The story of our Parish

On October 8, 1919, East Greenville was canonically established as a parish with Green Lane as its mission.  Reverend John A. Wachter was appointed as the founding pastor.  Prior to 1919 East Greenville was a mission church of Bally, Pottstown and later St. Eleanor’s in Collegeville.  Then in 1917, East Greenville again returned to its mother church as a mission of Bally.  About this time, the Catholic population in our town began to increase rapidly.  A local real estate agent had conceived the idea of advertising in foreign-language newspapers, describing the countryside and its excellent farming possibilities.  As a result, an influx of Polish and Slovak farmers took place in the early part of the century.  New members celebrated Mass in George Huber’s Hall, which was above a grocery store.  In March 1921, Father Wachter bought a tract of land for our first church at Sixth and Main Streets in East Greenville. The cornerstone of the church was laid on July 30, 1922 and was dedicated on December 3, 1922.  After six years as pastor, the Reverand Leo J. Letterhouse replaced Father John Wachter on October 12, 1925.  The parish continued to grow in size and faith.


 In 1927 Father Letterhouse purchased ten acres of ground in Pennsburg in preparation for a cemetery. The cemetery can be found on route 663 on the outside of Pennsburg.  Twenty-four years later the school and convent were built in East Greenville next to the church.  The Sisters of Mercy were called to teach ninety children on the opening day, September 5, 1951.  Father Letterhouse served the parish zealously for thirty-seven years until his death on December 7, 1961.  On January 3, 1962 Reverend Andrew P. Brown became the new pastor of St. Philip Neri Parish.


 Father Brown realized the need for a new church for a growing faith community.  On June 15, 1968 John Cardinal Krol of Philadelphia dedicated the new St. Philip Neri church. The church was built on land bordering the Green Lane Reservoir thanks to the generous gift of Mr. And Mrs. Martin Katrinak.  The whole design of the church is based on the recommendations of Vatican II.  Both the interior and exterior are based on the openness of invitation and closeness of worship.  Father Brown served the parish for twenty-four years prior to his retirement. Reverend John Gallagher became the next pastor from 1985 to 1993 followed by Reverend Edmund Speitel, Reverend John Scarcia, and Father Robert Roncase who became pastor of the parish in February 2006. He was followed by Father Anthony Hangholt in January of 2020.  Fr. Hangholt was officially named as pastor of St. Philip Neri in May of 2021 and was installed on September 25, 2021.


The parish continues to grow, welcoming Catholics of many different origins.  The population has changed greatly from the early 1700’s.  German pioneers who were mostly Mennonites and friendly Indians were the primary inhabitants prior to the first Catholic mission, which was started in Bally.  Bally was then called Goshenhoppen, a name derived from an Indian word meaning “a meeting place.” St. Philip Neri has become a meeting place for a surge of people moving into the area as a result of urbanization.  As the parish grows with new members, the spirit of worship and community continues to grow.