On June 6, 1962, the Most Reverend John Krol, the new Archbishop of Philadelphia established the parish of Saint Anselm. At the same time five new parishes were being established, His Excellency selected the name of the great teacher and Doctor of the Church, Saint Anselm (1033-1109), Archbishop of Canterbury (1093), to be the patron of this new member of the Philadelphia family of parishes.
Saint Anselm Parish stretches from the Poquessing Creek, Roosevelt Blvd. to Knights Road, to Woodhaven Road, to Roosevelt Blvd. and back to Poquessing Creek. We are part of Deanery 11.
The original church grounds were comprised of eleven acres at a cost of $125,000. The temporary rectory was located at 12601 Chilton Road and moved to 12667-69 Dunks Ferry Road. Ground was broken on January 6, 1963 and the first Mass was celebrated on November 23, 1963. The first baptism was celebrated on June 17, 1962 and at that time, there were 935 families registered in the parish.
Father Edmond Walsh was chosen to assume the mantle of leadership as the parish’s founder. He began his task immediately and with great energy.
Father Walsh was ordained a priest in 1937. Upon his arrival on Dunks Ferry Road, he was greeted with eleven acres of fields and trees as parish property but no church, school, convent or rectory. He immediately set out to construct a church and a school.
With the start of October 1963, Saint Anselm School opened. The school was staffed by give Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary and eleven lay teachers.
On June 2, 1968, Cardinal Krol appointed Father Stanislaus Kowal, a quiet unassuming man, pastor of Saint Anselm Parish. Father Kowal earned the reputation of a strong and dedicated schoolman. He certainly was a friend and strong supporter of the school.
By 1968, Saint Anselm School had the second largest enrollment in the Archdiocese and was in grave need of additional space for classrooms. Father Kowal immediately undertook the monumental task of providing for the needs of increasing number of students. He received permission to build an annex, and, while this was being constructed, he acquired classrooms at Saint Dominic School and Saint Martha School. Even with the additional space provided by the new building, it was still necessary to accommodate five classes at Holy Providence until 1979.
Our third pastor, Msgr. Raymond J. Teller, was appointed by Cardinal Krol on June 4, 1980. Msgr. Teller added his flair to the church and church property. In 1980, a new reception room and entrance to the Rectory was built. In that same year, the aisles of the church were carpeted, the pews were refinished and new kneeling pads were installed. In 1981, one hundred year old stained glass windows depicting Saint Paul, Saint Elizabeth, and Saint Anselm were installed over the main altar. The year 1983 saw the acquisition of a new Baptismal font. In 1984, the church was air-conditioned and new bells were installed. In 1985, thirty-nine families donated new stained glass windows.
Father James J. Shields was assigned as the fourth pastor of Saint Anselm Church on December 8, 1988. In 1991, the church was repainted, new lighting fixtures were installed, new rugs were laid and padded kneelers were affixed. All new church doors were commissioned to add to the beauty of our church. In 1993, marble and drywall completed the sanctuary . Soon thereafter, the side altars were acquired from Saint Stephen Church.
The Baptismal font was moved to its own new marble Baptistry and enclosed in ornate iron grating. New statues and pedestals were added to the sanctuary, along with a restored tabernacle, new crucifix, sanctuary lamps, a beautiful monstrance, and many other vessels and vestments. A statue of Saint Stephen, the first martyr and deacon in the history of the Church, was placed in the sanctuary.
In 1996, a much needed gymnasium/social hall (Our Lady of Victory Hall) was built to accommodate our gym classes, our many successful sports teams, talent shows, dances, senior citizens, and other activities.
On June 17, 2002, Father Thomas J. Dunleavy was appointed the fifth pastor of Saint Anselm. During his tenure, Saint Anselm Church hosted a series of Parish Assemblies during which parishioners worked to develop pastoral plans with goals to be achieved over 3-5 years. Neighbors appreciated his care for the maintenance and appearance of the parish property, and worshipers enjoyed his creativity in decorating the church sanctuary.
Father Dunleavy oversaw the relocation of the parish rectory to the former convent building. In 2012, we celebrated the 50th Anniversary of our parish with a year’s worth of events. Two years later, Saint Anselm School marked its 50th Anniversary throughout the school year 2013-2014. These uplifting celebrations gave us the opportunity to deepen our gratitude for the past and to renew our commitment for the future.
Effective June 15, 2015, Father Dunleavy was named Pastor Emeritus of Saint Anselm Church and reassigned as Senior Priest Mentor at Saint Katharine Drexel Parish in Chester.
Father William J. Chiriaco became our sixth pastor on June 15, 2015.
It is very obvious that the history of Saint Anselm is rich. May our history continue to flourish and show our commitment to the Gospel and our devotion to Mary, the Mother of Jesus.