Located on the southeastern-most edge of the diocese, St. Catherine of Siena Parish in Quarryville was the final stop Dec. 18 on Bishop Ronald Gainer’s most recent series of pastoral visits in November and December.
St. Catherine’s, which will mark its 175th anniversary in 2019, traces its history to the Scotch-Irish immigrant Catholics who came to work at the iron furnace built in 1809 along the Conowingo Creek. Those early Catholics in the area were tended to by priests from Assumption BVM Parish in Lancaster and St. Malachy’s Parish in Chester County.
Around 1830, Father Bernard McCabe began celebrating a monthly Mass for the congregation; the first was celebrated in a grove of trees which is now located in St. Catherine Cemetery. By 1842, Father McCabe began overseeing the construction of a church, and St. Catherine’s Chapel was completed in 1844. Bishop Francis Kenrick of Philadelphia dedicated it on May 4, 1844.
According to parish history, St Catherine’s Church was almost named for St. Patrick, but Bishop Neumann felt that there were too many St. Patrick churches in the Philadelphia Diocese. Since more of the women in the parish had Catherine as their name, St. Catherine was chosen as patroness, and on July 26, 1857, Bishop Neumann rededicated the cornerstone.
The parish’s second church was dedicated by Bishop Thomas McGovern on Nov. 8, 1896.
By the 1990s, the church could no longer accommodate its growing congregation, with more than 650 families. Bishop Nicholas C. Dattilo saw the need for a larger worship space, and Father Joseph C. Coyne, pastor, began the building process along Robert Fulton Highway, Route 222. Ground was broken on April 4, 1998, construction began that October, and the first Mass was celebrated there on July 3, 1999. Classrooms and offices were also included in the new building project. Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades and Father Ronald J. Moratelli, former pastor, dedicated the parish’s large community room on July 16, 2005, which included additional classrooms, an office and a well-equipped kitchen for social gatherings.
Today, St. Catherine of Siena Parish is under the pastorate of Father Mark Speitel. An estimated fifty percent of the parish’s families are those who moved to the area from Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York.
The parish enjoys an active Knights of Columbus Council, and has just resumed a youth group. Its “Good Samaritans” group visits shut-ins and offers a prayer shawl ministry. The parish also participates in Quarryville’s “Flowing Oil” project, in which area churches take turns organizing and hosting meals for those in need.
By Jen Reed, The Catholic Witness