The History of Saint Jerome Church

St. Jerome’s parish was established in a territory which had a long history. The Swedes found indigenous people of the Lenni Lenape tribe living in the area surrounding the Pennypack Creek when they settled there in 1645, and in 1680, Thomas Holme, William Penn’s “ city planner” , chose the district as the most desirable site along the Delaware for the city of Philadelphia.

On September 28th, 1955, Archbishop John F. O’Hara notified Father Joseph B Dougherty, Assistant Rector of the Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish that he was to be the Rector of a new parish, St. Jerome’s. Buildings were to be established on part of St. Margaret’s Vocational School grounds and the new parish would be carved from the area the included in the St. Dominic, St. Katherine of Sienna, and Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary parishes.

Officially, St. Jerome’s was founded on the feast of the Holy Rosary, October 7,1955, the 435th parish of the Philadelphia Archdiocese. Father Dougherty celebrated the first Mass for his new parishioners on Sunday, October 9th in St. Margaret’s study hall. This new beginning took place in the carriage house of the former Bellevue mansion. The altar, its furnishings, a set of vestments, and chairs had been given by Father McCarty of St. Dominic’s parish.

The Religious of the Sacred Heart of Eden Hall Academy presented several chasubles to Father Dougherty. The sisters also gave instructions for dressing the altar and offered to teach the women of the parish how to make altar linens.

On Saturday evenings, the girls of St. Margaret’s relinquished the use oh their hall so that volunteers could set up the altar and place folding chairs in preparation for Sunday Mass. Parishioners from the newly assigned areas soon crowded the small hall beyond capacity. Standing room was at a premium. So that many a “Mea Culpa” was said with bowed head outside the portals of the tiny hall. The Augustinians were good enough to provide a priest celebrant to say some of the Masses in those very early days. Lay Mass servers were to remain a common sight for the next several years. Parish registration cards could be found on top of a piano in the rear of the hall. A standard Post Communion announcement during the last Mass of the day requested volunteers to fold and store the chairs so that the room could be returned to recreational use by the girls of St. Margaret’s.

Father Dougherty maintained a residence at Maternity B.V.M. for several months. Then shortly before Christmas he moved into a rented house at 8026 Narvon St. This, our first rectory, was to be his home and parish office for about three years. Furnishings consisted of a donated dining room table, some chairs, and a bed purchased by several ladies of the parish.

Building a parish plant became imperative. Joseph Stimmler was selected as the architect, and an ensuing building bid was won by Frank D’Lauro. The initial contract called for construction of the school, a convent, temporary church, and the rectory.

Ground was broken for the first buildings on Sunday, October 26, 1956, and miniature plastic shovels were distributed as souvenirs for the occasion. Construction continued into 1957 and on April 27, His Excellency Bishop J. Carroll McCormick presided at the cornerstone-laying ceremony for the building which would house our temporary church and school.

On October 20th, exactly one year after the ground-breaking, the faithful of Saint Jerome’s attended Sunday Mass in the first school building.