St. Philip Neri: Then and Now

| 08/23/2023

By: Steven Schwankert

As the St. Philip Neri Catholic Education and Family Center comes together, we look back at the 125-year history of the parish and school on The Bronx’s upper Grand Concourse

A drawing of St. Philip Neri parish (left) and school, circa 1946.
A drawing of St. Philip Neri parish (left) and school, circa 1946. Image courtesy of The Bronx Historical Society, New York City.

Founded by migrant laborers from Italy, St. Philip Neri parish celebrated its 125th anniversary earlier this year, under the leadership of its pastor, Father Dan O’Reilly. St. Philip Neri School was established in 1913 to serve the educational needs of the local Catholic community.

As the parish, school, and new community housing become part of the St. Philip Neri Catholic Education and Family Center, we look at a few vignettes from the history of the Grand Concourse landmark.

A Mass celebrated in the 1970s at St. Philip Neri parish. Cardinal Terence Cooke is third from right; Bishop Patrick Ahern is first from right; Monsignor Philip P. Shannon is second from left.

The above photo depicts a Mass celebrated in the 1970s at St. Philip Neri parish. Cardinal Terence Cooke is third from right, at the microphone; Bishop Patrick Ahern is first from right; Monsignor Philip P. Shannon is second from left. Courtesy of The Bronx Historical Society, New York City.

A program from the farewell Mass for Monsignor Philip P. Shannon, who served as St. Philip Neri’s pastor from 1971-1982. Founding Pastor Rev. Msgr. Daniel F.X. Burke had the longest tenure as the leader of the parish, guiding it from 1898 until his death in 1931.

The church building of St. Philip Neri burned to the ground on the evening of June 15, 1997, after the conclusion of the day’s Masses and Father’s Day observances. The above program is from a Mass of Unity held for the parishioners and local community as they attempted to face the loss of their church and the task of rebuilding.

Despite having lost its original church structure, and with fundraising and planning for reconstruction underway, St. Philip Neri parishioners celebrated their parish’s 100th anniversary with a Mass on November 6, 1999. This is a program preserved from that Mass.

The above program from 2003 was printed for the Mass of Installation of the parish’s new pastor, Rev. John S. Bonnici, S.T.D., now an Archdiocese of New York auxiliary bishop. Bishop Bonnici served as St. Philip Neri’s pastor from 2002 until 2008.

“Throughout the years Saint Philip Neri Church and School has served a diverse cultural community of faith. Despite many challenges, including a devastating fire, the priests, religious, and laity have persevered and prospered. After serving as Pastor for six years, I am confident that Saint Philip Neri church and school will continue to inspire and serve the people of God in many beautiful ways,” Bishop Bonnici told The Good Newsroom.

The parish, the school, and new housing being built and operated by Catholic Homes New York, a Catholic Charities of New York partner, are all becoming part of a pilot project on the Grand Concourse. The new center will allow multiple ministries that serve the community to properly allocate resources so that families can access the services they need in a coordinated manner.

The first of two new Catholic Homes New York buildings is expected to open in September. 

The Good Newsroom would like to thank The Bronx Historical Society for its assistance in locating and scanning the materials featured in this article. All images are courtesy of The Bronx Historical Society, New York City. Copyright resides with the respective photographers.

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Cardinal Timothy Dolan (center right) celebrates Mass for the 125th anniversary of St. Philip Neri in the Bronx, joined by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Espaillat (right) and Father Daniel O'Reilly (left) current pastor of St. Philip Neri.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan (center right) celebrates Mass for the 125th anniversary of St. Philip Neri in the Bronx, joined by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Espaillat (right) and Father Daniel O'Reilly (left) current pastor of St. Philip Neri. Photo: Steven Schwankert/The Good Newsroom
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