A PARISH OF HISTORY
Building a Family of Faith in Jesus Christ
through Catholic Worship, Formation & Charity
Planting the Vine
At Saint Mary Magdalen, our family spirit has always made us unique as a community. With over 45 active ministries, countless volunteers, a dedicated parish and school staff, and over 1,600 families in the parish today—the community displays as much energy and determination as the 156 pioneering families showed in June of 1963.
They celebrated their early Masses in a stable on North Feathering Road that originally housed polo ponies and a few field mice. The pews and confessionals were saved from a church in North Philadelphia that had been destroyed by fire. Neighboring parishes contributed an altar and an organ, so the vine was planted, and the parish began in earnest to establish a solid and vibrant faith community.
By the fall of 1963, the founding pastor, Rev. Gilbert J. McDevitt J.C.D., offered Mass to 156 families. Shortly after, an agreement of sale for 12.7 acres on North Providence Road established the future parish campus site. The original buildings were inaugurated on July 4, 1965.
Our parish school first held classes in September 1965 at St. Pius X and St. Kevin Schools. In November 1965, the students attended classes in our school building, which had double classes in four classrooms. The first graduation of six boys and a girl was in June 1966. On July 10, 1966, Fr. McDevitt and Fr. Cribben were able to move into the new rectory.
Archbishop John J. Krol blessed the building and administered Confirmation to one hundred and eighty children on November 20, 1966. On March 24, 1967, the parishioners were stunned to learn of Fr. McDevitt's sudden death. On May 2, 1967, Rev. Richard J. Simons was appointed our second pastor.
The ground was broken for a permanent church for St. Mary Magdalen Parish on November 16, 1969, and it was dedicated on April 18, 1971, by His Eminence, Cardinal John Krol.
Fr. John J. Walsh was appointed our third pastor, and Fr. Joseph S. Rodgers succeeded him in May 1980. Shortly afterward, Fr. Rodgers suffered a fatal heart attack while celebrating a wedding on August 29, 1981. On September 2, 1981, Fr. James F. Hughes was appointed the fifth pastor.
On August 11, 1985, a new Parish Center included a school cafeteria, kitchen, and gymnasium-auditorium. A little over a year later, on October 11, 1986, Bishop Edward Hughes blessed the newly completed Parish Center.
Tending the Vine
On Sunday, June 5, 1988, the parish celebrated its Silver Jubilee. After nineteen years as its pastor, Fr. Hughes retired in June 2000. On May 26, 2000, Cardinal Anthony Bevelacqua selected Msgr. Ralph J. Chieffo was the sixth pastor. The campus needed a more significant worship site because of the increasing number of families. In 2003, Msgr. Chieffo organized a building committee to envision and plan the current church. The building process began in the fall of 2006, and on Saturday, April 12, 2008, Cardinal Justin Rigali dedicated our new church and parish office area.
The present church blends the area's history and modern, spacious design. Its beautiful stained glass windows in the main church are a mix of old and new. Three windows came from St. Aloysius Church in the Gray's Ferry section of Philadelphia, designed and constructed in 1924 by F. S. Zettler Studio in Munich. The Beyer Glass Studio of Philadelphia adapted them to fit the new church.
Most of the altars and statues are masterpieces from previous archdiocese parishes. Made of marble from the Carrara region in Italy, the altar came from St. Clement Church, built in 1865 in West Philadelphia. The front of the altar has an elaborate carving depicting the Last Supper. Additionally, four chandeliers of alabaster and bronze antiques, dating from 1870, are from St. Agatha Church and hang over the four marble statues. Three marble statues came from St. Clements: Blessed Mother and the Child, St. Joseph, and the Sacred Heart. The fourth statue of St. Anthony of Padua, the Baptismal font, and the Ambo were originally in St. Aloysius. They were lovely restored for use in St. Mary Magdalen.
In the Perpetual Adoration Chapel, our original church's altar, tabernacle, statues, stations of the cross, and windows recreate the former church where so many have received countless blessings since its construction in 1970, as well as from the outset of the parish's founding in 1963.
Nourishing the Vine
On September 29, 2013, St. Mary Magdalen celebrated 50 years with a Jubilee Mass presided over by Archbishop Charles Chaput.
A parish needs two things under Cannon law to become a parish: first, there must be a body of Catholics, and second, a priest named by the bishop to be responsible for that parish. The parish is the center of spiritual life for Catholics since it is there that they receive the sacraments. Seven elements of Evangelization, Worship, Word, Community, Service, Stewardship, and Leadership form the heart of the pastoral life of a parish. These elements are not isolated; instead, they are interrelated, each nurturing and supporting the others in a synergy that integrates with the communal celebration of the Eucharist.
'All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name. For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.'
'My son, if you accept
my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding.'
'Sell your possessions and give to charity; make yourselves money belts which do not wear out,
an unfailing treasure in heaven, where no thief comes near nor moth destroys.'