Parish History

Church building 1900
Church building circa 1900 A.D.

Parish Founding 1877-1885

Nativity BVM parish was founded in 1877 by order of Archbishop James Wood and Very Rev. E. F. Schauer, Provincial of the Redemptorist Order, who purchased for $10,000.00 land on Allegheny Avenue between Miller and Belgrade back to Wellington Street (Madison Street). On October 11, 1881 work began on the building of the church and school for $30,000.00. In the meantime, the Sisters of Christian Charity commuted every day from St. Boniface to teach the children and twice a week the priests of St. Boniface traveled the same path to impart religious instructions to the children and adults.

Deep appreciation must be given to the Redemptorist Fathers for the foundation work of this parish. For three years, they rallied a people together, firmed up their faith, settled the school question and built a combination church, school, convent and rectory on the site of the old school building, now demolished.

On February 11, 1882 the Catholic Standard and Times announced the name of the church—”Our Lady of the Nativity”, later to be changed to its present title, “Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary”. On August 20, 1882 the parish buildings were dedicated by Bishop John F. Shanahan, Bishop of Harrisburg. The dreams of a determined people of faith were realized. Ably administered by the priests of St. Boniface, the parish grew so that by 1883, there were 6515 souls in the parish and 315 children in the school. Although built exclusively for Germans, the church soon began to be frequented by English-speaking Catholics who were attracted
to the Port Richmond section of the city by the building along the Delaware River of the great coal piers and many industries. The Redemptorist who for years labored zealously among the German Catholics of the city withdrew from Nativity Parish and Archbishop Patrick Ryan sent diocesan priest, Father Francis Quinn to be its first diocesan pastor on January 17, 1885. As one chapter in the history of Nativity Parish came to an end, a new one began. Yet, between the two there will remain forever a bond of love and faith, forged by a hardy band of priests we of Nativity affectionately call the Redemptorist Connection.