A PARISH OF HISTORY
Planting the Vine
At Saint Mary Magdalen what makes us special as a community has always been our family spirit. With over 42 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.
The people of the new St. Mary Magdalen Parish celebrated their early Masses in a stable on North Feathering Road that originally housed polo ponies and field mice. The pews and confessional came 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 strong and vibrant faith community.
By fall of 1963 the founding pastor, Rev. Gilbert J. McDevitt J.C.D., to offer Mass to 156 families.
Shortly after, an agreement of sale was made for the 12.7 acres of North Providence Road that would be the site of the future parish campus. The original buildings were inaugurated on July 4, 1965.
Our parish school began classes in September, 1965 at St. Pius X and St. Kevin Schools. In November, 1965 the school classes were transferred to our own school building with double classes in four classrooms. The first graduation of six boys and one girl was in June of 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 administrated Confirmation to 180 children on November 20, 1966. Sadly, on March 24, 1967 the parishioners were stunned by the news of Fr. McDevitt’s sudden death. On May 2, 1967, Rev. Richard J. Simons was appointed our second pastor.
Ground was broken on November 16, 1969 for a permanent church for St. Mary Magdalen Parish. and was dedicated on April 18, 1971 by His Eminence, Cardinal John Krol.
Fr. John J. Walsh was appointed as the parish’s third pastor and then Fr. Joseph S. Rodgers succeeded Fr. Walsh as the fourth pastor in May of 1980. Sadly, Father Rodgers suffered a fatal heart attack as he was celebrating a wedding on August 29, 1981. On September 2, 1981, Fr. James F. Hughes was then appointed as the fifth pastor of our parish.
On August 11, 1985 ground was broken for the new Parish Center which included a school cafeteria, kitchen and gymnasium/auditorium. On October 11, 1986, Bishop Edward Hughes blessed the newly completed Parish Center.
Tending the Vine
On Sunday, June, 5, 1988, St. Mary Magdalen Parish celebrated its Silver Jubilee.
After 19 years as pastor, Fr. Hughes retired in June, 2000. On May 26, 2000, Cardinal Anthony Bevelacqua appointed Msgr. Ralph J. Chieffo as the sixth pastor of St. Mary Magdalen. With the increased numbers of parish families, it necessitated the need for a larger worship site. In 2003, Fr. Chieffo organized a building committee which envisioned and planned a new 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 parallel was striking with donated and borrowed pews, confessionals and altar marking our humble beginnings in 1963, and Monsignor Chieffo’s decision to adopt the same approach with our magnificent new worship facility in 2008 by sharing the beauty and gifts of other faith communities in Philadelphia. The beautiful stained glass windows in the main church, for example, are a mix of old and new. From St. Aloysius Parish in the Gray’s Ferry section of Philadelphia came three windows which were designed and made in 1924 by F. S. Zettler Studio in Munich and were adapted to the new church by the Beyer Glass Studio of Philadelphia.
Nearly all of the altars and statuary are inspired masterpieces from previous Archdiocese parishes. Made of marble from the Carrara region in Italy, our altar came from St. Clement Church, which was 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 antique, dating from 1870 are from
St. Agatha Church, hang over each of the four marble statues. Three marble statues came from
St. Clements: Blessed Mother and the Child, St. Joseph, and the Sacred Heart and the fourth statue of
St. Anthony of Padua, the Baptismal font and the Ambo came from St. Aloysius. All of these beautiful works of art were restored for use in our new church.
In the Perpetual Adoration Chapel, our original church's altar, tabernacle, statues, stations of the cross, and windows recreated our 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 common law to become a parish: first, there must be a body of Catholics and second, a named priest with responsibility for that parish. The parish is the center of most Catholic’s spiritual life since it is there that they receive the sacraments. Today, a parish is primarily a faith community of people, rather than a geographic territory of boundaries. There are seven elements which form the heart of the pastoral life of a parish. These elements are not isolated; rather, they clearly interrelated, each nurturing and supporting the other in a pastoral synergy that becomes integrated in the communal celebration of the Sunday Eucharist. These elements are: Evangelization, Worship, Word, Community, Service, Stewardship and Leadership.
'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.'