Epiphany of Our Lord Parish was created from Annunciation Parish by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in September of 1889 under the leadership of Monsignor James Nash, the first Pastor. From its outset, Epiphany of Our Lord Church functioned as a beacon of welcome for European Catholic immigrants. The first of these immigrants were poor hardworking Irish who were described at that time as €œthe faithful who patiently, with trust in their clergy, gave mostly out of small means week after week for years.
Contributing pennies, nickels and dimes for sixteen years, they boldly paid for and had constructed the 4th largest church in Philadelphia. The gothic architecture reflects a heavy European influence which made her a familiar sight: French Caen marble altars, hand-blown German stained glass windows and Italian marble altar rail. However, this new Church also contained some American materials and features: Indiana limestone arches and Vermont marble floors to mention two. She truly encompassed the best of the Old and New Worlds. The outside of the Church grounds serves as the burial place for Reverend Leo Burns, a former pastor of Epiphany Parish (also, a former Rector of Roman Catholic High School).
In the 1920s and 1930s, Epiphany of Our Lord Parish experienced another huge influx of immigrants. This new group consisted mainly of Italians. The Italians also committed themselves to the care of the parish and Church, passing on their own values and traditions, giving the parish and church a distinctly Italian flair. Today, mostly Italian-American and Irish-American parishioners, some of whom are descendants of the originals, continue to support the church and now also the school, keeping both in fine form.
Epiphany of Our Lord Church and Parish has always been a source of strength and energy to the South Philadelphia neighborhood where she is located. She continues to serve the community through the theme of her Catholic name, Epiphany: ”Seeking The Light…Sharing Him!”, making her one of the finest parishes and pleasant sites in Philadelphia.
With her 127 foot tower dominating the southeastern section of Philadelphia, she still continues to embrace any and all Catholic immigrants in this diverse community, embodied in the theme of the building’s centennial celebration (2005), All Are Welcome!
In more recent times, Epiphany Parish has seen a veritable “who’s who” of the Philadelphia Archidiocese pass through as parish priests, including Bishop Joseph Martino and Bishop Joseph Cistone. Pastors such as Monsignor Gillooley and Father Mauer are still talked of very highly in the parish. Epiphany’s most recent pastor, Reverend Domenic Chiaravalle, who served as pastor from 1988 to 2004, is currently serving the Archdiocese as the pastor of Old Saint Mary’s Parish and Parochial Administrator of Holy Trinity Church in Old City. Under the energetic stewardship of her current pastor, Rev. James R. Casey, Epiphany of Our Lord Church is experiencing a spiritual rebirth.
Today, 100 years after construction of the new Church, Epiphany Parish has come full circle. Once again, she is challenged to become a beacon of welcome, a safe harbor for poor, hard working immigrants, this time from Southeast Asia, Central, South and Latin America as well as the ever-increasing Catholic African-American population. We continue to build a Church tolerant of other traditions so that we may share and worship with charity, impartial to race and color, in our culturally diverse community. With this in mind, we open our arms, open our doors and proclaim: All Are Welcome!