The idea of making Gloucester a parish took shape in 1848, when a petition was presented to Bishop Kenrick of Philadelphia and the Rev. E.Q.S. Waldron was appointed. Mass was first said in a private house, but the accommodations soon proved too small for the growing congregation. The superintendent of the school hall, though a non-Catholic, gave the use of the hall to Father Waldron, who for a time said Mass there every Sunday. Soon, however, the little flock lost this privilege.
The church is 140 feet in length by 70 feet in width; adding to the beauty of the structure is a tower and spire, together 160 feet in height.
OUR BEAUTIFUL WINDOWS
The windows in the new Saint Mary Church from the art studios of Megnen, Clamens and Bordereau, Paris et Augers, established in 1882, have been pronounced by critics to be some of the finest ever imported. Many of the faces are authentic portraits of the saints represented.
The twenty windows in the main part of the church are:
- 1. RIGHT SIDE, front to back:
- Saint Andrew - Apostle, brother of Saint Peter, November, 30.
- Saint James the Greater - Apostle, first Bishop of Jerusalem, July, 25.
- Saint Philip - Apostle, crucified under the Emperor Domitian, May, 3.
- Saint Bartholomew - Apostle, also called Nathaniel, August, 24.
- Saint Thomas - Apostle, "Doubting", but a martyr, as were all Apostles, July, 3.
- Saint James the Less - Apostle, cousin of Jesus, May, 3.
- Saint Simon - Apostle, called the "Zelot" for his great passion, October, 28.
- Saint Jude - Apostle, brother of Saint James the Less, October, 28.
- Saint Patrick - Apostle, Patron of Ireland, March, 17.
- Saint Bridget - Apostle, Patroness of Ireland, February, 1.
- LEFT SIDE, front to back:
- Saint Jerome - Translated the Bible into the vernacular, September, 30.
- Saint Gregory the Great - Patron of teachers, September, 3.
- Saint Anselm - Doctor of the Church, April 21.
- Saint John Chrysotom - Great teacher "Chrysotom" means "golden Tongued", September, 13.
- Saint Bernard - Founder of the monastic life, August, 20.
- Saint Thomas Aquinas - Dominican priest who wrote the "Summa", January, 28.
- Saint Francis de Sales - Founder of Visitation Order, January, 24.
- Saint Alphonus Liguori - Patron of theologians, August, 1.
- Saint Theresa of Avila - Doctor of the Church, reformer of Carmelite Order, October, 15.
- Saint Elizabeth - Queen of Hungary, Patroness of Religious, November, 17.
- In Priests' Sacristy:
- Saint Mary Magdalene - Disciple of Our Lord, first to witness the Resurrection, July, 22.
- Saint Francis Cabrini - Born in Italy, but first canonized American saint, November, 13.
- Saint Lucy - Patroness of the blind, December, 13.
- Saint Francis of Assisi - Patron of Italy, Founder of the Franciscan Order, October, 4.
- In Alter Servers Sacristy:
- • Our Lady of Czestochowa - Patroness of Poland, the "Black Madonna" a miraculous painting.
- • Saint Joseph the Worker - Spouse of the Blessed Mother, Patron of all workers, May, 1.
- • Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal - Medal given to Saint Catherine Laboure in France, November, 27.
- • Saint Teresa of Lisieux - "Little Flower", Patroness of Missionaries, October, 1.
Besides the windows, nearly all the necessary altar furniture, etc., were donated by different members of the parish. The side altar of Saint Mary was donated by The Ancient Order of Hibernians. The side altar of Saint Joseph was donated by The Saint Mary Society and The Lady of Lourdes Society. The statue of Saint Mary was donated by Henry McBride and the statue of Saint Joseph by Mrs. Thomas Brennan.
Two angels on high altar were donated by The Catholic Social Club, the altar cross by James McGlade the credence table by Mary F. Phepoe, large candlesticks on high altar by Frank Fath, large candlesticks for Saint Joseph altar by Mrs. Bridget Hughes, baptismal font by Saint Mary school children, sanctuary lamp by Miss. McFadden, ostensorium and thabor by a gentleman and lady of the parish.
Three plush chairs for the sanctuary were donated by Joseph J. Gallagher, of Camden, the tabernacle lining by Mrs. Howarth, missal cover by Mary E. Gorman, vases for side altars by Mary Kelly, vases for high altar by Mrs. Julia Maloney, candelabra by Mrs.Hines, another set of candelabra by Mrs. Cloran, vestments by Henry Farrelly, cruets, of cut glass and gold mounted by Charles A. Lenny, smaller candlesticks for high alter by Mrs. Henry McIntre.
Smaller candlesticks for Blessed Virgin Mary altar were donated by Mary A. Lenny, smaller candlesticks for Saint Joseph alter by Mrs. Annie Wittington, chime of altar bells by Mary Campbell, paschal candlesticks by Mrs. James McGlade, a brass missal stand by a lady of the parish, and a pair of candlestick brackets for high altar by William Whalen.
Located on the back wall of the church are two diorama panels illustrating scenes from the life of Saint Patrick. The panel on the right depicts Saint Patrick's arrival on the island of Ireland. He is shown preaching to King Leoghaire (Leary), and lighting the Paschal fire on the Hill of Slane to celebrate the Easter Vigil and announcing the arrival of Christianity to Ireland. Notice the bard or poet asleep and holding a harp, the symbol of Ireland. The panel on the left depicts Saint Patrick baptizing two children, perhaps children of the King. The cut wood and ax symbolize the end of the druidic religion, that centered in sacred oak groves, with the coming of Christianity. The origin of these panels is uncertain, in the meantime La Fheile Padraig!