Parish History (Continued) (2024)

During the mid-to-late forties, home construction rose dramatically in Fox Chase and throughout the country as an aftermath of the end of World War II. Our parish and school enrollments increased at a rapid rate.

On June 8, 1949, thirty years of service to the people of St. Cecilia came to an end with Father Burke’s death. Father Godfrey was appointed as the third pastor of St. Cecilia to shepherd the growing flock and administer an orderly growth of the parish.

In commemoration of the Holy Year, Midnight Mass was celebrated for the first time in the basem*nt church on Christmas, 1950.

Over the next few years, the parish debt was reduced considerably through the generosity of the parishioners. A new rectory was built in 1953, directly behind the old one, facing the driveway. The old rectory was demolished to clear the site for a new church building.

The cornerstone for the new church edifice was laid on the Feast of the Assumption, during the Marian Year of 1954. Although the church interior was not yet completed, Midnight Mass was celebrated in the church on Christmas, 1954.

Parish History (Continued) (1)

The main altar of the new church was consecrated on March 23, 1955 by the Most
Rev. Joseph McShea, Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia. The following Sunday, March 27th, Archbishop John F. O’Hara solemnly dedicated the new church. Following the dedication, Father Godfrey celebrated a solemn Mass, assisted by Rev. William A. Appell and Rev. Charles Herket, both native-sons of the parish.

Shortly after completion of the new church, the old basem*nt church was demolished after forty-three years of service. Although covered over for a parking lot, the old basem*nt church still remains in the hearts and memories of many long-time parishioners. The rubble of the old church was also a reminder of the end of an era. St. Cecilia was no longer a small country parish. It had grown and would continue to grow to serve the expanding Catholic population in Fox Chase.

By the mid-fifties, school enrollment had grown quickly, requiring additional facilities. The school auditorium was converted to classrooms and the top floor of Fox Chase Library was rented. The library building had previously served as Fox Chase School and was ideally suited for classrooms. This rented facility was called “St. Cecilia Annex” and opened for eighth grade classes in September, 1955.

Rev. Thomas P. O’Neill, O.S.F.S. became the first native-son priest to celebrate his First Mass in the new church in June of 1958.

The present convent was built on the west side of the parking lot in 1959.

A milestone in parish history was reached on October 1, 1961 when we attained the “Golden Age” of fifty years as a parish community. No formal celebration was held to mark the occasion. The expansion and building programs of the fifties created a heavy parish debt and it was felt that any available funds should be used to reduce the debt, rather than be spent on a celebration.

As we completed our first half-century, there was some degree of uncertainty.The parish encompassed a large geographical area, much of it still growing rapidly. Our school facilities were literally “bursting at the seams”. The parish was once again heavily in debt.

Parish History (Continued) (2)

Fox Chase was not the only area affected by the building boom of the fifties. The areas to the north were also experiencing rapid growth. To better serve the Catholics of those areas, the parishes of St. Hilary of Poitiers in Rydal and St. Albert the Great in Huntingdon Valley were established by Archbishop John Krol on June 6, 1962. Each parish was given a section of the northernmost portion of St. Cecilia Parish. More than 500 parish families were affected, many of whom had been long time members of St. Cecilia.

Construction of a new school building began in 1964. The modern building quickly became a reality, opening for classes on February 14, 1965.

The parish was saddened by the untimely death of Father Thomas F. Golden on August 17, 1966. Father had been an assistant here since 1959. A group of men from the parish formed a Retreat group named in his memory. For many years, the group attended a weekend retreat at Villa Marie in Wernersville.

The St. Cecilia Home and School Association was founded in 1967 to assist parents in their primary role as educators of their children and to involve them in a joint effort with the school administration.

On October 4, 1968, our third pastor, Father Godfrey, was called to his eternal reward at the age of 71, after twenty-four years of dedicated and fruitful service to his beloved St. Cecilia Parish. Cardinal John Krol appointed Father Richard J. Keul as fourth pastor on November 12, 1968, succeeding Father Godfrey.

The year 1971 saw the reactivation of the Choir; and, the founding of the Senior Citizens Group and the School Volunteer program. The year also saw the formation of the Cheerleader Squads.

Prior to Father Godfrey’s death, plans for a multi-purpose parish building had been discussed. Under Father Keul’s pastorate, plans were completed and construction started on an addition to the school. Completed in 1971, six classrooms, a gymnasium and an auditorium were added. An indoor Fall Bazaar was held in the gymnasium the following year, replacing the Annual Carnival.

Parish History (Continued) (3)

Failing health led to Father Keul’s retirement, as pastor, on June 5, 1972. Father was designated “Pastor Emeritus” and continued to live at the rectory until his death on June 27, 1972.

Monsignor Frederick J. Moors was appointed as our fifth pastor on June 6, 1972. He had served many years as a high school educator and was the founding principal of Bishop Kenrick High School. Subsequently, he served as pastor of St. Patrick Parish in Norristown, prior to his pastoral assignment at St. Cecilia.

The parish debt was in excess of $800,000 when Monsignor Moors was appointed pastor. Monsignor took several steps to help eliminate the debt. He initiated a monthly meeting of the heads of all parish organizations to coordinate their efforts for the over-all benefit of the parish. The Carnival was re-activated in 1973; the Christmas Bazaar was expanded; and a Twenty-Week club was formed. After several years, the Twenty-Week club was changed to a Fifteen-Week Club and was one
of the most successful fund-raisers in parish history. After numerous years, the Fifteen-Weekclub was discontinued due to waning interest. Meanwhile, the various fund-raising activities combined with the generosity of parishioners helped reduce the parish debt.

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Parish History (Continued) (2024)
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