St. Ignatius Church and Rectory in earlier years

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St Ignatius School

REV. DANIEL IGNATIUS McDERMOTT First pastor -1869---1872





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                            MEMORIES OF ST. IGNATIUS
Saint Patrick's Day Minstrel
Friday night bingo
Saturday confession
May processions
Clapping erasers
Fasting for lent
OK, Now let's hear some of yours--
 E-mail them to me at        mpreil  
Mike Reilley    

        Saint Ignatius Church is another victim of the underground mine fire that burns beneath the town of Centralia, Pa.. Because of the fire this small town in central Pennsylvania is almost deserted. Most people have moved away, stores, the bank, churches and post office have all closed and relocated elsewhere. This is the story of St Ignatius Church.
     Catholics were among the earliest residents of Centralia, coming into the area as early as 1855 when the Locust Mountain Coal and Iron Company began erecting houses for its employees. At that time they were mostly all Irish immigrants who came to this country to escape famine and bad times in their native country. Later in the nineteenth century and early in this century, Catholics from the eastern and southern European countries come for similar reasons.
     Father Michael Sheridan, who was pastor of St. Joseph's Parish in Ashland, provided for the Catholics of Centralia as part of his parish from the time that parish was organized in 1856 until 1868. In 1868 Centralia came within the boundaries of the newly formed Diocese of Harrisburg.     Because of the fact that Centralia was no longer located within the     Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and because of the increasing number of  Catholics here, it was decided to establish a separate parish. Bishop Jeremiah F.Shanahan the first Bishop of the Dicocese of Harrisburg, then appointed the Rev.Daniel Ignatius McDermott to set about the task of organizing a parish.
     Father McDermott was only twenty five years old when he began his work in Centralia  and had been ordained a priest only ten months before this assignment. For a brief period Father McDermott celebrated Mass at St. Joseph's Church, Ashland which was attended by the Catholic people from Centralia. Then on April 12, 1869 he come to Centralia and celebrated two Masses the following  Sunday in the school house on East Main Street. Later he celebrated Mass in another school house on East Railroad Street until the church was built.

     In the meantime he lived in a house at 108 West Railroad Street and said weekday Masses there and these Masses were served by B. I. Curran and Thomas O'Connor, the original altar boys. The parishioners under the direction of Father McDermott then began the task of building a church. It was at first planned to build the church on the vacant lot on East Centre Street but it was then decided to build elsewhere because future mining operations were planned for under that section. The Locust Mountain Coal and Iron Company then donated four lots on South Locust Avenue at the top of the hill where the. company said a solid conglomerate rock base exists. It was decided that the church be built there and the cornerstone was laid by Bishop Shanahan on July 18, 1869. The structure was completed and dedicated on November 18, 1869 by Bishop Shanahan. The church was constructed of native rock gathered from the mountain and had been in continuous use since its erection. It was the oldest Catholic church edifice to be found anywhere in this area and its excellent condition was a tribute to the foresight of those in charge of planning and erection. Father McDermott had the cemetery started in 1869 and the first burial was that of Patrick Flanigan who was killed near Locust Dale. Saint Ignatius was the first parish established in what is now the Mount Carmel Deanery. In 1869 Father Mc Dermott decided to build a mission church at Mount Carmel. Previous to this the Catholics there were attending Mass held on certain occasions in a school house, by Father Koch of Shamokin. The mission was built and was taken care of by Father McDermott and his successor, Father Field until 1878 when it was made a separate parish with Rev. J. J. O'Reilly as first pastor. Between 1870-78 the priests of St. Ignatius also said Mass in St. Joseph's Church, Locust Gap, along with the priests from Shamokin, until a resident pastor was appointed there. Father McDermott built the parish membership from 348 souls to over 1500 in one year's time. In 1870 he had the rectory built beside the church. It was also built of stone.  Father McDermott remained as pastor until February of 1872 when he was recalled by the Archbishop of Philadelphia and assigned to New Philadelphia. The Rev. Edward T. Field who was assistant pastor then took over as pastor. Both Father McDermott and Father Field were well known throughout the region for the stand they took against the disorders which were prevalent at that time. Father Field was pastor until he become ill and had to be taken to a hospital in Philadelphia        
     Rev. James J. Russell was appointed third pastor to succeed Father Field, who died on June 12, 1884. During his pastorate the baptismal font was installed in the church, and the wooden columns supporting the roof were replaced with iron ones. At a meeting of the parishioners it was also decided to build a two story brick addition to the back of the rectory. This was undertaken and was financed  by each adult contributor of the parish being assessed the sum of twelve dollars. This campaign for funds began in July of 1884 and all assessments were to be paid up by 1887. In the latter year another meeting was held at which time it was decided to take action "legal or otherwise" against those who failed to meet their assessments. When these improvements to the church and rectory were completed the parish debt stood at $2,200. Father Russell remained as pastor of St. lgnatius until April 20, 1888 when he was transferred to Columbia.            After Father Russell was transferred, the Rev. Thomas F. Kennedy become the fourth pastor. The interior of the church was redecorated during his pastorate and was decorated with paintings on the ceilings and walls. Father Kennedy held the office as pastor until 1891 when he was succeeded by the Rev. Michael C  Power. Father Power took a keen interest in the parish and built up the membership to over 3000 souls. He died in May of 1895 and was succeeded by the Rev.Charles J. Kenney who was his assistant pastor. Scarcely a year later Father Kenney died. Both Father Kenney and Father Power were buried in a lot adjacent to the church building. When the convent was built it then became necessary to remove their bodies and bury  them in  the priest lot in the cemetery.

Rev. Edward T Field

Rev. Edward T. Field
Born 2-5-1841 in Phila. PA
Admission to St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Phila, PA on 9-1-1865.
Ordained 1-2-1869 (The same day as John W. Shanahan later Bishop of Harrisburg) by Bishop J.F. Shanahan in the Cathedral of SS. Peter & Paul in Philadelphia PA.  According to the Catholic Standard 1-9-1869 he sang Vespers on the afternoon of Jan. 3rd at St. Michael's at 2nd & Masters Sts. in Phila.  He intended to say his first Mass on Epiphany at St. Peter's in Wilmington DE.  
1870: First post at Corpus Christi in Chambersburg, Franklin Co. PA
1872: Our Lady of Mr. Carmel in Mt. Carmel, PA
1874: St. Ignatius; Centralia, PA
1884: Died in Baltimore on June 12
Information by:
Philadelphia Archdiocesan Historical Research Center