Our Parish History
In 1853, a group of twenty Catholic families petitioned Bishop Neumann to found a Church in East Falls. Bishop Neumann appointed Father Hugh McMahon as the first pastor of St. Bridget Church. Land was purchased on James Street (now Stanton Street) and the men of the parish began the work of erecting the church.
The cornerstone was laid on September 18, 1853, by Father McMahon. Father James Cullen was appointed pastor and mass was celebrated for the first time in the new church on April 15, 1855. Father Cullen was responsible for building the rectory and for the establishment of a benevolent society similar to the present St. Vincent de Paul Society.
In 1865, Father Thomas Fox succeeded Father Cullen. He completed the work of the church building, installing pews, and organ and a balcony. His most important contribution was the installation of the steeple to be seen from every corner of the Falls. His funeral in 1874 was the occasion for a great outpouring of grief by the people of the community.
Reverend Richard O’Conner was appointed pastor in 1875. During his tenure, the rectory was completed and stained glass windows were added to the church. These improvements were completed in time to celebrate the silver jubilee of the parish in 1878. Father O’Conner died in 1883 and was succeeded by Father Michael Martin, but one year later he too, died.
In 1884, Reverend William Walsh became pastor and procured land on Stanton Street for the building of a school. The cornerstone was laid in October 1887 and the school opened in September, 1888. The staff consisted of eight sisters of St. Joseph.
The Golden Jubilee was celebrated in 1903 by Bishop Prendergast. After serving the parish for twenty five years, Father Walsh died and was succeeded by Reverend Bernard Gallagher. After a decade of years improving the parish property, he died in December, 1918 and was succeeded by Monsignor Wenceslaus J. Walsh.
A Church Building Fund Association was established to secure funds for a new church. The weekly contribution was twenty-five cents from each working person in the parish. In August of 1924, Monsignor Walsh purchased a group of houses on Stanton Street adjacent to the school for a playground and later as the site for the new school to be built.
In the spring of 1925, Monsignor announced that a new church would be built on Midvale Avenue against the rear wall of the old church. The architect is reported to be George Ignatius Lovatt. The cornerstone ceremony was held on September 13, 1925. The Church was built by Thomas Kiely.
On January 30, 1927, the existing parish church was solemnly dedicated by Dennis Cardinal Dougherty. The death of Monsignor Walsh in July, 1927 caused great sorrow within the parish.
Reverend David Munyon became pastor in 1928. A plot of land was purchased for a new school from Stanton Street to Midvale Avenue for $6,500.00 In 1944, Father Munyon was felled by a stroke. Father Kortekamp was named administrator becoming a familiar site in the Falls, accompanied by his Irish Setter. It is during this time that work on the church was completed, and the shrine to the Blessed Mother on the front lawn was dedicated.
After the death of Father Munyon, Father Edward Allen was appointed pastor. He immediately set about the construction of a new school to accommodate the influx of defense workers into the parish after the war. In 1949 the new school was opened for students.
In 1952, Father Allen died and was succeeded by the Reverend John Cartin. Father went about reducing the debt of the school through a Mardi Gras before lent, carnivals, door to door collections and other fund raising events. In April of 1955, Father traveled to Monaco for the wedding of one of his parishioners, Grace Kelly to the Prince of Monaco. Mr. and Mrs. John B. Kelly had the church ceiling painted as a replica of the Cathedral in Monaco as a present to the parish for the wedding.
In 1972, Father Cartin celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of ordination and Father James Murphy was appointed pastor the following June of 1973. Father Cartin remained at the parish as the pastor emeritus.
In 1975, the Kelly house at 3663 Midvale Avenue was purchased as a parish office. The post office, at 3665 was purchased and became the Jubilee hall in honor of the one hundred and twenty-fifth jubilee year
After Father Murphy’s retirement in 1991, Father Leonard Peterson became pastor. Father Leonard Peterson was succeeded as pastor by Father Richard York in 1994. Father John Kelly was named pastor in 2002. Father Kelly presided over the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Parish in 2003, attended by Prince Albert of Monaco.
Father Joseph Devlin succeeded Father Kelly in 2007 and continues to be the pastor of our wonderful St. Bridget’s parish.
Special thank you to Mrs. Ellen Sheehan of the East Falls Historical Society, and parishioner of St. Bridget, for researching and compiling the information on our parish history pages.