Saint Philip the Apostle Parish was founded on May 11, 1965 by the Most Reverend George L. Leech, Bishop of the Diocese of Harrisburg. The name “Saint Philip the Apostle” was given to the parish because, at the time, May 11th was the Feast of Saints Philip and James. The name St. Philip was also given to honor Bishop Leech’s predecessor, Bishop Philip R. McDevitt. Bishop Leech named Father William Eline as the first Pastor of Saint Philip’s.
Even before this date, Mass was being celebrated in the Manor Shopping Center Auditorium. Masses were held there because of overcrowding at Saint Joseph’s Church in Lancaster. These Masses began on February 16, 1964. Approximately 1,000 people attended Mass there. After the formation of St. Philip’s, the new Parish continued to celebrate Mass in this location until the Parish Church was ready.
On October 18, 1965, the Diocese purchased 18 acres of land at the intersection of Millersville Pike and Millersville Road as the future site of the Parish Church and Rectory. In June of 1967, Bishop Leech broke ground for the new Church. After celebrating Mass in the Auditorium for another year, the new Church was ready on June 9, 1968.
In May of 1971, Father Michael Homola was named the Second Pastor of St. Philip’s. One of the areas of concern that confronted the young Parish was the Religious Education of its youth. Since there was not a parochial school at Saint Philip’s, families were encouraged to enroll their children in the neighboring parochial schools. Many families opted to do so. However, a larger number of families enrolled their children in local public schools. Arrangements needed to be made to provide for the Religious Education of these children. St. Leo’s Parish agreed to allow the use of their classrooms for Religious Instruction on Saturday mornings at 9:00 A.M. While this was not the most conducive day or hour, the program went into effect and continued for several years. With the continued growth in numbers, an alternative was to conduct CCD classes in the parish gymnasium. Accordingly, movable dividers were constructed by parishioners, and classes were conducted in apportioned sections of the gym. This, however, proved to be less than satisfactory, since the environment was one of wood, steel, and cement block. A cacophony of sounds ensued, making learning in that atmosphere very difficult. Father Homola instituted an Ad Hoc committee to make a study of the feasibility of constructing an entire wing connected to the existing building. The result of the study was positive and, upon completion of the new wing, Bishop Joseph T. Daley blessed the new facility on December 4, 1979.
Since Saint Philip’s parish was founded shortly after the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, every effort was made to keep pace with regard to Liturgy, Ecclesiology, and Collegiality. And so, a Parish Council was formed in 1976. In 1984, the clear glass windows on the entire circumference of the Church were replaced with stained glass windows, primarily depicting the Mysteries of The Rosary. The windows were blessed by Bishop William Keeler in February, 1984.
Many Parish organizations were formed during the early years of the Parish, including the Men’s Club, the Women’s Auxiliary, a Legion of Mary, the Mother’s Group, and Guys and Dolls – our Senior citizens organization. A Boy Scout Troop was also established, and was housed in the empty house next to the Rectory. The number of activities of the various organizations grew. One of these activities, the parish festival, grew to the point that another facility was needed on the grounds of Saint Philip’s. A picnic pavilion needed to be erected to ease the pressure of the incredible attendance of the annual affair. In the fall of 1985, a pavilion consisting of a large kitchen, bathroom facilities, a garage to house maintenance equipment, and a large loft to accommodate storage was completed. The pavilion also provided a wonderful place for picnics and for other outdoor activities.
As the parish grew, the needs of ministry increased, including the need for more than one Priest. The Catholic Chaplains assigned to Millersville University were a great source of assistance to Father Homola. When requested, they would celebrate Mass on weekends. There was sufficient room in the rectory to permanently house a priest. Father Homola requested that the Bishop assign a Parochial Vicar to the parish. In the subsequent years, there have been a variety of priests assigned to Saint Philip’s in addition to the Pastor. Some of these priests have been assigned as Parochial Vicars to assist in the full range of ministry within the parish. Some of the priests were assigned to be in residence, because they had another pastoral assignment, or because they were retired. The priests who were in residence assisted the Pastor in any way that they could.
Also, as the parish grew, the religious education program expanded. While many of the children attended nearby Catholic Elementary Schools, there was also tremendous growth in the Religious Education Program for children attending Public Schools. In the mid 1980’s, it was decided to add a full time Director of Religious Education. Since that time, Saint Philip’s has had either a Religious Sister or a lay Director overseeing the Religious Education Programs of the parish.
In the Spring of 1998, Father Homola announced his retirement from the priesthood. He served as pastor of St. Philip’s for 27 years, and as a priest in the Diocese of Harrisburg for 49 years. Father had reached the age of 75 , the mandatory age of retirement for priests in the diocese.
In June of 1998, Bishop Datillo appointed Father Brian Conrad to be Pastor of Saint Philip the Apostle Parish. Father Conrad was installed as the third Pastor and, since he was formerly a parochial vicar of St. Philip’s, he was very familiar with the parish.
As the parish expanded and the staff grew, the need for administrative space became more acute. The Rectory offered a limited amount of space for offices, and the living accommodations in the Rectory were strained. The office of the Director of Religious Education was relegated to a converted storage room in the church. A committee was formed to study the feasibility of building a new structure to house the various parish offices. This committee evolved into a building committee. After studying various sites on the property, the committee decided that the best location for a new building was the old house located next to the Rectory that the scouts used for meetings. It was decided to remove the old structure and construct a new, two story building. The first floor of the new building now contains the Parish Offices, and the second floor serves as the Parish Activity Center. The Activity Center is used by the Scout Troop and other Parish organizations. The offices were completed in January of 2003 and the building was blessed by Bishop Dattilo on February 23rd, 2003.
In January of 2002, members of the Mother’s Group made a request that the Parish Council give consideration to beginning a Preschool for 3 and 4 year old children. After making a study of the issue, the Parish Council agreed to this project and the Preschool opened in September of 2003.
Saint Philip’s continues to meet the changing and evolving needs of its parishioners and their Church. With God’s help we will strive to make the Gospel message alive and vibrant in our Parish and community.