Old St. Joseph’s, Philadelphia’s Jesuit Church 1733 – 2008

View toward courtyard and church, Tom Crane, photo.

Old St. Joseph’s history spans the shift from an Anglo-American Catholic Church with a few thousand adherents in the 18th century to an immigrant church of 4.5 million in the post-Civil War era, concentrated in American cities. Despite rising anti-foreign and anti-Catholic forces in the 19th century, Old St. Joseph’s successfully negotiated this shift because of its roots in Quaker tolerance, its hidden site, and the gifted leadership of its Jesuit pastors. Perhaps the most prominent was the Rev. Felix Joseph Barbelin, S.J., (1808-1869), Old St. Joseph’s “second founder,” who built the present church in 1839 and St. Joseph’s College in 1851. A memorial plaque commemorating his long pastorate graces the south façade of the church.

Click on the links below to learn more about OSJ’s history:

It was only in Pennsylvania “that all the European faith traditions experienced the difficulties and discovered the possibilities for fruitful coexistence that American democracy was to offer.” (Sydney E. Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the American People.)

Acknowledgement and thanks to Martin I.J. Griffin, M. Maury Walton, Eugene Gallagher, S.J., and John M. Daley, S.J., for essays or pamphlet histories of Old St. Joseph’s.