Old St. Joseph’s Church is Philadelphia’s oldest Catholic community. Founded by the Jesuits in 1733, the parish is located in the historic Society Hill, just two blocks from Independence Hall.
Old St. Joseph's was the first urban Catholic Church in the British Colonies; eight Catholic dioceses trace their heritage to Jesuit missionaries from Old St. Joseph's. The church’s sacramental records are among the earliest in the nation.
The 20th century saw the decline — and renewal — of parish life. As neighborhood residents moved to the suburbs, the colonial district surrounding the church had become a slum, serving almost exclusively the poorest. The renewal of parish life began with the establishment of Independence National Historical Park in 1950, attracting new parishioners to Old St. Joseph's, and major renovations to the church were undertaken in the 1960s.
Today, the Old St. Joseph’s parish community is vibrant, growing and diverse. Nearly half of the parish’s 1,200 registered members are single persons, though more and more young families are joining the parish community. Parishioners are attracted by the welcoming community, the parish’s continuing association with the Jesuits, its social justice and outreach ministries and its liturgies.
Old St. Joseph’s has a long social justice and outreach tradition, devoting nearly 20 percent of its annual budget to the care of the disadvantaged. Outreach to the homeless in the area includes two programs: the Carewalk and the Outreach Center. The Outreach Center serves dinners three weekday afternoons to homeless and low-income men, and Carewalk workers take food to the area's homeless in the evenings.
Photo by wallyg, via Flickr (http://www.flickr.com/photos/wallyg/149612204/).