In the summer of 1955, West Chester Pike had remnants of the old trolley lines in the grassy plots of the median strip; Lawrence Road was a hilly suburban road with much of it on either side, just open fields and woodlands.
Some 700 families in the established parishes of Sacred Heart in Manoa, Saint Anastasia in Newtown Square, Nativity BVM in Media and Saint Dorothy’s in Drexel Hill were to become the beginnings of the latest purchase of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia nine and a half acres of almost virgin ground along Lawrence Road. Father Thomas P. Dowd, a curate of Saint Colman’s in Ardmore, was selected to be the founding pastor of this, Saint Pius X Parish in Broomall.
It all happened on August 24, 1955.
The new pastor trudged through hip-high weeds and the historic remains of decayed and rotted buildings that once were the property of “a gentleman farmer” dating back to the middle of the 19th century. With just a handful of local residents and a sincere devotion to our patron saint, Father Dowd set a goal of September 3, 1955, for the first Mass in Marple Township; September 3, the Feast Day of Saint Pius X. It happened! And it was a miracle in itself! The grounds had to be cleared, the debris removed, and what was left of the “main building” on the property had to be almost rebuilt to serve our parish rectory.
Father John Casey, O.S.A., became Father Dowd’s first assistant and the converted living room of the rectory became a Chapel for daily Mass. It was a start; the beginning of our parish and of our Eucharistic Community. Now, the search for larger quarters for the Sunday liturgies brought about another miracle, and an ecumenical one at that. Our first Sunday Mass was offered on September 18, 1955, in the dining room of White Manor C.C., a Jewish country club on Paxon Hollow Road.
Things moved fast and our parish started to grow; new housing developments mushroomed all around us, as there was a general exodus from the city to the suburbs. Parishioners volunteered and, with Father Dowd, constructed a temporary chapel in March of 1956. The temporary chapel held a first Mass on May 20, 1956, and a first wedding July 14, 1956. With a growing community, social life expanded, too. Several early socials were held at the Club Del Rio, in the Rectory and even in the Rectory’s garage.
We broke ground for the buildings to house our school, church and convent on June 24, 1956. And, less than a year later, on Ascension Thursday, May 30, 1957, the new church’s cornerstone was laid and the first Mass was celebrated in this edifice. Saint Pius X Parish was now well on its way to becoming one of the most active and best in Delaware County.
The next decade saw a tremendous increase in our numbers, our families, our parish and, obviously, our Eucharistic devotions. The time was getting close for a larger Church for all of those activities, which bring us together to pay honor and homage to Our Lord. So it was on August 10, 1969, that ground was broken for our present church. And, in less than two years, on May 9, 1971, we had our first Sunday parish liturgy.
Yes, we grew; a community, a Eucharistic center; a parish! But that was only our beginning. For we were still growing, now led by our second pastor, Father James Kelly.
In late 1981, when Father Dowd was named pastor emeritus, Cardinal Krol chose Father Kelly from his duties in Saint Columba’s parish in North Philadelphia, to become our new shepherd. And, with him came more progress in Saint Pius X. The spiritual and physical growth of the parish is evident on all sides. Even in our community activities, the number of parish organizations has increased from fifteen to over thirty-five during Fr. Kelly’s time.
During Fr. Kelly’s pastorate in our spiritual dimensions, we have been witness to an increase in the number of people involved in our liturgies; a fifty-voice choir; Cantors to sing the praises of God; Ministers of the Word to proclaim His Holy Word; Special Ministers of Holy Communion to assist in serving the people of our parish, both at Mass and bringing Communion to the shut-in parishioners.
Under Fr. Kelly’s leadership capital improvements abounded, including the updating of our heating and air-conditioning systems, the major overhaul of the school’s exterior, the installation of a complete computer center for our school’s educational use, the repaving of the old parking lots, the parking lot on the south end of the property, and the vast changes in the external beauty of our buildings through extensive landscaping programs. As well as the Kelly Center, built as a Community Center holding our parish gymnasium and classrooms for our Pre-School.
On June 19, 2000, our third Pastor was appointed. Reverend H. James Hutchins was named pastor by Cardinal Bevilacqua to take over from the retiring Father Kelly. Previously, Father Hutchins had been pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Mount Airy.
Father Hutchins brought with him to Saint Pius X, a great dedication to the Pro-Life Movement. And has instituted programs in the pastoral life of the parish for the spiritual enrichment of all the parishioners. Namely, Disciples in Mission, a program of small faith sharing groups that meet throughout the year, but especially during Lent, to share experiences of faith that are based on the Sunday scriptures. Another program initiated by Father Hutchins has been the establishment of ALPHA. Alpha is another faith-based program inviting a deeper understanding of our faith by all members of the parish. Another program for the returning Catholics that was started here by Father Hutchins is the Landings Program. All of these have pointed to Father Hutchins concern for the Spiritual Welfare of the Parish.
Our parish is now one of 3200 families who live by our Mission Statement, and will continue to strive to Restore All Things In Christ!