ST. DOMINIC ~ THE MOTHER CHURCH OF THE NORTHEAST

 

St. Dominic Church in the Holmesburg section of Philadelphia was established in 1849 through the efforts of Archbishop Francis P. Kenrick, Father John Dominic Berrill, O.P., and a relatively small community of Catholics.  Before the first cornerstone of the church building was laid, Mass was held in a “little stone house in the fields.”  Thanks to Father Berrill’s untiring solicitation of building funds and the generosity of Catholics and non-Catholics, the new church was completed.

 

On Ascension Thursday, 1896, the church was completely destroyed by fire.  Reconstruction began almost immediately and by September 13, 1896 a new cornerstone was laid by Archbishop Patrick J. Ryan.

 

We have been blessed with a long line of zealous, conscientious pastors.  After the founding pastor and between 1855 and 1876 came Father Matthew A. McGraine, Father Patrick A. Lynch and Father Thomas W. Power, and Monsignor James O’Connor, who was the spiritual adviser to now St. Katherine Drexel who worshiped in St. Dominic Church as a young woman.  Monsignor O’Connor was later ordained Bishop of Omaha.

 

Father Lawrence J. Wall (1876-1926) established our first parish school, erected a rectory and convent and purchased adjoining acreage for a parish cemetery.  He was pastor at the time of the Ascension Thursday fire and rallied the community to begin construction of the new church building.

 

Father Daniel S. Coonahan (1939-1957) erected the Lawrence J. Wall Annex and during the pastorate of Father Henry J. McCarty (1957-1960) the church was widened and an addition constructed onto the convent.

 

Father John J. Foody (1960-1977) was responsible for the construction of Marian Hall, two school additions and enlargement of the cemetery.  Father Joseph A. McCloskey (1977-1983) is remembered for many good things, especially for his encouragement to start perpetual adoration, a devotion that grew during the pastorates of Monsignor Joseph G. Sikora (1983-1993) and Father Joseph J. Sweeney (1993-1996).  Father James J. Mulligan (1996-2001) was instrumental in improving records keeping methods and started mechanization of parish data, a process that is on-going.  In June 2001, we welcomed home as our newest pastor Father John D. Gabin, who was raised in the parish.

 

St. John Neumann is known to have been the celebrant on special parish occasions such as Confirmation.  In her youth and because of the proximity to her family’s Torresdale estate, St. Katherine Drexel often attended Mass at St. Dominic Church.

 

The parish school was started in 1874.  The original faculty were all lay people but, eventually, the Servant Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) came to the parish to teach.  Between 1929 and 1954, St. Dominic had a very fine two year Commercial Program for girls.

 

Many vocations have come from the parish including:  Bishop Joseph Galante, Rev. James J. Bevan, Jr., Rev. John D. Gabin, Rev. Joseph J. Griffin, O.S.F.S., Rev. Timothy M. Judge, Rev. Edward C. Kelly, Rev. Kevin Nadolski, O.S.F.S., Rev. Raymond W. Smart, Sister Mary Regina Battles, IHM, Sister Virginia Fitzgerald, S.S.J., Sister Rosemarie Griffin, C.S.F.N., Sister Maureen MacElderry, S.S.J., Sister Joan Marie Louis, IHM, Brother Albert James (Trappist), and Rev. James Duffy (Permanent Deacon).

 

In 1999, with the grace of God, St. Dominic Church celebrated the 150th Anniversary of its founding.  Over the years, our people have witnessed a devastating fire, several wars, the great depression, baptisms, weddings, funerals, and untold personal sufferings and blessings.  With the Lord’s continued grace, we hope to remain the “Mother Church of the Northeast.”