Saint Vincent Basilica Parish will conclude its 225th anniversary year with a Mass of Thanksgiving at 5 p.m. Saturday, April 30, at the Archabbey Basilica, celebrated by Most Reverend Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M., Cap., Archbishop of Philadelphia and Metropolitan of Pennsylvania and Most Reverend Edward C. Malesic, J.C.L., Bishop of Greensburg, concelebrant.
Also taking part in the celebration will be Archabbot Douglas R. Nowicki, O.S.B.; Very Reverend Edward Mazich, O.S.B., rector of Saint Vincent Seminary; Brother Norman W. Hipps, O.S.B., president of Saint Vincent College; Rev. Thomas Curry, O.S.B., pastor of the parish and Rev. Daniel O’Keefe, O.S.B., parochial vicar of the parish, as well as a number of former pastors.
Archbishop Chaput, a native of Concordia, Kansas, joined the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, Saint Augustine Province, in 1965. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy from Saint Fidelis College Seminary in Herman, and completed studies in psychology at Catholic University, Washington, D.C., in 1969. He earned a master of arts degree in religious education from Capuchin College, Washington, D.C., in 1970, the same year he was ordained to the priesthood.
He received a master of arts degree in theology from the University of San Francisco in 1971.
He was an instructor in theology and spiritual director at Saint Fidelis Seminary from 1971 to 1974, and was then executive secretary and director of communications for the Capuchin Province of Saint Augustine in Pittsburgh from 1974 to 1977. He became pastor of Holy Cross Parish in Thornton, Colorado, and vicar provincial for the Capuchin Province of Mid-America. He was named secretary and treasurer for the province and later became chief executive and provincial minister three years later.
Archbishop Chaput was ordained Bishop of Rapid City, South Dakota, on July 26, 1988. Pope John Paul II appointed him Archbishop of Denver on February 18, 1997, and he was installed on April 7 of the same year. As a member of the Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribe, Archbishop Chaput was the second Native American to be ordained a bishop in the United States, and the first Native American archbishop. He chose as his Episcopal motto: “As Christ Loved the Church” (Ephesians 5:25).
Pope Benedict XVI appointed him Archbishop of Philadelphia on July 19, 2011. He was installed as the 13th bishop and ninth archbishop of Philadelphia on September 8, 2011.
Archbishop Chaput serves on a number of boards, as well as numerous committees of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, and has served the Holy See as an Apostolic Visitor. In 2014 he was appointed to the Pontifical Council for the Laity by Pope Francis. He is the author of two books: Living the Catholic Faith: Rediscovering the Basics (2001) and Render Unto Caesar: Serving the Nation by Living Our Catholic Beliefs in Political Life (2008), numerous talks, articles and pastoral letters.
Father Theodore Brouwers, a Franciscan friar, was sent by Bishop John Carroll of the Diocese of Baltimore to be pastor of the Catholic congregation of southwestern Pennsylvania in 1789, and the following year, on April 16, Father Brouwers acquired a deed for 313 acres of land called “Sportsman’s Hall.” This tract had a log building that was used as a residence and chapel, making this Sportsman’s Hall Parish the first permanent parochial center of the English-speaking in the United States west of the Appalachian Mountains.
The parish became part of the Diocese of Philadelphia when it was established in 1808, then the Diocese of Pittsburgh when it was created in 1843, and finally the Diocese of Greensburg when it was formed in 1951.
Father Brouwers died shortly after purchasing the land and was succeeded by a number of missionary priests, including Father Peter Helbron, a Capuchin Friar (1799-1816) and Father James Stillinger (1830-1845). Father Helbron supervised construction of a larger log-cabin church in 1810, while Father Stillinger was responsible for construction of a brick church, rectory and school house. When the brick church was dedicated on July 19, 1835, Bishop Francis Patrick Kenrick of the Philadelphia placed the parish under the patronage of Saint Vincent de Paul, whose feast day it was; thus, the parish became Saint Vincent Parish.
The Benedictines, led by Father Boniface Wimmer, arrived from Bavaria in 1846, and are celebrating 170 years at Saint Vincent. Bishop Michael O’Connor of Pittsburgh named Wimmer the first Benedictine pastor of the parish, and Wimmer then established the first Benedictine monastery in North America, as well as a Seminary and College.
The present-day church building took 13 years to complete and was dedicated in 1905. It was declared a Basilica 50 years later due to its historical significance and architectural quality.