About the Parish
On June 2, 1967, Cardinal John Krol appointed Father Michael J. Bednar as the founding pastor of the parish of SS. Peter and Paul Church. The new parish was composed of territory taken from four adjacent parishes: SS. Philip and James in Exton, St. Patrick in Malvern, SS. Simon and Jude in Westtown and St. Agnes in West Chester.
Before the construction of the Church, Mass was celebrated at Immaculata College and Villa Maria House of Studies. A residence at the corner of Boot Road and Windsor Drive was purchased in September of 1967, for use as a rectory.
On December 8, 1968, ground breaking for a Church took place on a 15-acre tract that was formerly part of the Sullivan Estate. The first Mass in the newly complete Church was celebrated on Thanksgiving Day, 1969. The formal dedication by John Cardinal Krol took place on May 9, 1970. There were approximately 450 families registered in the parish at that time.
During the course of its history, Saints Peter and Paul has had 7 pastors. The first, Father Michael Bednar, served from 1967 to 1972. The second pastor, Father Louis Kovacs, served as pastor from 1972 until 1993. In 1993, Father (later Monsignor) James J. Foley led the parish from 1993 to 2009. In 2009, Monsignor Daniel J. Kutys was named the fourth pastor, serving in that capacity until 2012 when Archbishop Charles Chaput named Father Vincent F. Welsh the fifth pastor of Saints Peter and Paul. Fr. James McGuinn was appointed in 2014 following the death of Fr. Welsh and our current pastor, Fr. Angelo Citino was appointed in September of 2016.
Through the years, various construction projects took place. A rectory was built and occupied in September 1981, along with a Parish Center that currently is used by both the parish and the school. The Parish Center contains offices and meeting rooms used by the parish as well as three classrooms used by the school.
In the 1990’s, the appearance of the Church was enhanced with the installation of a steeple and carillons, and twenty stained-glass windows. The interior of the Church also changed through the replacement of dark paneling with light-colored walls, the installation of a decorative stone wall behind the altar with matching pulpit and tabernacle bases, and eventually the installation of a large stained-glass window, depicting the American Saints, in the choir loft.
SS. Peter and Paul Parish started the third millennium with two major construction projects. The first was a Parish School and Religious Education Center. The school provides Catholic education from pre-K through the 8th grade. All Religious Education classes for public school children are also conducted in this building on Sundays and Mondays. The second project was the construction of the Narthex at the back of the church, complete with new rest-room facilities, an elevator to the church hall, a new sacristy, and a large indoor gathering space.
Today, SS. Peter and Paul Parish has more than 2025 registered households. The parish continues to flourish as a Catholic community of faith and as a source of enrichment of the spiritual, educational and social needs of the parishioners. 2017 the parish is celebrating its 50th Jubilee as a parish. As part of the celebration, the Church is being renovated in time for the closing of the Jubilee Year in October of 2017.
The altar in the sanctuary of the Church and the statues of Saints Peter and Paul on the front façade of the Church came from the Chapel of the Country Day School of the Sacred Heart, which was built in 1929 and was located at City Line Avenue and Haverford Road, in Lower Merion Township. The school moved to its present location in Bryn Mawr in 1978, and Father Kovacs, who was then the Pastor of Saints Peter and Paul, obtained these pieces for our parish.
The altar is made of Italian Tavernelle marble and incorporates six hand-carved statues of the saints in full relief. These statues are 18 inches high. Three panels of Gothic tracing separate the four statues across the front of the altar. The saints represented were founders of religious orders: St. Vincent de Paul (Vincentians), St. Bernard (Cistercians), St. Francis (Franciscans), St. Ignatius Loyala (Jesuits), St. Benedict (Benedictines), St. Dominic (Dominicans).
The statues of Saints Peter and Paul, measuring 42 inches in height, are made of Vatican Stone.
In November 15, 1992, the Blessing of twenty Stained-Glass Windows and the dedication of a Memorial Plaque was held in our Church. This project was initiated three years earlier, when Willet Studios of Philadelphia was commissioned to undertake this task. Father James Foley, the Assistant Pastor at the time, chose the scenes for each window and designed the windows. To execute the design, Father selected Colum Sharkey, an artist from Willet Studio.
Colum was born in Ireland in 1922. His father, Edwin, was an artist and had his own studio after immigrating to this country. During his high school years, Colum studied art at Fleisher Memorial Art School in Philadelphia, evenings and weekends. Later he attended the Hussian School of Art in Philadelphia, planning to go into commercial art, advertising or illustrating. However, his future path changed, “when my father got a job to do a whole church (Corpus Christi, Philadelphia) full of windows when he was 71. He felt he was a little old to take it on unless I would come and help him. After he completed the layout and some of the designs, he died. So I had to take over his studio.” Colum’s work can be found in hundreds of churches throughout the United States. It was important to Father Foley that the windows, in fitting with the architecture of the Church, be both traditional with respect to the figures and contemporary with respect to the geometric design.
Stained-Glass Window in the Choir Loft
On November 19, 2000, the Blessing of the new Stained-Glass Window in the Choir Loft and the dedication of a Memorial Plaque took place. The window was the design of Father James J. Foley, the pastor. This window depicts Heaven, our ultimate home. The upper portion of the window depicts angels. In the main body of the window there is the Risen Christ, Mary and our parish patrons, Saints Peter and Paul. The American Saints: Saint Katherine Drexel, Saint John Neumann, Saint Francis Xavier Cabrini, Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Blessed Kateri Tekawitha, also appear. Two giant figures in twentieth century Catholicism, Pope John XXIII and Mother Teresa, stand alongside one another.
Laity, of various ages and occupation, occupy the lower portion of the window. They are seen praying to the saints and yearning for their true home.
It was important to Father Foley that Colum Sharkey continue the beautiful work that he had previously begun and that the traditional and contemporary designs of the other windows be maintained throughout the Church. Hence, Willet Studio was commissioned, once again, to do the work and Colum was designated as the artist.
On November 25, 2000, Father Foley was the main celebrant and homilist at Colum Sharkey’s Mass of Resurrection.