In June 1959, in response to a population shift away from and towards the north of downtown New Castle, Pennsylvania, the new St. Camillus de Lellis Catholic Parish/Church was established in Neshannock Township. The new parish was to serve the Catholic parishioners of Neshannock and Wilmington Townships and (beginning in May 1961) part of the northwest section of New Castle. The parish was named in honor of Saint Camillus de Lellis, the patron saint of the sick and also of nurses. The Reverend James F. McBride (1913-1991), a native of Swissvale, Pennsylvania, who was ordained in 1938, was tasked with getting the new church up and running. He was familiar with New Castle as had previously been serving dual-duty as the pastor of St. John the Baptist Maronite Catholic Church and the chaplain of St. Francis Hospital.
Initial services were held in the Hi-Lander Theater on Highland Avenue, while efforts proceeded to erect a new church building. A property of about seven acres was later acquired on West Englewood Avenue, just off of Wilmington Road (Route 18). Plans for a new church, rectory, and social hall – all designed under one roof – were formally approved in late 1960. Fundraising efforts soon got underway to pay for the structure, estimated to cost about $375,000. The modern building, whose interior would be lit by huge glass screens and roof skylights, was designed by architect Harold J. Ramsey.
A groundbreaking ceremony, led by the Reverend McBride and the Reverend Francis M. McCarter, pastor of the St. Mary Catholic Church, was held on Sunday, October 15, 1961. Construction efforts got underway soon after. About a year later, on Friday, September 21, 1962, the church was officially dedicated. The Reverend John J. Wright, the Bishop of Pittsburgh (from 1959-1969), held a special mass at the new church – parts of which I believe were still under construction.
The New Castle News of Saturday, September 22, 1962, reported, “Bishop John J. Wright of the Pittsburgh Diocese offered High Mass and blessed the new St. Camillus Church during dedication ceremonies yesterday. The service marked the end of a lengthy effort by the parish, which was created in June, 1959, to have a house of worship. Among the more than 1,000 persons attending the dedication were six monsignors, 50 priests and 60 nuns from churches, schools and hospitals within a 150 mile radius of New Castle.” A public open house was held at the completed church on Sunday, February 10, 1963.
The congregation prospered in the coming decade and when the Reverend James F. McBride departed in June 1967 the parish was in great shape. A new six-classroom CCD Center, which cost $174,000, was opened right beside the church in early 1968. Subsequent pastors included the Reverends Francis X. Cronin from 1967-1969 and Robert McBride from 1969-1971. The Reverend George T. Leech took over as pastor in June 1971 and guided the congregation for the next fifteen years. Leech was followed by the Reverends Timothy G. Evans from 1986-1994 and David Driesch from 1994-1998. In October 1995 a new social hall known as McGurk Hall was dedicated as well.
Modern-day pastors of the church included the Reverends Robert J. Miller from 1998-2002, Phillip Farrell from 2002-2009, Thomas Lewandowski from 2009-2013, and Michael J. Peck beginning in 2013. The thriving congregation, which celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 2009, is still going strong today.
St. Camillus Catholic Church (shown above), located on West Englewood Avenue, was officially dedicated on Friday, September 21, 1962. The mostly windowless structure features a variety of colored glass screens and skylights. The building also contains a rectory, offices, and a social hall. (Apr 2014) Full Size
The congregation initially met in the old Hi-Lander Theater for over three years until this new church was opened in September 1962. (Apr 2014)
The CCD Center (shown above), containing six classrooms for religious studies, was opened in early 1968. (Apr 2014) Full Size
St. Camillus Catholic Church. (c2012)