Blessed Virgin Mary, Darby, where Archbishop Charles Chaput celebrated a 100th anniversary Mass on Sunday, April 14, is diverse — it always was and probably always will be.
Father William A. FitzGerald was appointed pastor when the parish was founded and he hit the ground running. His first Mass was celebrated at the Darby Movie Theater April 17, 1913 for a congregation of 175 families. The next year a chapel and parish hall were built and according to the records 2,000 people showed up for Father FitzGerald’s first Mass there on Aug. 16, 1914.
Just three years later he was able to open a school in the former Bunting mansion initially with 195 students, and just as today both Catholic and non-Catholic. Teachers were six Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, led by Mother Marietta, and the Immaculate Hearts Sisters conduct the school to this day. Father FitzGerald was still pastor in 1930, when the present church opened, but by that time he had a bit of help.
Father Vincent Gallagher arrived in August 1920 and the circumstances were a bit unique.
First of all, he was ordained by himself on August 1, by Cardinal Dennis Dougherty and immediately sent to BVM. Most unusual, he was Darby born and bred, and young priests at that time were never assigned to their home turf. Almost invariably they were sent up to what is now the Allentown Diocese for seasoning. Time went by and when Father FitzGerald became ill, Father Gallagher was appointed administrator. In 1934, when Father FitzGerald died, he was named pastor, and there he remained so until his 1971 retirement. After that he lived at Villa St. Joseph, Darby until his death. His entire life, except for seminary days, was spent in the community and parish he loved. Since then the parish has been led by Father James J. Grogan, Father Edward Conway, Msgr. Francis X. Schmidt, Father Peter Foley, and since 1998 Father Joseph M. Corley.
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