4)

'Father O'Hara has preached in many of the churches and Institutions of the Archdiocese and on rather varied occasions, and for many civic occasions in Chester. He is known for love of study and for scholarly attainments and at the same time for practical grasp of the affairs of life. His practicality is shown in the vast improvements he has made in St. Michael's church buildings and his lessening of the parish debt. He has an abiding love for the faithful of St. Michael's Parish and a deep-seated pleasure in his work amongst them."

 

Change of Parish Boundaries

On 7 November, 1938, His Eminence, the Most Reverend Archbishop Dougherty, made a change in the boundaries of Old St. Michael's, after hearing the opinion of the Diocesan Consultors. The change affected, by addition, our western boundary line. According to the readjustment, the (footnote)

4 Canon Law, by the Most Reverend Archbishop Arnleto Giovanni Cicognani, Authorised English Version by the Rev. Joseph M. O'Hara, Ph.D. and the Right Rev. Francis Brennan, D.D., J. U.D. The book has already had a second edition.

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western boundary is changed as follows: Beginning at the juncture of the Chester River and the Pennsylvania Railroad, running westward along the Pennsylvania Railroad to the middle of Fulton Street, then along the middle of Fulton Street up to the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, after which the former boundaries still hold.

 

Death of Father Buckley

On Thursday, 1 December, 1939, it pleased Almighty God to call out of this world to a better the Rev. Charles V. Buckley, assistant rector here since 17 June, 1939. For some time Father Buckley had not been in very robust health and was stricken with his last illness less than a week before his death. Although stationed here less than six months, Father had endeared himself to the clergy and to all who came into contact with him. His funeral took place on Monday, 5 December, and was noteworthy for the large assembly of both clergy and laity that attended.

Father Buckley's remains clad in violet Vestments were brought from the rectory to the church at 4 o'clock on Sunday afternoon. The Rt. Rev. Monsignor John J. Bonner, D.D., LL.D.,

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presided, assisted by the Rev. Joseph M. O'Hara, Ph.D., rector, and a number of the clergy.

Solemn Mass was sung for the repose of his soul by the Rev. James A. Buckley, S.J., a nephew. The Rev. Edward J. Riley was deacon and the Rev. John E. Dunn, subdeacon. The Most Reverend Bishop Lamb presided, with Reverend Daniel I. McGettigan and William J. Grace acting as chaplains. Present in the sanctuary were the Most Reverend George L. Leech, D.D., Bishop of Harrisburg, Pa., and a classmate of Father Buckley; and the Most Reverend Edwin V. Byrne, D.D., Bishop of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Bishop Leech's chaplains were the Rev. James R. Cummiskey, J.C.L., and Francis J. Furey, D.D. The Right Reverend Monsignori Thomas F. McNally, LL.D., and John J. Bonner, D.D., LL.D., acted as chaplains to Bishop Byrne.

Interment was made at St. Peter's cemetery, Reading, Pa., whither a large body of clergy and laity had accompanied the remains.

 

Our Altar Attendants

On 8 May, 1941, Almighty God called out of this life the devout Miss Mary A. McCarey.Miss McCarey, as a labor of love, had attended

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St.Michael's Altars for many years, changing the linens, repairing laces, adorning the Altars with flowers, especially at the major festivals. She did a tremendous amount of work for the honor and glory of God, but so quietly and unostentatiously that many, if not most, of the parishioners had no idea of the long hours she devoted to this holy task. She had been looking forward to seeing installed the new marble altars but such was not God's will in her regard. She was laid to rest in St. Michael's Cemetery, 12 May, 1941.

We record here the debt of gratitude St. Michael's Parish owes her and those who so cheerfully and efficiently assisted her in her holy work: Mrs. Carol Reed, Mrs. Thomas J. Boyle, the Misses Julia Buckley, Mary Louise Guest and the late Monica Feeley.

 

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CHAPTER XVII

 

RECENT IMPROVEMENTS AND REPAIRS

In June and July, 1936, all the stained glass windows were inspected and repaired where necessary; the ventilators were given new catches and painted with rust-proof paint. New glass of "American Lustre" was installed in the priests' and boys' sacristies.

The gray glass in the clerestory was removed and clear glass put in its place. The stained glass in the choir loft at the front end of both aisles was in a very poor condition, cracked in many places and warped by the weather. It was removed and glass of a much lighter shade (Cathedral) put in its place. All this made for a more lightsome edifice.

In the summer of 1937 announcement was made of the need of a pulpit and subscriptions were asked for. The new pulpit was blessed by the pastor on Sunday, 5 Dec., 1937. It is designed specially to match the splendid Gothic lines of this church, of Flemish oak, hand carved.

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Around the top or tester is carved and illuminated the saying of Our Lord: "Blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it." Thanks to the generosity of our parishioners it was entirely paid for before blessing.

At the same time the Altar-Rosary Society donated a large ciborium of sterling silver, gold plated. It is capable of holding 900 hosts for the holy Communion of the faithful.

On Sunday, 29 May, 1938, framed artists' sketches of new Altars and proposed designs for the interior refinishing of the church were placed in the rear of the church for comparison and for the suggestions of the parishioners.

"A gold chalice, the property of St. Michael's Church forever, glittered for the first time in the chancel of the church Sunday, 14 August, 1938.

"Hundreds of parishioners viewed the sacramental vessel which was wrought from watches, tie pins, brooches and wedding rings which they had contributed in a collection before Christmas.

"An exceedingly valuable piece, the chalice measures ten solid inches high, five solid inches across the base, and four and a fraction solid inches across the rim.

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It is specially designed to harmonize with the interior architecture of the church, which is Perpendicular Gothic. Base and nodus have an antique finish, contrasting with the burnished stem and cup.

"The accompanying paten is of burnished gold with an antique filigree border.

"Rev. Joseph M. O'Hara, Ph.D., pastor, announced at all the Masses that the chalice does not belong to any priest, but is the property of St. Michael's Church in perpetuity and cannot be alienated. It was given by the parishioners in view of the approaching 1942 centennial of St. Michael's, the county's oldest church. It will be used for solemn ceremonies of the year." (1) It is kept in a safe-deposit vault.

Beginning August 1938 the exterior of all the parish buildings was painted. In September 1939 the new organ was placed in service. The old organ had so deteriorated in the course of years and did so darken the Church that a new organ was installed, using some few of the splendid pipes from the old organ. The cost of this improvement was $4,100.00, defrayed entirely by the voluntary contributions of the general body of parishioners.

(footnote)

(1) The Parish Monthly Calendar, Vol. XIII, p. 3.

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Kneeling cushions were installed throughout the church in time for the Masses of Sunday, 9 July, 1939.

On 15 August, 1939, there was inaugurated the Noonday Mass (12:05) for Holy Days. In this same month the new exit at the Epistle side of the transept was begun. The four upper classrooms of our parish school were re-plastered.

Our amplifying system was used first in October, 1939.

"On Sunday afternoon, 2 July, 1939, a new stained glass window, the gift of John L. and Marguerite A. Clancy, was solemnly blessed. The dedicatory sermon was preached by the pastor. Solemn Benediction of the Most Blessed Sacrament was given by Rev. William P. Twohig, assisted by Rev. Charles V. Buckley, deacon and Rev. Joseph A. Cavanaugh, subdeacon. The ceremony concluded with the singing of the Te Deum.

"The new window occupies a fairly large section of the west front or facade of Old St. Michael's Church. The space to be filled consists of eight large panels, each four feet wide and nine feet high. In addition there are eight small

 

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openings. Various sketches were submitted by ecclesiastical artists of the United States. The rector's suggestion, which has been carried out, was that the four upper panels be filled with the time-honored figures of the four Evangelists, Saints

Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and the lower panels with the ancient symbolism attached to each of these divinely inspired writers, namely a winged man; a lion, winged; an ox, winged; and an eagle. This symbolism goes back to the second century of the Christian era and is based on Ezechiel's vision and the Apocalypse.

"The new window, of American stained glass throughout, owes much of its vividness to a large use of the fundamental primary colors, reds, greens, blues. It was made in Philadelphia, but is suggestive of the ancient mosaics of the Evangelists in the Church of S. Paolo .fuori Ie Mura, at Rome. The smaller window openings were filled with Gothic conventional designs in harmony with the architecture of the church and the other windows." 2

Before the new window and organ could be installed, much expensive preparation was necessary in and around the choir loft. The plaster

(footnote)

2 The Parish Monthly Calendar, Vol. X1V, p. 4.

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was in bad shape because of leaks from the belfry, where a tar-paper roof was permitting rain and snow-water to seep in. The choir floor was badly worn and much pierced with holes for electric outlets. Accordingly a new roof of tin was placed in the belfry and the outlets covered with copper screen to keep out the birds. The plastering of the organ loft was renewed. Three coats of paint were put on the interior walls and ceilings. All electric wiring was placed in one fireproof conduit. A new floor was laid. A circular wooden stairway leading to the belfry was removed as was also the heavy hanging bellrope. The bell was electrified for ease of tolling. All this was done in the summer months of the year 1939. Before this the organ and a wooden partition entirely covered the East Window. For Christmas, 1939, a new Crib was installed.

Two new standing Holy Water Fonts of gray Carrara marble were placed at the main church entrance for Easter Sunday (24 March) 1940. They were donated by Miss Anne Costello in memory of her mother, Mary E. Costello and her sister Josephine Costello. Later the Sodalists of 1940 and the Holy Name men of 1940 donated each a standing Holy Water Font for the other

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two church entrances. These were delayed because of the European War but are now in place. All four fonts are suitably marked with bronze plates. In April 1940 Mr. and Mrs. George Peters donated a Hanging Holy Water Font in memory of Louis and Mary Elise Schmeltzer and Fami1y. This, too, was delayed but is now in place at the new exit, and marked as above. Mr. Andrew A. Clark (as has been said) donated the Rubrical Tabernacle in memory of his brother James. It was securely fastened to the old Altar of wood and has since been transferred to the new marble Main Altar.

An important parish meeting was held on Sunday evening, 5 May, 1940 in the church basement. By then so many designs for re-frescoing the church and for new Altars had been submitted to the pastor that he deemed it suitable and desirable to refer matters to the congregation in general. After a statement along these lines from the pastor it was regularly moved by Mr. Thomas P. Boyle and seconded by Mr. James E. McClay that it was the sense of this meeting that the Reverend Pastor should adopt all measures necessary for the restoration and beautifying of the church

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edilice in preparation for the parish centennial in 1942. The motion was unanimously carried.

All classrooms in the parish school were painted during the summer (1940) and open house was held in the school on Sunday, 18 August. Many seized the opportunity to visit this scene of their childhood.

Early in the summer of 1941 (June 20) scaffolding was placed in the church for the frescoers. This work of frescoing was awarded to Ilario Panzironi of Eighth Avenue, New York City, an eminent church decorator, whose designs seemed to please all those parishioners who studied them and expressed an opinion to the clergy. The entire summer was taken up in this and the other changes and improvements. It was not until 28 September, 1941 that the work was completed, the scaffolding removed and the sacred edifice ready for divine worship.

In restoring a church edifice as old as this there is necessarily much work done that does not meet the eye. For instance, the beautiful stained glass window of the Crucifixion arrests the attention of all who enter the church-and this is as it should be. The Crucifix or Crucifixion group should be the most notable object in every church.

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How many think, however, of the difficulty of getting that window in place? The rear wall of the church had to be pierced beginning thirty feet above the sanctuary floor and the wall is 33 inches thick. The stone had to be removed for a space 16 feet high and 71/2 feet wide.

All radiators were removed from the sanctuary to make an unobstructed view of the sacred ceremonies. New type radiators of great efficiency were placed in the walls at the Epistle and Gospel sides. This required piercing the solid wall for a depth of 18 inches. The removed radiators, in perfect condition, were placed in the boys' sacristy and in the school to replace defective ones.

A new marble floor was laid in the space formerly occupied by the very large main Altar. This flooring was also extended in back of the new Altar to the rear wall of the church to replace the linoleum. Terrazzo floors were installed in the priests' and the boys' sacristies, where formerly were found wooden floors linoleum covered.

All the old electric wiring in and about the wooden altar was removed and one covered cable put in its place. The most modern locked switch-board was placed in the boys' sacristy. Two new

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electric outlets or services were placed on the Epistle and Gospel sides of the sanctuary.

Imported yellow Verona marble (42 '/2 inches high) was placed as a wainscoting in the entire sanctuary. The main arch in the sanctuary was continued downward for 20 feet, whereas before it had ended rather abruptly at the top of two red iron columns. The effect now is one of greater solidity and greater beauty. A large opening in the ceiling above the main Altar was closed; as also were two openings made by stained glass windows at either side of the old altar. These windows were in a state of disrepair and dangerous to those about the altar. The altar-railing was repaired and refinished, the gates being done in chrome. Two new niches were formed over the side altars to receive the statues of St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin Mary. The four doors in the sanctuary were brought down to the original wood and refinished to match the pulpit. The wooden panels of these doors were removed and stained-glass emblems put in their place. An oak platform was constructed to hold the ministers' bench (Sedilia). The vestment case in the priests' sacristy was refinished and placed on a tin covered base. The wooden and hazardous stairway

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leading from the rear side-door to the boys' and priests' sacristy was replaced by an ornamental stairway of wrought iron with terrazzo treads and brass ornaments.

The splendid Stations of the Cross, installed by Father Timmins 53 years before this time, were removed from their heavy frames and recessed in the wall, thus becoming an integral part of the edifice. They were then repainted, as far as could be discovered, in the original and artistic colors.

The electric lighting system was renewed throughout. The 12 electroliers in the church were repaired and re-finished in chrome; new lights were placed under the gallery and in the church vestibule; two artistic electric lanterns were hung in the sanctuary; a continuous row of fluorescent lights illumines the ceiling vault.

New window sills were placed in the church and sacristies. The scroll work ornaments were removed from the confessional tops to give an uninterrupted view of the windows in back of them. The confessionals, the pews and the front of the organ gallery were scraped and refinished in Flemish oak to match the organ and the pulpit. The terrazzo floors were repaired in the church and vestibule.

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New front side doors were made for the church with panels of clear glass. The front church doors were repaired and copper was placed on the tops to prevent decay. The roof of the church was repaired throughout. Two large passage-ways, with rain conductors, leading down from the tower were made watertight. The cement sidewalks in front of the church were repaired. Re-pointing of stone work was done where necessary on the north wall of the church.

 

Re-opening of Old Saint Michael's

The Church was re-opened with solemn and joyous ceremonies on Sunday, 28 September, 1941. His Excellency, the Most Reverend Hugh L. Lamb, D.D., graciously presided and preached the sermon. His Excellency's chaplains were the Rev. John M. Zazzara, rector of St. Anthony's and Rev. James V. Mulhearn, rector of St. Robert's, both daughter parishes of Old St. Michael's. Solemn Mass was celebrated by the pastor, Rev. Joseph M. O'Hara, Ph.D. Rev. Anthony L. McCarron of St. Callistus', Philadelphia, was deacon and Rev. Joseph A. Cavanagh of the Sacred Heart Parish, Philadelphia, was subdeacon.

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Both these priests had been curates here. Rev. Thomas J. Corrigan, curate at St. Michael's, acted as Master of Ceremonies. The choir, under the direction of Mrs. Edward C. McGinley, sang Gounod's Mass.

For some weeks Chester and its environs had

been quarantined against the dread acute anterior Poliomyelitis or infantile paralysis. The ban against public assembles had been lifted only a week before the re-opening of the church. It was, therefore, not feasible to invite all the priests whom the clergy of St. Michael's were fain to welcome here. However some honored us with their presence and, for the sake of the record, we are pleased to give their names.

Present were: (we have already mentioned the Most Reverend Bishop Hugh Lamb, Fathers Zazzara, Mulhearn, O'Hara, McCarron and Cavanagh) the Rev. Lawrence A. Deering, Rector of the Church of the Nativity at Media, Pa., and a native son of Old St. Michael's; Rev. Peter A. Stewart, Rector of the Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary this city and a native son of this parish; Rev. Peter J. Klekotka, J.C.D., Rector of St. Hedwig's, this city; the Rev. Terence A. Brady, Rector of the Church of the Resurrection,

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this city; the Rev. Peter J. Kilroy, Rector of St. Rose of Lima's Church, Eddystone, Pa., the Rev. Edward F. Cunnie, former beloved curate of this parish and now Rector of St. Elizabeth's Church, Philadelphia; the Rev. Edward F. O'Malley, Rector of Our Mother of Sorrows, Philadelphia; Rev. Philip E. Donahue, Rector of the Church of the Nativity B.V.M. Philadelphia, and a native of Chester; Rev. Joseph A. Ward, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy at St. Charles' Seminary, Overbrook, Pa.; Very Rev. Joseph M. Dougherty, O.S.A., Ph.D., Dean of the School of Science, Villanova College; Rev. Francis A. Diehl, O.S.A., of Villanova College; Rev. Francis X. Doherty, C.M., Ass't Treasurer of St. Vincent's Seminary, Germantown, Philadelphia; Very Rev. Daniel F. Hurley, O.Praem., B.A., Headmaster of Archmere Academy for Boys, Claymont, Del.; Rev. Gerard L. Nolan, 0. Praem., B.A., of the same school; Rev. Joseph B. Muldoon, Ass't Rector of St. Patrick's, Philadelphia, who celebrated his First Mass in this church; Rev. Edward P. Burke, Ass't Rector of St. James', Philadelphia, and now a United States Army Chaplain; Rev. James R. Hanlon, Ass't Rector at St. Rose of Lima's, Eddystone, Pa.;

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Rev. Joseph A. Murray, Ass't Rector of the Church of the Resurrection, Chester; Rev. James P. Brennan, Ass't Rector of this parish, and Rev. John J. Dunion in residence here while teaching at the St. James' High School of this city.

On 19 October 1941, St. Michael's Choir donated two paintings, one of St. David (1085-1015 B.C.) King, Prophet and Psalmist, as representing the music of the Old Law and one of St. Cecilia (230 A.D.) as representing the music of the New Law. These paintings have been placed in the Choir Loft.

With the authorization of His Eminence, the Most Reverend Archbishop, the Stations of the Cross were erected by the pastor on Sunday evening, 5 Oct. 1941 in the upper church; in the basement church, on Friday afternoon, 20 February, 1942.

We have of set purpose left to the last the mention of the new altars. They are of various colored imported marbles, Light Siena, Botticino, Red Numidian, Alps Green, with supporting columns of Red Italian. They conform to the rubrics of Holy Church and the directions of Cardinal Charles Borromeo, the patron saint of

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our great diocesan Seminary. The main altar, as directed, is surmounted by a lofty baldachino or tester. The whole effect is very pleasing as well as rubrically correct.

 

DONORS

We thank most heartily all who assisted or are assisting in the restoration of Old St. Michael's. Very many parishioners have contributed generously. They are gratefully remembered at God's Altar. The exigency of space forbids our recording all their names.

Andrew A. Clark-Marble Sacred Heart Shrine (both base and Statue) ; Marble Saint Anthony's Shrine (both base and Statue).

Mr. and Mrs. John L. Clancy-Stained Glass Crucifixion Window.

Thomas P. Boyle-Marble Saint Joseph's Altar.

(In memory of deceased members of Boyle Family).

Dr. and Mrs. William B. Evans-Marble Blessed Mother's Altar.

Mrs. Catherine V. Boyle-Marble Statue of Saint Joseph.

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The Deerings-Marble Statue of Blessed Mother.

Mr. and Mrs. T. F. Conahan-2 Hanging Lanterns in Sanctuary. (In memory of Sallie and Mary Dougherty).

Mr. Michael Heffernan-Oil Painting of Saint Patrick.

The Wright Family-Altar Crucifix. (In memory of Robert S. Wright).

Mrs. Mary Garvey-Sanctuary Lamp. (In memory of James and Cecilia Friel).

James E. and Agnes H. McClay-Gold Ciborium. (In honor of Saint Martha).

P. J. McBride and Wife-Marble Credence Tables and Altar Cards.

Mrs. P. J. McBride-Chromium Missal Stand.

(In memory of Margaret Maguire).

Mrs. Margaret Cassidy-Altar Linens.

Miss Matilda Marie Culbert-Papal and American Flags.

 

FOR MAIN ALTAR

$150.00

Carroll, D. Frank (in memory of deceased members of Carroll Family)

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$100.00

Buckley, Dr. and Mrs. Paul A. Doherty, Daniel C. (in memory of Mary C.

Doherty) Kemether, Mrs. Catherine (in memory of Win. H. Kemether)

Messicks (in memory of Joseph H. and Hannah J. Messick)

Muldoon Family (in memory of John F. Muldoon)

Muldoon, Rev. Joseph B.

McGinley, Mrs. Edward C. (in memory of John F. and Cathren A. Hefton)

 

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Continue to Part IV >


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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