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“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Philadelphia in Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Old St. Joseph's

1733

 
 
Old St. Joseph's Marker image. Click for full size.
By Beverly Pfingsten, July 5, 2008
1. Old St. Joseph's Marker
Inscription. Old St. Joseph's earliest church on this site was built in 1733 by Rev. Joseph Greaton, a Jesuit missionary from England. When news that a "Romish Chappel" had been set up the Provincial Council investigated, but because William Penn's 1701 Charter of Previleges for Pennsylvanians guaranteed freedom of worship to all who confessed "One Almighty God," the chapel was left undisturbed. Penn's Charter took precedence over the English Penal Laws.

When the first public Catholic Mass was celebrated here in 1733, Philadelphia was the only place in the thirteen colonies where public Catholic services could be celebrated legally. Those principles of religious freedom enjoyed here, which later became a part of the Constitution of the United States, make Old St. Joseph's a national historic shrine.

Jesuits at St. Joseph's planted the first seeds of Catholicism in an important urban center, participated fully in the civic and political life of the colony, and evangelized southeastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey and New York for the American Catholic church.

The first chapel on this site had a congregation of thirty-five German and Irish worshipers. As the number of Catholics increased, a larger church was built in 1757. The present church,the third on the site, was built in 1839.

From the beginning,
Entrance to St. Joseph's Church image. Click for full size.
By Beverly Pfingsten, July 5, 2008
2. Entrance to St. Joseph's Church
The entrance is through an alley.
the Jesuits at St. Joseph's helped give the growing number of arriving Catholics a foothold in a new land. In the 18th century, they ministered to Acadian exiles in 1755 and refugees from Santo Domingo in the 1790s. The city's first African-American Catholic congregation met at Old St. Joseph's in the 1850s. Here Italian immigrants planned their first church in Philadelphia, St. Magdalen de Pazzi, in 1852. And on this site St. Joseph's College (now on City Avenue) was established in 1851.

Old St. Joseph's, Philadelphia's "church in the alley," is still an active Catholic parish. For more than 250 years, Jesuits and their lay colleagues have ministered to the spiritual and material needs of parishioners and other persons throughout the Philadelphia metropolitan area, regardless of their religious affiliation, social or economic status, and have encouraged dialogue and mutual respect among all men and women.
 
Erected by Old Philadelphia Congregations.
 
Location. 39° 56.788′ N, 75° 8.884′ W. Marker is in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia County. Marker is at the intersection of 4th Street and Willings Alley Mews, on the left when traveling south on 4th Street. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Philadelphia PA 19106, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers.
Rear of sanctuary image. Click for full size.
By Beverly Pfingsten, July 5, 2008
3. Rear of sanctuary
At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. The Philadelphia Contributionship (within shouting distance of this marker); Philosophić et Scientić Domus (within shouting distance of this marker); Caspar Wistar (within shouting distance of this marker); Original Cobblestone (within shouting distance of this marker); Old St. Mary's (within shouting distance of this marker); Manuel Torres (within shouting distance of this marker); “The Place You Tread is Holy Ground-” (within shouting distance of this marker); Honor the Immortal Dead (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Philadelphia.
 
Categories. African AmericansChurches, Etc.Colonial EraNotable BuildingsNotable PersonsSettlements & Settlers
 
 
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on July 14, 2008, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland. This page has been viewed 1,189 times since then and 42 times this year. Photos:   1. submitted on July 14, 2008, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland.   2, 3. submitted on July 15, 2008, by Bill Pfingsten of Bel Air, Maryland.
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