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Annunciation Blessed Virgin Mary Parish at 218 W Cherry Street, Shenandoah, PA 17976 US - Parish History

Parish History

In 1870 Rev. Henry F. O'Reilly came to Shenandoah to establish its first Catholic Parish, The Church of The Annunciation B. V. M. At this time the parish was part of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia under Bishop James F. Wood who chose the name of the new church. The church was establsihed in a building erected during the late 1860's in Mayberry Alley, which is now known as Columbus Street. This modest building had been built for use as a mission church (that is a church without a resident pastor). Fr. O'Reilly built a pastoral residence, moved the original church building and built a new larger church to accomodate the growing Catholic population. Fr. O'Reilly died on November 23rd of 1908 and was succeded by Rev. Lemule B. Norton. By the time Rev. Norton arrived in Shenandoah, the church & rectory buildings had suffered much wear & tear and had sustained damage due to the coal mining operations which ran beneath the church properites. Also,the church was reportedly no longer large enough to accomodate the several thousand Catholics now residing in Shenandoah. After studing maps of the mine workings beneath the church and discussions with engineers and architechs it was determined that the site was sound. A new rectory was built in 1912 and still stands today. Erection of a new church was begun in July of 1914. The cornerstone was laid and dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, November 26, 1914. This beautiful house of God was finally completed and dedicated on October 10th 1915. Fr. Norton died on February 5, 1921 and was remembered for his tireless efforts for both church and community. He is buried in Annunciation Cemetery in Shenandoah Heights. The parish's next pastor was Father John B. Dever who established a parochial elementary school which opened in September 1923. Two years later the high school, Shenandoah Catholic, was added. This is the same building which now serves as the Catholic elementary school for all the Shenandoah parishes,and was renamed in honor of Father Walter J. Ciszek S. J., a native son of Shenandoah. Tragedy struck the parish on October 29, 1925 when the Church of the Annunciaton was destroyed by fire. As plans were made to rebuild, Father Dever was transferred and succeeded by Rev. Henry F. McCall. Building plans and efforts continued but Father McCall was transferred within the year and Rev. James V. McEnery became our pastor. Father McEnery arrived in Shenandoah during the early years of the depression. Efforts were made to salvage as much as possible from the original church building. The basement of the church was renovated as a temporary solution, wihch lasted for about 40 years until a new church was built in 1970. In January of 1933 Rev. Cornelius V. O'Brien succeeded Father McEnery. Father O'Brien was born in the Pottsville area. He established a mission chapel in Shenandoah Heights and Turkey Run. Father O'Brien organized the St. Vincent de Paul Society in 1948 for works of charity. On November 14, 1952, Pope Pius XII named Father O'Brien a Domestic Prelate with the title of Right Reverend Monsignor. In 1966, Shenandoah celebrated its Centennial and Msgr. O'Brien celebrated 50 years as a priest with 34 of them spent in Shenandoah. The Diocese of Allentown was formed on January 28, 1961 when Pope John XXIII signed a document separating the counties of Berks, Carbon, Lehigh, Northampton and Schuylkill from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. The news was made public February 15. The following April 11, Bishop Joseph McShea, then auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia, was installed as the first Bishop of Allentown. Msgr.Cornelius V. O'Brien passed away on October 15, 1967. Reverend John J. Nugent, founder and first principal of Nativity B.V.M. High School became our next pastor on November 29, 1967. Father Nugent formed a Parish Advisory Council and various other committees to rejuvenate parish life at Annunciation. A renovation program, financial drive, and building plans were also started in 1968. Ground was broken in November of 1969 and work progressed according to schedule. On December 23, 1970 a Mass was concelebrated by Father Nugent & Father Kean, an assistant, in the new church. On March 28,1971 Bishop Joseph McShea formally dedicated the church. This occasion also marked the 100th Anniversary of our parish. Father Nugent served Annunciation Parish until his retirement in June of 1987. He Died on February 18, 1995 and is buried in the Veteran's Plot in the Annunciation Cemetery. Rev. Stephen J. Halabura became our Pastor in June of 1987. It was during Father Halabura's time that Annunciaton Chruch began making and selling delicious homemade pierogies. He also re-establsihed our annual fundraising Summer and Christmas Bazaars. He served here for almost one year and was succeeded in 1988 by Father Joseph T. Whalen. During his time as pastor, Father Whalen was given the added responsibility of a second church, our sister parish, St. Mary Magdalen in Lost Creek, PA. Father Whalen was reassigned in June of 1993 to the State Correctional Instution at Frankville. The parish family then welcomed Rev. William H. Carter, a Lost Creek native, in June of 1993. Father Carter celebrated the 20th anniversary of his ordination along with the celebration of the Parish's 125th Year. He resurrected the annual St. Patrick's Day Dinner Dance and during his tenure held an annual "Irish Wake". Fr. Carter died in May 22,1997 and is buried in the Veteran's Grave in Annunciation Cemetery. Father Edward J. O'Connor soon became our new pastor. In November of 2000 Father O'Connor hosted a "town-wide" Mission which was very well attended and served to unite our community in faithfilled celebration. In January of we 2001 added a third pairish to our pastoral family, The Chruch of St. Mary in Ringtown, PA. Rev. O'Connor left us in 2002 to become the pastor of his native parish, St. Patrick's in Pottsville. Father William N. Seifert was assigned as our next pastor in June of 2002. Father Seifert came to us from Kutztown University where he was the chaplin of Christopher House. He was reassigned in June of 2003 to St. Joseph Parish in Easton. Father Richard C. Brensinger,who hails from Bally, PA., accepted his first pastoral assignment in June of 2003 arriving just in time for the Annual Summer Bazaar. Fr. Rich was later assigned two additional parishes in town, St. George and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel. With our parish and St. Mary Magdalen's in Lost Creek, that made a total of four. Fr. Brensinger coordinated the combining of the various office locations into one "Center for Parish Offices". Fr. James C. Bechtel arrived in March of 2005 to become pastor of four Shenandoah parishes including Annunciation B. V. M. Fr. Bechtel was instrumental in the reorganization of our local Catholic school, Fr. Walter J. Ciszek School, which is now a regional Catholic school,Trinity Academy, welcoming children from Frackville, Ashland, Girardville and the Shenandoah area. Father also moved the Parish Office back to Annunciation Rectory and established his residence in St. George Rectory. Father left us in June to become Pastor at Sacred Heart Church in Bath, PA On June 13th of 2006 our parishes welcomed Fr. Bernard A. Flanagan as our new pastor. who was elevated to Monsignor in 2008.  Msgr. Flanagan was replaced in November of 2010 by Msgr. Roanld C. Bocian who holds the distinction of being the first Pastor of 7 churches, six in Shenandoah & St. Mary Magdalen, Lost Creek, PA.  Our current church census is: 720 individuals 385 families Annunciation B.V.M.

1870 O'Reilly, Henry F.
1908 Norton, Lemule B.
1921 Dever, John B.
1925 McCall, Henry F.
1928 McEnery, James V.
1933 O'Brien, Cornelius V.
1967 Nugent, John J.
1987 Halabura, Stephen J.
1988 Whalen, Joseph
1993 Carter, William
1997 O'Connor, Edward J.
2002 Seifert, William N.
2003 Brensinger, Richard C.
2005 Bechtel, James C.
2006 Flanagan, Bernard A.,
2010 Msgr. Ronald C. Bocian


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