St. Thomas Bell Ringers

St. Thomas Bell Ringers
Ring Our
1860 Bell

The Friends 
Old Saint Thomas 

Pennsylvania's First Parish 

& Photos

Join / Renew


General Donations

Honor/Memorial Donations




St. Thomas Videos

St. Thomas
History Moments

Search FOST

Keep Up With FOST!

      Newsletter (2014)

Historic Ivy Mills Project

    That the Catholic parish of Saint Thomas the Apostle continues to flourish in the twenty-first century testifies to the strength of William Penn's pioneering seventeenth-century vision of a "Holy Experiment" in religious toleration.  St. Thomas' Quaker and Anglican neighbors shared his vision and along with many others have since continued to participate willingly in the experiment.  The Friends of Old Saint Thomas, (FOST) was established in order to increase the understanding that what has happened at St. Thomas over the centuries continues to bear strongly on the faith and tolerance of the parish and of the wider community today.
     The Friends' purposes are to preserve and restore the old church building, a significant connection with our past, and to foster awareness of the historical experience of St. Thomas the Apostle parish, the oldest Roman Catholic parish in Pennsylvania (see timeline below).

The Friends of Old Saint Thomas is pursuing the following activities:

  • Air Conditioning of the 1852 church building (complete)
  • Restoration of the 1852 church building and the 1874 Rectory
  • Collection, preservation of and research in parish historical records, photos, manuscripts, and memorabilia.
  • Preservation and restoration of outbuildings, the barn (now used as a garage), the one remaining horse and carriage shed
  • Educational programs for the parish, St. Thomas School, and the wider community.
  • Special events celebrating over 280 years of parish life.

"Doubting Thomas"
Stained Glass Window

Milestones in the History of St. Thomas the Apostle
1720s Mass in Willcox family home, at Ivy Mills and Polecat Roads, "since the 1720's."  English Jesuit missionaries from Bohemia, Maryland.
1729 Parish founded.  Mass held regularly at Willcox home.
1837 Saint Mary's Chapel, built as part of new Willcox mansion.
1852 Cornerstone blessed by St. John Neumann, Bishop of Philadelphia.  Parish membership: 500-600 persons.
1860 Bell installed in steeple.
1874 Rectory built, replaced 1858 rectory which burned in 1873.
1897 First Country Fair.  Proceeds support 1898 renovation.
1898-1900 Church building renovations, including installation of stained glass windows.
1936-1938 Further renovations in church building including removal of exterior stucco, installation of side altars and present interior lighting.
1957 Elementary school and convent built.
1966 School building enlarged.
1973-1974 Church building renovations, including present wainscoting.
1991 New church dedicated in June.  Parish membership:  over 1200 families.
1997 New Rectory completed
2000 Education Center dedicated.  Convent razed.  Parish membership:  2200 families.
2001 Second Floor added to School
2007 Recreation Center completed
2013 Air Conditioning installed in 1852 Church.  Parish membership:  2800 families.

Website updated:  May 29, 2014


P. O. Box 19 . Chester Heights, Pennsylvania 19017 . (610) 459-2224
Email:  FOST at