History of the Parish
A parish is the smallest but most vital unit in the organization and administration of the Catholic Church. It is what the ecclesiastical writers call a microcosms, a little world in itself, reflecting all the life of the Church as a whole.
For this as well as for many other reasons, the history of a parish is most important segment of the general story of the Catholicism in a diocese, an archdiocese, a nation and a hemisphere. The parish reflects, as in a small mirror, the sacramental life of the Church, and that life stretches backward through the centuries to the Divine Founder, Jesus Christ.
SAINT GABRIEL’S PARISH IS FOUNDED
Following upon the dire effects of the panic of 1837, the Catholic Church in Philadelphia, then with its twenty-five thousand members, saw the establishment of one of her most important parishes, Saint Patrick’s in the year 1839. It was around the same time that Catholics were suffering much consternation caused by the outbreak of anti-Catholic riots fostered by the so-called Native American Society (Nativists). Irish Catholics were despised and persecuted by the Nativists who forgot the great American principle of liberty and justice for all.
In spite of those turbulent events, the Catholic Church grew. In July 1868 there was a division of Saint Patrick’s parish and the formation of the new parish of Saint Charles Borromeo. In November 1886, another new parish was formed and placed under the patronage of Saint Anthony of Padua.
In 1895, due to the increasing number of families in the lower Gray’s Ferry section, though still mostly desolate, Archbishop Patrick J. Ryan, D.D., decided that another Parish should be formed for that ever expanding community. On October 24, 1895, the Archbishop sent a telegram to Reverend Patrick J. Mellon, then Pastor of Saint Joseph’s Church, Reading:
“On October 30th you will please to make preparation for the building of a new church, near Gray’s Ferry, in this city. The boundaries of which will be determined as soon as possible.”
………….and so began the building of the community of God in Gray’s Ferry called Saint Gabriel’s Parish.