St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi Roman Catholic Church

The first Italian national parish in the United States, St. Mary Magdalen was formed in 1852 by Bishop John Neumann to meet the spiritual needs of Philadelphia's Italian immigrant community within the Irish-dominated archdiocese.

Church leaders saw ethnic churches as a way to fortify the Catholic faith in immigrants and acculturate them to an American style of worship while staving off the temptations of secularism and the proselytizing of Protestants, whose charities often aided immigrant groups. The immigrant parishioners held their national parishes dear because they were centers of both spirituality and community. The parish church supported immigrant communities that were learning to negotiate the wider society of work and urban life.

The original parishioners of St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi were Northern Italian immigrants who were more highly skilled than the southern Italian immigrants who followed them, and were fairly well-established by the time the poorer, mostly unskilled southern Italian immigrants arrived in the 19th century and early 20th centuries. The southern Italian and Sicilian immigrants were made to feel unwelcome by the Irish clerics at St. Paul's at 10th and Christian, but also sometimes felt like unwanted interlopers at St. Mary Magdalen.

By 1897, South Philadelphia's Italian immigrant population was approaching 30,000 and the congregation at St. Mary Magdalen, although led by an Italian pastor and uniformly Italian in nationality, was becoming divided by class and region of origin. That year Archbishop Ryan announced that the Italians living west of 8th Street would be given their own church. Our Lady of Good Counsel was established on the site of the old St. Paul's school building at 816 Christian in May of 1899.

By 1930, the Italian population of Philadelphia reached 150,000, with the highest concentration in South Philadelphia. The Archdiocese had by then established Italian national parishes all over the city, with several serving South Philadelphia, including Our Lady of Good Counsel, St. Nicholas of Tolentine at 9th and Watkins Streets, and King of Peace at 26th and Wharton Streets. But St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi remained the historic anchor of Italian South Philadelphia.

In 2000, The Archdiocese of Philadelphia merged the parishes of St. Mary Magdalen and St. Paul's at 10th and Christian streets, and designated St. Mary Magdalen a "worship site" — a satellite church offering limited masses and funerals. Next door to the church is the Mario Lanza Institute and Museum, established in 1962 and housed in the church's former rectory at 712 Montrose Street since 2002. Legend has it that Mario Lanza, known then as Freddy Cocozza, sang the Ave Maria at his old parish. The church holds a memorial mass in Lanza's honor every year.

References

  • Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies. "Italian-American Traditions: Family and Community." The Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies. http://www2.hsp.org/exhibits/Balch%20exhibits/italian/italian.html
  • Juliani, Richard N. Priest, Parish, and People: Saving the Faith in Philadelphia's "Little Italy." Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2007.

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Gloria Dei (Old Swedes') Church Shot Tower Conveyed Hancock Street Houses Site of the Southwark Soup Society Weccacoe Engine Co.'s House, and Reception of United Fire Co. of Baltimore Church of St. Philip Neri Court having nine small houses in rear of a tenement house Mario Lanza Park banner Pelzer Funeral Home Southwark/Queen Village Community Garden Emanuel Evangelical Lutheran Church front entrance Budweiser's Bar Phillips Temple Christian Methodist Church St. Stanislaus Catholic Church James Forten Kesher Israel Synagogue B'nai Abraham synagogue Mt. Tabor African Methodist Church Lombard Street Riot Historical Marker Octavius V. Catto W.E.B. Du Bois portrait Firefighter Stephen Presco, Engine 11 Housefronts on 600 Block of Kater Street Bedford Street Mission The Antiquarian's Delight Retail Depot of the Great Philadelphia Made Clothing N. Snellenburg & Co. Curb Market, 4th Street and South Street Famous 4th Street Delicatessen sign 4th Street, 1940 Marmelstein's front window on Fabric Row Casa Ravello Milk Station House of Industry historical marker Graphic Sketch Club Julia and Aldo Allegrini wedding L'Opinione: Il Departmento Circolazione Vietnamese Hung Vuong Association Curtis Publishing Plant/Lofts at Bella Vista Isgro Pastries storefront St. Paul's Roman Catholic Church Verdi Hall Italian Market, 1947 Lady of Good Council R.C. Church, Christian above 8th Sts. Interior of Luigi Fiorella Meat Market Italian & American Maccaroni Works Dan Khang Nha Trang sign Anthony's Chocolate House exterior D'Angelo's Specialty Meats storefront Playbill for the "The Passion Play of Christ"  presented by the Filodramatic Circle Gasperinese, 1931 The Procession of St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi mural Fante-Leone Public Pool Cannuli Brothers storefront Talluto's Authentic Italian Food storefront Grassia's Italian Market Spice Company Lupita's Grocery Store storefront Paul Giordano Sr. Saigon Maxim restaurant Jefferson Square Mia (left) and Mary (right) Viola St. Maron's Church exterior Bitar's Eastern Mediterranean Grill Southeast Corner - 9th Street and Washington Avenue Washington Avenue Immigration Station
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