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St. Vincent de Paul Church - National Fund For Sacred Places
2019 Cohort

St. Vincent de Paul Church

(Roman Catholic)

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

St. Vincent de Paul Church was the first—and is now the only surviving—Roman Catholic church in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia.

St. Vincent de Paul Church by Jackie Lynch
St. Vincent de Paul Church by Jackie Lynch
2019 Cohort

St. Vincent de Paul Church

(Roman Catholic)

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

St. Vincent de Paul Church was the first—and is now the only surviving—Roman Catholic church in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia.

Germantown developed in 1683 based on William Penn’s ideals of religious tolerance. Vincentian Fathers founded St. Vincent’s in 1851 at the height of anti-Catholic sentiment in the United States. Two nearby Catholic churches were burned down in the decade prior to St. Vincent de Paul’s highly opposed completion in 1857. Joseph D. Keocker, a student of the architect of Philadelphia City Hall and the U.S. Capitol, designed the church in the Italianate style, and it was constructed by German and Irish immigrants. St. Vincent’s most significant feature is its interior, which contains 20 murals painted in a Renaissance style, stained-glass windows, and carved marble shrines. As with the traditional Catholic parish structure, St. Vincent’s consists of a church, rectory, parish hall, and school.

According to the congregation, St. Vincent’s “maintains an environment of cultural humility, welcoming all.” The church serves as a community meeting space, the parish hall is leased to a large social agency, and the school building operates as a hospitality center and venue for community events. Three major community-based programs operate in partnership with St. Vincent’s: Face to Face reaches out to marginalized people in Germantown to offer help and hope through meals and social services; and Inn Dwelling addresses barriers to the success of urban youth.

A $250,000 National Fund grant plus over $800,000 in matching funds raised by the congregation allowed St. Vincent’s to repair damaged plaster, restore murals, and address ongoing water infiltration. This project inspired St. Vincent’s to increase its outreach to community organizations and has enhanced its ability to build new community partnerships in a safe, dry space.

St. Vincent de Paul Church by Jackie Lynch
St. Vincent de Paul Church by Jackie Lynch

A Postcard Tour of Historic Houses of Worship

The vast quantity of postcards depicting historic houses of worship is best evidenced through the James R. Tanis Collection of Church Postcards. The collection of more than 20,000 postcards illuminates the range of religious architecture in the United States from monumental cathedrals to one-room meeting houses. Read more for a postcard tour highlighting the history and significance of select congregations in the National Fund for Sacred Places.

James R. Tanis Collection of Church Postcards

Stories and Media Coverage

Read more about how the National Fund for Sacred Places is helping congregations around the country rehabilitate their sacred places.

Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church by Luis P. Gutierrez