Tiny Chester County church marks 175 years with prayers, singing – and horse and carriage

“Far atop a distant hill, where heaven kisses earth, stands a small white chapel….”

This excerpt from the book “Echoes in the Glen: St. Malachi of Doe Run” by Kathleen Hood graces the inside of the front cover of a booklet marking the 175th anniversary of St. Malachi Church in Cochranville, Chester County.

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput was the principal celebrant of an anniversary Mass July 7 at the church, which was followed by a Celtic celebration on the grounds. St. Malachi is a mission church of Our Lady of Consolation Parish in Parkesburg, which will celebrate its 160th anniversary in September.

Father Victor J. Eschbach, pastor of Our Lady of Consolation, and principal concelebrants rode to the church via horse and carriage, symbolic of the Jesuit priests who sporadically rode into the area from Delaware, Maryland and Philadelphia to celebrate Mass in barns and fields prior to the church’s completion in 1838.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Catholics scattered throughout the area between Cochranville and the Susquehanna River would follow the horse and carriage, knowing that it meant Mass would be celebrated.

“These immigrants were primarily from Northern Ireland and came up to Pennsylvania from the Chesapeake Bay through Cecil County” in Maryland, said Father Eschbach. The rolling green hills of this bucolic valley in Chester County, known as Doe Run, truly reminded them of their homeland.

Concelebrants of the Mass included Scheutist Father John Van de Paer, retired pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Philadelphia now residing at Our Lady of Consolation, Msgr. Kevin C. Lawrence, pastor of St. Malachy Parish in Philadelphia, Msgr. Joseph P. Gentili, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Buckingham, Msgr. Francis J. Depman, pastor of St. Rocco Parish in Avondale, Msgr. Patrick E. Sweeney, pastor of St. Eleanor Parish in Collegeville, Father Michael J. Fitzpatrick, pastor of St. Peter Parish in West Brandywine, Father Michael F. Hennelly, pastor of Queen of the Universe Parish in Levittown, and Norbertine Fathers Ronald J. Rossi and Thomas J. Rossi, weekend assistants at Our Lady of Consolation.

Among the drivers in the anniversary carriage procession was William Venditta, who attends Mass regularly at St. Malachi, and whose horses won a 1st place prize at the 2013 Devon Horse Show. “We had four carriages to transport clergy members to the church, and our timing was perfect,” said Venditta. “We also had a herald trumpeter announce each carriage as it arrived for a dramatic effect.”

Kathleen Hood, who coordinated the event, said, “I just can’t say enough about all the people who joined together to make this such an incredible day!”

Continue reading on CatholicPhilly.com →

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