History of Saint Peter the Apostle R.C. Church (1752-2017)
As a preface to the history of Saint Peter the Apostle R.C. Church in Reading, it may be of interest to first relate a few things about the development of Catholicity in Pennsylvania, in so far as it involves Berks County.
As is well known, the present happy era of religious freedom in Pennsylvania did not always exist, for during colonial times, bigotry and religious persecutions were common. That Catholics were regarded with more favor after the Revolutionary War was due principally to General Washington, who had been impressed with the magnificent patriotism shown by them. When William Penn founded the great Commonwealth which bears his name, he decreed that only one condition should be requisite for office, or citizenship, namely Christianity. Penn’s broad-mindedness earned for him the reproach of being not only “A Papist in Disguise,” but Jesuit as well.
The first Catholic congregation to be established in Pennsylvania was in 1734 when Father Greaton, S. J., a missionary from Maryland, built the Church of St. Joseph in Willing’s Alley in Philadelphia. In 1741 Father Theodore Schneider was sent by the German Province of Jesuits to minister to the Germans in Pennsylvania. Father Schneider, who had been an outstanding professor at Heidelberg University, Germany, began teaching the children of Berks County at Goshenhoppen, now Bally. In 1743 he founded the Church of the Most Blessed Sacrament.
Reading was laid out on its present site in 1748 by Thomas and Richard Penn, sons of William Penn, the first proprietor. It was named after their native town at Berkshire, England. At that time the population of the territory, now comprising Berks County, was about 10,000. The original lot contained something over 600 acres, and in 1748 only one house. Four years later the County of Berks was formed with Reading as its Seat of Justice. At that time the town boasted of 378 inhabitants.
The few Catholics who settled in Reading shortly after its foundation received ministrations from the mission centre at Goshenhoppen. At first, Fathers Schneider and Farmer served the Catholics at Reading. Afterwards their Jesuit Successors did the same, keeping all the records of births, marriages, and deaths in the church at Goshenhoppen. The first baptismal record is of Margaret Miller, baptized July 14, 1765, by Father de Ritter. The first death record is that of Anna Maria Chaumont, buried in the Catholic graveyard, Reading, November 11, 1765. A year later on May 11, 1766 Father de Ritter baptized a child of Louis and Felicitas, married slaves of Judge Jonas Seeli (or Seelli).
It is impossible to ascertain just when the first Catholic Church was built in Reading. There is mention made by a secular writer, in 1753, of a “Roman Catholic meeting-house.” That a congregation was worshipping here in 1753 is manifest from a remarkable document which evidences with what prejudice Catholics were regarded at that time in Pennsylvania. The French and Indian War was then raging. On July 23, 1755, upon the news of Brad-dock’s defeat, five Justices of the Peace of Berks County, viz: Henry Harry, James Read, William Bird, Jonas Seely and Conrad Weiser, addressed the following communication to Governor James Hamilton:
“As all our Protestant inhabitants are very uneasy at the behavior of some of the Roman Catholics, who are very numerous in this county, some of whom show great joy at the bad news lately come from the army, we have thought it our duty to inform Your Honor of our dangerous situation, and beg Your Honor to enable us, by some legal authority, to disarm, or otherwise disable, the Papists from doing injury to other people who are not of their vile principles.
We know that the people of the Roman Catholic Church are bound by their principles to be the worst subjects, and worst of neighbors; and we have reason to fear just now that the Roman Catholics in Cussahoppen, where they have a magnificent chapel, and lately had large processions, have bad designs; for in the neighborhood of that chapel; it is reported, and generally believed, that thirty Indians are now lurking, armed, with guns and swords, or cutlasses.
The priest at Reading, as well as at Cussahoppen, last Sunday, gave notice to their people that they could not come to them again in less than nine weeks; whereas they constantly preach once in four weeks to their congregations: whereupon some imagine they’ve gone to consult with our enemies at DuQuesne.
It is a great unhappiness at this time to the other people of this Province that the Papists should keep arms in their houses, against which the Protestants are not prepared; who, therefore, are subject to a massacre whenever the Papists are ready.
We beg Your Honor would direct us in this important business by return of the bearer, whom we have sent express to Your Honor” -- Six Col.Rec.p.5O3.
Fortunately neither the Governor nor the Legislature took these worthy Justices of the Peace seriously for when proof was demanded no foundation was found for such ridiculous charges. The first chapel was probably built around 1752. It was a modest chapel, built on the east side of Duke Street (lot number 321), now Seventh Street, between Franklin and Chestnut Streets, just opposite the site of the Franklin Street Railroad Station owned by the Reading Railroad. The chapel, alongside which was the graveyard, was a little blockhouse. The first chapel of log construction was supplanted about 1790 by a brick edifice.
The "Readinger Zeitung," (a German paper) on August 10, 1791, stated in way of an advertisement to be paid for:
The honored public is hereby Informed that the corner-stone of the new Catholic Church in Reading will, according to Christian custom, be laid with due solemnity on the 17th day of August next. Friends and well-wishers who desire to witness same are invited to attend.
The church was incorporated under the title of "The Trustees and Members of St. Peter's Church in the Borough of Reading," on April 30, 1818, Deed Book No. 29, p. 417. The trustees were: Sebastian Allgaier, Joseph Allgaier, Joseph Allgaier, J. F. Eichhorn, J. G. Repplier, Chester Rittner, Joseph Obold, Anthony Felix, and Jacob Lamtbert. The membership was as follows: Jonathan Allgaier, William Rehr, William Fricker, Chester Rittner, .Jr., Jacob Hartman, Daniel Clay, John Hartman, John Kunz, Michael Hartman, Jacob Felix, Simon Seyfert, George Siegfried, Jacob Allgaier, and Joseph Lambert.
The members of the original congregation were Germans; some of these were of mixed French ancestry, having come from Alsace and Lorraine.
The iron industry had early development in Berks County. During the eighteenth century it steadily grew in importance; and in 1835 the extensive Reading Iron Works were established. This together with the building of canals drew here a large number of Irish settlers, and English speaking priests began to appear.
In May, 1836, the church having become inadequate for the worshipers, a committee was appointed to consider ways and means of enlarging it. Little was done in the matter until 1844. About this time the Reading Railroad was built locating their depot and workshop opposite the little Catholic Church on South Seventh Street. This for a short time did not interfere, but soon became apparent that the increasing business of the railroad acted injuriously on the church. On account of the incessant noise divine service could not be performed with that silence and solemnity which is dear to all good Catholics. The church and graveyard on South Seventh Street were sold in 1845, to Jacob Miller for $3,000. The deed was executed on behalf of the corporation by William S. Allgaier and Arnold Puwelle.
In 1886 an old lady who had known the first primitive chapel was called upon to embody her recollections in a written description but she was so distressed by the disturbance to divine service caused by the railroad tracks recently laid upon the fastidious thoroughfare of Seventh Street that she would talk of little else and the opportunity to secure some valuable data concerning the early Roman Catholic Church in Reading was lost forever.
With the approbation of the bishop it was determined to purchase the property on South Fifth Street, where the present Saint Peter's Church now stands. The cemetery adjoining the old church, at 111 Duke Street (now known as 7th Street) was relocated to St. Peter's Cemetery at the foot of the Neversink Mountain otherwise known as Nanny Goat Hill Cemetery. The bodies which had been buried in the old cemetery were transferred to their new resting place. Cemetery Marker Readings of Nanny Goat Hill Cemetery can be purchased from Closson Press.
On Sunday, the 24th of May, 1846 the newly built Saint Peter's Church was solemnly dedicated. On Tuesday, May 19, 1846 the following notice appeared in the German Adler:
"The newly built Catholic Church in the city of Reading will be solemnly dedicated with services to the Almighty, on Sunday, the 24th of May.
Divine services will be commenced on that day at half-past nine in the morning, and sermons in the English and German languages will be delivered. The Right Reverend Bishop J. B. Purcell, of Cincinnati, and Bishop M. O'Connor, of Pittsburgh; also, Right Reverend Joseph Fey, Superior of the Redemptorists of Philadelphia; and Right Reverend Haszlinger, of Baltimore, will be present on this occasion. Afternoon and evening services will also be held. The public is respectfully invited, through the Building Committee to be present.
N.B. Collections during the services will be for the benefit of the new church."
The new Church was constructed of brick. The edifice made an imposing appearance with its one Gothic steeple rising from the center of the facade; the beautiful green lawn which surrounded the church was closed in with an ornamental iron fence and the rectory was located on the north side of the structure. There was a basement which contained Meeting Rooms for the parish societies and the parish library which was patronized by adults and children every Sunday after the regular masses. Sunday School was held in the main auditorium of the church where a balcony was provided for the choir of mixed voices under the leadership of the organist. The existence of a Trustee System of the Laity caused some trouble in the procurement of parish priests and it is known that when there was no resident priest at St. Peter’s Church, Father Augustine Bally, came to Reading on horseback from Goshenhoppen to give the Sunday Mass to the Catholics, and administered the sacraments to all who requested them.
Shortly after the dedication of the new church, a parish school was seen as an important need. The Rt. Rev. John Nepomucene Neumann, C.S.S.R., Bishop of Philadelphia of the Philadelphia Catholic diocese, who had been personally interested in establishing a parochial school for the parish, and who had purchased property at 225-227 South Fifth Street for that purpose, proposed to the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary from Monroe, Michigan, that they come to Reading and staff the parish school. This request was accepted and the development of a parish school was completed with their arrival in July 1859. On the 2nd of September 1859, Bishop Neumann celebrated the first Mass in the chapel and blessed the building. A Select School for Girls was opened on September 5, 1859; later on September 12th, a School for Boys was opened in the basement of the Church.
In 1860, Archbishop J.F. Wood of Philadelphia decided that a split between the German speakers and the Irish English speakers was advisable, and St. Paul’s was designated to be built for the Germans.
St. Peter's Church, about 1850
St. Peter's Church decorated in celebration of the end of the Civil War (1865). Abraham Lincoln's image appears above the central door.
Abraham Lincoln above central door
In February, 1868, Rev. A. D. Filan was appointed pastor of St. Peter’s Church by Bishop Wood of Philadelphia. Rev. Francis O'Connor, who served as pastor from 1860 to 1868, was transferred to St. John the Baptist in Manayunk, PA.
The following, as far as can be ascertained, is a list of priests who attended to the Catholics of Reading prior to 1860:
1752 Reverends Schneider and Farmer
1764 Reverend John Ritter (or de Ritter)
1787 Reverend Peter Helbron
1791 Reverend Nicholas Delvaux
1793 Reverend Paul Erntzen
1818 Reverend George Schoenfelder
1833 Reverend Boniface Corvin
1834 Reverend Edward McCarthy
1839 (Vacant attended from Bally)
1840 Reverend Francis X. Marshall
1842 Reverend Nicholas Steinbacker
1847 Reverend Basil Shorb
1850 Reverend Richard O’Connor
1851 Reverend P. M. Carbon
1855 Reverend Mathias Cobbin
1856 Reverend James Power
1859 Reverend Rudolph Kunzer
In 1871 the church was enlarged to 140 by 60 feet at a cost of upwards of twenty thousand dollars. The Architect was Mr. E. F. Durang of Philadelphia. Re-dedication ceremonies were held on April 16, 1871. About twelve hundred people were in attendance. The services began with the ceremony of blessing the church, which was performed by Rt. Rev. John F. Wood, Bishop of the Diocese of Philadelphia, assisted by the attendant clergy. The procession moved from the altar to the door, where prayers were recited, and having passed around the church building, chanting the Miserere, re-entered the middle aisle, chanting the Litany of the Saints. After the completion of this service at the altar, the procession then moved around the outside aisles, the Bishop sprinkling the sides of the edifice with the Holy Water.
This preliminary ceremony, which occupied half an hour, was followed by the celebration of Solemn High Mass. The celebrant was Rev. Francis O’Neal, of the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, Philadelphia, the Deacon, Rev. Geo. Bornemann, of St. Paul’s, Reading, and the Sub-Deacon, Rev. Philip McEnroe of Schuylkill Haven, with Rev. A. J. McConomy, Rector of the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul, Philadelphia, and Mr. J. J. Clark as Masters of Ceremonies.
The services occupied three hours, and at their conclusion Bishop Wood pronounced the Pontifical benediction. The Choir of the church was assisted by additional voices, and rendered in very beautiful style Mercedante’s Mass in E. Minor, together with the Sanctus, and Agnes Dei from Mozart’s Mass No. 1. The Salutaris from Concone was given during the offering.
St. Peter's Church, 1876. Photo from 1876 Illustrated Historical Atlas of Berks County, Pennsylvania
In October, 1874, Rev. A. D. Filan was transferred and appointed pastor of St. Cecilia Parish, in the neighborhood of Richmond, Philadelphia. He was succeeded by the Rev. Dr. P. J. Garvey, formerly connected with St. John the Evangelist Church, Philadelphia. Dr. P. J. Garvey officiated at St. Peter's for the first time on October 19, 1874.
About August of 1882, Rev. Dr. P. J. Garvey was removed to St. James’s Church, Philadelphia. He was succeeded by Rev. Gerald P. Coghlan, former pastor of St. Aloysius Church, Pottstown. In October of 1889 Rev. Gerald P. Coghlan was succeeded by Rev. James E. Cleary who was transferred from the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Philadelphia.
Rev. James E. Cleary was born in Philadelphia and at an early age evinced a strong liking for ecclesiastical work. When still a youth he entered St. Charles Borromeo, Overbrook, where he graduated with high honors and distinction. He was ordained to the priesthood in June, 1879.
St. Peter’s Church, as it stands today, is largely due to the untiring efforts of the Rev. James E. Cleary. Elaborate plans and specifications were prepared by Architect P. A. Walsh of Philadelphia. The design was largely after suggestions by Father Cleary, who spent years in its selection, visiting numerous churches in this country and Europe in search of the best.
The work of rebuilding the church was begun by Father Cleary In 1900 and continued for nearly five years. Only the brick walls of the old church were left standing and these now serve as the backing for the outer walls of granite. Within and without, the church was completely rebuilt and refurbished. As a memorial to the man who had done so much for the church, the congregation dedicated the main altar to Father Cleary’s memory. The altar is made of several kinds of marble and is one of the church’s outstanding works of art.
The cornerstone of the St. Peter's Church was laid in April, 1901. The cornerstone is of granite and bears the following inscription in raised letters:
St. Peter's Church Cornerstone
Bishop Burrell conducted the cornerstone ceremony services, assisted by Bishop Basslinger, of Baltimore. The former delivered the English sermon and the latter made an address in German.
The formal opening of a new parish house took place on Thanksgiving day, 1902, with a reception held during the afternoon and evening. The house, at 320 South 5th, was a gift of the O'Reilly estate. The entire building was remodeled.
In May, 1903, Rev. James E. Cleary, who was ill at the time, embarked on a European tour in an effort to restore his health. Father Cleary spent three weeks in Rome and visited Munich, Liverpool, London, Germany and many other places. Rev. Cleary was accorded the great distinction of being in the first party of pilgrims to be received by the newly elected Pope Pius X in August, 1903.
Rev. Cleary arrived home from his European tour of several months on October 10, 1903. Father Cleary was met at the Franklin street station by Father Joseph Nagle, who had been acting pastor of St. Peter’s during his absence.
A cordial and hearty welcome home was tendered the Rev. Father James E. Cleary by the congregation of St. Peter Church on Tuesday evening, October 13, 1903. The children’s choir sang “Home Again.” the words being especially adapted for the occasion. This was followed by a contralto solo by Miss Clara A. Yocum, who sang “Home, Sweet Home.’’ most effectively.
Father Cleary expressed his grateful appreciation of the kindness of his people in making his trip abroad and his visit to so many points of interest possible. They put it in his power, he said, to come in contact with the works of the great masters and sculptors of the Old World.
Among the wonderful joys of his trip, he said, was the fact that he was on hand at the funeral of the late pontiff, Leo XIII, and at the coronation of the present head of the church.
He gave an interesting description of the scenes incident to these important events, together with the work of the Electoral College, and told how he was one of the two favored Americans who were received by Pius X immediately after his coronation.
His address was interesting and instructive and was followed with the closest attention.
The audience sang "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name,” and was dismissed, after which those present were received by Father Cleary, filing past the altar and each receiving a hearty handshake in return for a word of welcome.
A four months' tour, embracing a delightful visit to Rome, was of great benefit to him, and he took up his work with redoubled energy. His nervous system, however, had not recovered its normal strength and gave way.
On April 8, 1904, Rev. James E. Cleary, who was the beloved rector of St. Peter’s for fourteen years, was called to his eternal reward at the age of fifty. Confined to his bed by an attack of grip about March 18, inflammatory rheumatism added to his affliction and a complication of diseases resulted in his death. His death brought sorrow to the members of the parish and to all the City of Reading.
Thousands of mourners came to view the body of Rev. James E. Cleary as it lay in state on April 12, 1904. Shortly after noon his body was carried into the room and placed in position for the public, the school children and societies of the churches to view.
At 4 o'clock the children of the parochial schools, which were the pride of Father Cleary and which he raised to such a high plane of excellence, arrived, followed by the children of the St. Catharine and St. Paul Orphan asylums, and the Sisters of Mercy. They numbered nearly 1,500 and manifested their sorrow and bereavement by weeping. The sight was one to move even hearts familiar with such scenes.
At 7 o'clock, the time set for the opening of the doors to the public, such a concourse of people as has seldom been seen in Reading was on Fifth Street, and immediate vicinity of the church was packed with those who had come for a last look at the dead prelate. For time it appeared that many would be doomed to disappointment, but the excellent arrangement for admitting the populace, the facilities for ingress and egress and the ability shown by the ushers in the careful and prompt handling of the crowd, yet without any indecorous or undue haste, rapidly thinned out the throng that passed by the bier and paid the last tribute of respect.
It, however, required several hours before the steady stream of people had subsided and permitted of more than a passing glance, though many fell back to take one long, fond, lingering look at the features they had known so well in life and few were the eyes that were not moist with tears. At intervals the main aisle was blocked and the uniforms of organizations connected with the church were given precedence.
Rev. Rev. James E. Cleary was buried April 13, 1904, with a Solemn Requiem Mass presided over by Bishop Shanahan of Harrisburg representing Archbishop Ryan of Philadelphia, who was unable to be present on account of the dedication of the Catholic University at Washington. Rev. Eugene Murphy, of Manayunk, was sub-deacon. Father McCort, of Our Mother of Sorrows, Philadelphia, was assistant priest. All of these had been very close friends of Father Cleary.
Bishop Shanahan apologized for the unavoidable absence of Archbishop Ryan, of Philadelphia. He said He extended the Archbishop’s sympathy. Bishop Shanahan then explained how Father Cleary had requested that there should be no sermon over his mortal remains. He continued:
“We must respect his wishes, much as we might desire to expound his virtues as a priest and his sterling qualities as a man. He died in the midst of his work, just the way every priest should die. He died way out on the fighting line, just where every priest should die. He died among a loving people - a people among whom any priest would love to live and love to die. The record of his glorious achievements is enshrined upon your memories. I need not ask of you that you pay him the tribute of your prayers, as I know you will. ”
“Eternal rest give unto him, O Lord; and let perpetual light shine upon him.” Thus the Bishop concluded his short address. By the time he finished there was scarcely a dry eye in the church.
Father James Cleary
On Tuesday, April 12, 1904 a permit by the Board of Health, requested by George J. Gross, in behalf of the congregation of St. Peter's Catholic Church, was granted for the interment of the body of Rev. James E. Cleary, alongside the church, almost under the main tower.
The celebration of mass occupied about half an hour and at its conclusion Bishop Shanahan, Father McCort and several other priests and altar boys ascended the platform on which the remains had lain in state since Tuesday. The Bishop gave final absolution of the body and made a brief address.
The clergymen of the sanctuary then filed past the bier and lingered in the center aisle of the church. The following priests, bearing the remains, brought up the rear: Father Nagle, acting pastor of St. Peter; Father Buckley, of Our Mother of Sorrows, Philadelphia, formerly of Reading, and Patrick J. Hannigan of St. Clair, formerly assistant to Father Cleary, and Fathers Gallagher, McManus, Masterson and Thompson.
The procession was led by Father Murphy as cross bearer, accompanied by George Ritner and Joseph Lillis, altar boys of St. Peter, as acolytes. They led the way to the grave on the south side of the church and near the front. The final ceremonies at the grave were conducted by Bishop Shanahan, assisted by Father McCort and Father Nagle. The office was chanted by all the priests. This finished, Bishop Shanahan then gave the final blessing.
The casket was placed in an oak case and lowered into the grave by the following members of St. Peter building committee: James Nolan, Daniel J. Driscoll, James M. Kase, Edward J. McCann, John M. Christ, Thomas Lillis, Michael Flemming, Eugene Bettig, J George J. Raab and John Ertel.
A silver tray filled with sand was handed to Bishop Shanahan. With a spoon he threw some into the grave. Those near to Father Cleary did like-wise and the funeral ceremonies were over.
A granite Mausoleum marks the grave of Rev. Rev. James E. Cleary.
Father James Cleary Grave
No greater tribute could have been paid to Father Cleary, than that of his intimate friend, Bishop Shanahan, of the Harrisburg diocese, which will be found on the bronze tablet on front of the mausoleum. It is as follows:
In memory of the Rev. James Edward Cleary,
Born Feb. 18, 1854 - Ordained. June 18, 1879
Rector of this parish from Oct., 1889, until his death. April 8, 1904.
The congregation of St. Peter's parish in gratitude, veneration, and love erected this monument February 18, 1905.
A man of gentle heart, of cultured mind, of distinguished presence.
A priest of apostolic zeal, of glowing eloquence, of fruitful ministry.
A pastor of unrelenting devotion, of tender solicitude, of complete self-effacement.
Whose life sought only to be hidden with Christ In God. (Colon. 3:3.)
Yet shown forth as from a candlestick (Matt. 5:15) in the house of his Master.
Whose merits no graven record shall so well declare, as this church which he bad rebuilt.
Whose labors to prepare his people for a house not made with hands, eternal in Heaven (2 Cor. 5:1).
No stone shall so enduringly commemorate
As the faithful hearts of his flock.
Eternal rest give unto him, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon him.
May he rest in peace. Amen.
In May of 1904, Rev. Father Joseph Nagle, who had been acting pastor of St. Peter’s Catholic Church since the beginning of the late Father Cleary’s fatal illness, was transferred to St. Elizabeth’s, Philadelphia to take the place of Rev. Thomas S. McCarty, who was made pastor of St. Peter’s, Reading.
Rev. Thomas S. McCarty assumed his new role as pastor of St. Peter’s and of completing the new church.
On Sunday, July 2, 1905, a ceremony was held to dedicate the completed St. Peter’s Catholic Church. The event was one that had been looked forward to with anxious expectancy by the people of St. Peter's for a long period. The work of building had been in progress since 1900. Cardinal Gibbons, of Baltimore, officiated at dedication ceremony, which started at 10 o'clock a.m. Bishop Prendergast of Philadelphia, also took part in the ceremony.
Dedication Services (Sunday, July 2, 1905)
Dedication Services (Sunday, July 2, 1905)
By the beginning of the 20th century in Reading, there was an urgent need for a Catholic secondary school. In order to meet the advanced academic needs of the Reading high school-age population, St. Peter's High School was founded in 1911. St. Peter’s High School was housed in the elementary school building at 225 S. 5th Street.
In July, 1911, the parochial school building of St. Peter's Catholic Church underwent a complete transformation. The Sisters moved across the street to No. 218, formerly the residence of Miss Sue E. Benson, so that the former convent building was now used exclusively for school purposes. What was formerly the boys’ school at the northeast corner of Fifth and Spruce Streets was vacated and disposed of.
As soon as the pastor, Rev. Thomas J. McCarty, had decided to use the convent for the school children, he made extensive improvements to the interior. These included the renovation of all the class rooms and the establishment of a hall in which to hold entertainments by the children and for the use of the various societies of the congregation.
With the interior work practically completed, Father McCarty set about to improve the exterior. The brick on the front wall was given a coating of French cement and so treated and marked as to represent sandstone. The wooden gates on each side of the building, and leading into the rear yards, had given way to ornamental granite stone arches. The front yard cast iron fence and its supporting brick wall were torn away and replaced with an ornamental wall of Port Deposit granite with Woodstock granite trimmings.
On May 23, 1913, Rev. Thomas S. McCarty was appointed irremovable rector of the Church of St. Edward, the Confessor, Philadelphia, by Archbishop Prendergast. He succeeded the late Right Rev. J. J. Carroll, Bishop of the Philippines, who died the previous month. Rev. John Kiernan, pastor of St. Andrew Church, of Newtown, Bucks County, was appointed to succeed Father McCarty. Rev. Father Kiernan, a native of Norristown, PA, assumed his assumed his new role as pastor on Sunday, June 1, 1913.
On June 25, 1914, the first annual commencement of St. Peter’s High School was gloriously celebrated. The graduates were: Grace E. Dow, Anna M. Hasson, Raymond C. Kohl and Aloysius P. McGran. Rev. John F. Kiernan, rector of St. Peter's Catholic Church, presented the medals and diplomas. On bended knees the graduates accepted the honors and bowed to the audience on their return to their seats.
St. Peter's School
In 1922 St. Peter’s was granted a building permit to erect a new three-story high rectory in back of the original rectory. The foundation of the new rectory was completed by September of 1922 but it would take another 1-1/12 years to complete.
In January 1924, 500 members of St. Peter's Church gathered in the school hall to bid farewell to Rev. John F. Kiernan, pastor for the past ten years. A purse of gold, totaling more than $1,800 was presented to him as a visible token of their esteem. George J. Gross presided at the gathering. Rev. Father John F. Zboyovsky, pastor of Ss. Cyril and Methodius Catholic church, spoke of the work of Father Kiernan.
Rev. Michael V. Reing succeeded Rev. John F. Kiernan as pastor. He was transferred from his first rectoship of St. Edwards' Church, Philadelphia, where he received training by Rev. Father Thomas McCarty, former rector of St. Peter’s. Rev. Reing made his first appearance at all the masses on Sunday, January 6, 1924. His first task as pastor was to complete the new rectory.
St. Peter's Church and Old Rectory (320 South Fifht Street)
St. Peter's Church and Old Rectory (320 South Fifht Street)
The new rectory at 322 South Fifth Street was completed around January 27, 1924 at a cost of about $55,000. The new rectory, with a frontage of 34 feet and a depth of 84, was built immediately in back of the old rectory, the clergy occupying the old rectory until the new home was ready for occupancy. The older rectory was later demolished.
The architecture of the rectory is of Tudor Gothic, while the body-stone is Fox-Croft and the trim of Mount Airy granite. Tudor stone is used for the roofing, and the finished effect is that of a tapestry in stone. The interior was designed with a view to keeping the living quarters separated from the public rooms such as the offices and reception room. In addition to the terrace in front which measures 28 by 10 feet, there are three porches, including a solarium, each 16 by 13 feet, and two large porches for the service part of the house. A Celtic cross erected over the main entrance was copied from the tomb of Suibine mac Mailae Humai whom King Alfred termed the most learned teacher among the Scots.
St. Peter's Present Rectory (322 South Fifht Street)
The 50th anniversary of the ordination of the Rev. Michael V. Reing was highlighted on May 22, 1955 with a celebration in the Abraham Lincoln Hotel ballroom when the events of the rector’s life were reviewed.
More than 400 Reading priests and parishioners filled the ballroom for the testimonial dinner.
Earlier a Solemn High Mass of Thanksgiving and a luncheon were held.
John R. Dougherty, program chairman, opened the evening’s "jubilee entertainment” by announcing “This Is Your Life, Father Reing.” What followed marked months of careful planning and trips to Mahanoy City ' Father Reing’s birthplace, to obtain information for the program from relatives and friends.
The program covered the events in the life of the 79-year-old clergyman, from his boyhood days in the “Irish” First Ward of Mahanoy City through his coming to St Peter’s parish on Jan. 2, 1924, on up to the present. Memories of his mother, Lucy Being, who said her rosary daily in Gaelic, his father, Cornelius, and his brothers and sisters: Mary, Patrick, Cornelius, Matthew, Joseph, Richard, John, Frank and Delia were brought to mind for Father Reing.
The program covered his graduation from Mahanoy City High School in 1894 and his entry into St. Charles Seminary at Overbrook, His ordination by the Rt. Rev. Edmund Prendergast, auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia, on May 31, 1905, in St. Canicus Church, Mahanoy City, also was highlighted. The program pointed up his first assignment as assistant curate in St Stephen’s parish, Port Carbon, and his following assignments to St Patrick’s, Norristown: and St. Malachy’s, Our Lady of Mercy and St. Elizabeth's all of Philadelphia, before coming to St Peter’s in Reading on Jan. 2, 1924, in his first role as rector as the successor to the late Rev. John F. Kiernan.
Following the program, James A. Antosy, dinner chairman, presented Father Reing with $1,500 on behalf of friends and parishioners.
During the morning service, Father Reing was the celebrant. The Rev. John J. Mellon, of St. Ann’s Church, Bethlehem, was the assistant priest; the Rev. Christopher J. Gibney, Immaculate Conception, Birdsboro, the deacon; and the Rev. Patrick A. Duddy, St. Joachin Church, Philadelphia, subdeacon.
The sermon was given by the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Thomas F. McNally, vicar general of the diocese. The Most Rev. J. Carroll McCormick, auxiliary bishop of Philadelphia, presided. The chaplains were the Rev. Raymond J. O Donnell, rector of St. Margaret’s Church, and the Rev. Joseph P. McGeever, St. Edmond’s Church, Philadelphia. The Rev. Dr. Theodore C. Wagner, Sacred Heart Church, West Reading, was the master of ceremonies.
Rev. Michael V. Reing died Sunday morning, July 10, 1955, in St. Joseph's Hospital where he had been a patient since June 15. His condition became critical on July 1.
A Low Requiem Mass was celebrated on Thursday, July 14, at 6:30 a. m. At 8 a.m., a Requiem High Mass was sung, with school children and members of the parish in attendance. Divine Offices were chanted at 10.30 a.m. and a Solemn High Requiem Mass was offered at 11 a.m. A viewing followed the Mass from noon until 1 p.m. Burial was made in St. Canicus Catholic Cemetery, Mahanoy City.
In August, 1955, the Rev. John V. Brogan, rector of the Church of Mary Queen of Peace, Pottsville, was sent to St. Peter’s Church to replace Rev. Michael V. Reing.
A native of Philadelphia, Rev. John V. Brogan completed his early schooling in Philadelphia and later studied at Mount St. Mary's College, Emmitsburg, Md., and St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Overbrook. He was ordained May 22, 1915.
Sadly, Rev. John V. Brogan, passed away on April 29, 1957 in the rectory. He would have celebrated his 42nd anniversary in the priesthood on May 22.
The Rt. Rev. Msgr. Joseph P. O'Donnell, rector of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmittsburg, Md., was appointed pastor of St. Peter’s Church in July, 1957.
Following the deaths of his parents, Rev. Msgr. Joseph P. O'Donnell was raised by an uncle, the Rev. Phillip J. Gallagher.
O'Donnell received his bachelor's and master's degrees from Mount St. Mary's College, Emmitsburg, Md.
After his ordination in 1935, he was professor at Philadelphia's Catholic High School for Boys. He was sent to Rome for graduate studies from 1936 until 1939, and was awarded a degree of licentiate in sacred theology at the Gregorian University and licentiate in sacred scripture at the Pontifical Biblical Institute.
O'Donnell served on the faculty of Mount St. Mary's 1939-48, and as rector of the seminary there 1948-57.
On Sunday, May 22, 1960, Msgr. Joseph P. O'Donnell celebrated his Silver Jubilee in the priesthood with a Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving in the Church.
Following the high mass, Msgr. Joseph P. O'Donnell, was honored at a testimonial dinner in the Abraham Lincoln Hotel. The Most Rev. Lawrence F. Schott, auxiliary bishop of Harrisburg, offered the invocation and benediction at the dinner, and the Rt. Rev. George D. Mulcahy, rector of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Md., spoke. Msgr. O’Donnell was on the faculty and rector of the seminary, his alma mater.
John T. Devlin, president of the parish Holy Name Society, presented the Jubilarian with an offering from members of the parish. The Rt. Rev. Msgr. Francis J. Furey, rector of St. Helena's Church, Philadelphia, read a telegram at the afternoon Mass from Dominic Cardinal Tardini, Vatican secretary of state, on behalf of Pope John XXIII. The Pope authorized Msgr. O'Donnell to impart the papal blessing to members of the parish.
The 1940’s saw the migration of Latino peoples into the Reading area; the 50’s and 60’s saw a significant increase in enrollment of Hispanics at St. Peter School. Increased enrollment in both grade school and high school created the need for additional classroom space. Therefore, the Allentown Diocese (established in 1961 from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia) embarked upon a major building campaign. In 1964 Holy Name High School replaced St. Peter’s High School. The final graduation class from St. Peter’s High School was on June 4, 1964. St. Peter School continues to serve the needs of students from kindergarten through grade eight.
Regular Masses in Spanish were begun at St. Peter’s under Father Dennis Rigney on September 6, 1966. Under the inspiration of Father Rigney, the Kennedy House was organized to serve the social and material needs of the Spanish speaking people. With the help of Bishop Joseph McShea, the priests of Reading, and the Spanish speaking people, the property at 530 Spruce Street was purchased, renovated and dedicated on March 17, 1969.
Sisters of the Most Precious Blood, Missionary Servants of the Most Blessed Trinity, Sister Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and Sisters of Christian Charity enthusiastically joined numerous volunteers from the English and Spanish-speaking communities in the work and programs at Kennedy House.
On February 15, 1970, Sister Fabian Tucker C.P.S., a native of Bermuda joined the Kennedy House staff and began her most effective apostolate with Reading’s Black community. The Kennedy House, now serve’s God’s people in a manner consistent with His call throughout the years. Today the latest refugees and immigrants share hopes and dreams for the gathering of God’s Kingdom. The poor sisters of St. Joseph have generously ministered at Kennedy House since December 8, 1979. A soup kitchen and clothing shop were opened there in 1982.
Monsignor Joseph P. O’Donnell served as pastor for 20 years until he retired in 1977. During his tenure as pastor he was dean of Berks County (1961-69) and chairman of the Allentown Diocesan Liturgical Commission (1964-68). In 1971 he received an honorary doctor of laws degree from Mount St. Mary's College. O'Donnell donated more than 1,000 volumes on Scripture and theology from his personal library to the library there in 1975. He served on the Reading Library Board, and was a former member and vice president of the Reading Model Cities Neighborhood Council.
Rev. William J. O’Donnell replaced Msgr. Joseph P. O’Donnell as pastor effective October 14, 1977.
Rev. William J. O’Donnell (not related to Msgr. Joseph P. O’Donnell) was born Feb. 25, 1927, in Bethlehem, a son of Marcella E. (McFadden) and the late Urban W. O’Donnell.
He attended Holy Infancy Parish School in Bethlehem and Bethlehem Catholic High School. Father O’Donnell studied for the priesthood at St. Charles Seminary, Overbrook, and was ordained on May 10, 1952.
He served as assistant pastor at St. Joseph’s Church, Girardville, 1952-53; St. Vincent de Paul Church, Minersville, 1953-54; and St. Jane Frances de Chantal Church, Wilson Borough, 1954-57.
In 1957 he was commissioned a first lieutenant in the Air Force. During his 20 years as a chaplain, Father O’Donnell served in Texas, Montana, Colorado, Florida, Virginia, Delaware, Greenland, Japan, Taiwan, Turkey, and Washington, D.C.
Rev. William J. O’Donnell retired from the Air Force on Nov. 30, 1977. During his military career, Rev. William J. O’Donnell received several decorations, including the Air Force Commendation Medal with one oak leaf cluster, the Air Force Outstanding Unit Medal, and the Air Force Meritorious Medal.
Msgr. Thomas E. Hoban, previous pastor of St. Ann Church, Lansford, replaced Rev. William J. O'Donnell as pastor in February, 1982.
In June 1986 Msgr. Thomas E. Hoban was transferred to St. Ann’s Church, Emmaus, and Msgr. John S. Campbell, a resident at Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church, Allentown, and diocesan director of the Spanish Apostolate since 1978, was named pastor of St. Peter’s Church and administrator at St. Anthony’s Church, Reading.
Campbell, a Bethlehem native, continued as director of the Spanish Apostolate while at St. Peter’s. He had been Lehigh County regional director of the Spanish Apostolate since 1976 and served in the same capacity for Northampton County’s apostolate 1974-76. He was assistant pastor of Holy Infancy Church, Bethlehem, 1968-74, and at St. Jane Frances de Chantal Church, Easton, 1966-68. Ordained in 1966, he was named an honorary Prelate of His Holiness with the title of monsignor by Pope John Paul II in April, 1985.
A 10-year improvement campaign was begun in 1993. The project included the installation of a new boiler system; repairs to walls, roof, steeple, columns and altars; repainting of both the exterior and interior; cleaning of the stained-glass windows and also repairs to the school and convent.
Monsignor John S. Campbell remained at St. Peter's until November, 1994, when he was replaced by Rev. Charles A. Marciano.
Rev. Charles A. Marciano was born on July 18, 1944. He was a son of the late Dominico and Mariavita S. (DiBianco). His father died young so his mother raised him and his 13 brothers and sisters. His mother earned money for her children by hopping a truck each morning and traveling half an hour to pick fruit at Trexler’s Orchard in Allentown. He was born and raised in Palmerton, Carbon County, PA. Palmerton was a poor area where many Mexican families lived. “Italian, Latino and other cultures fused in Palmerton,” Father Marciano once said, explaining that differences in skin color and language were ignored.
Father Marciano attended the Cathedral School, Allentown Central Catholic High School, LaSalle University, Philadelphia, and the University of Puerto Rico. He entered St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Overbrook, in 1962. He was ordained March 18, 1972.
Father Marciano learned to speak Spanish fluently while living and attending school in Puerto Rico for two years. After becoming a priest, Marciano’s first mission was to work with Spanish speaking migrant laborers for more than four years at Casa Guadalupe Community Center in Allentown.
Marciano’s first assignment was as assistant pastor at Sacred Heart Church, Allentown, in 1972. He also served as assistant pastor at St. Ursula, Fountain Hill, Lehigh County, 1976 to 1978; St. Thomas More, Allentown, 1978 to 1981; and Holy Guardian Angels, Hyde Park, 1981 to 1982.
Marciano was appointed pastor of St. Bartholomew, Tresckow, Carbon County, on Feb. 25, 1982. He later served as pastor of Mary Queen of Peace, Pottsville, 1984 to 1987; SS. Peter and Paul, Lehighton, Carbon County, 1987 to 1989; and Sacred Heart, Bath, Northampton County, 1989 to 1994.
During Marciano’s pastorship at St. Peter, church membership increased from about 1,200 to 3,700 families, and the massive renovation project was completed. Marciano inspired indigent and rich alike to donate in proportion to what they had.
A May, 2003 Reading Eagle article dubbed Father Marciano the people’s padre because he prayed and advocated for the Latino communities in Lehigh and Berks Counties before and during his pastorship at St. Peter’s Parish. English-speaking parishioners called him Father Marciano, but to the Spanish-speaking majority, he was called Padre Carlos.
Marciano’s advocacy for Latinos never stayed behind the church’s wooden doors. He belonged to the Spanish Speaking Council of Reading and Berks County, the Prison Chaplains Advisory Board and the Berks County Human Relations Council. In moments of political discord among Latinos, Marciano quietly worked to create unity along ethnic lines of Mexican, Dominican and Puerto Rican. Marciano called on them to work together.
In a farewell letter written in Spanish before his retirement in May 2003, Marciano thanked his parishioners for the privilege of serving the Latino community of Reading. He was quoted as saying, “God created me white, but in his goodness, he gave me an Hispanic heart."
St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church observed its 250th anniversary with a Solemn High Mass on Sunday, May 12, 2002. The celebrant of the mass was Rev. Edward P. Cullen, Bishop of the Diocese of Allentown. Reverend David J. Kozak delivered the homily. Dedication ceremonies were held after the mass for 6-foot bronze statue of St. Peter, which replaced a marble statue of Mary and the baby Jesus destroyed by vandals in November, 2001.
On June 11, 2003 Rev. Charles A. Marciano, at the age of 59, passed away a week before his retirement. The warm-hearted priest and spiritual guardian of Reading’s Latino community succumbed to a three-year battle with cancer, which spread to his brain preventing him from performing his duties.
Despite his condition, he worked until the end, even though his body trembled violently. Rosemarie Colon, a church secretary, received a phone call from Marciano three days before his death. Marciano said, "God has answered all my prayers, now I can leave in peace."
Less than two weeks before his death, on June 1, about 400 parishioners crowded into the church social hall to honor Marciano, who for the last nine years had been pastor at St. Peter, as well as St. Anthony Lithuanian Roman Catholic Church. At the tribute, children from St. Peter church and school, and the adult church choir, regaled Marciano with Spanish religious songs.
A photo presentation, created by church members Adams and Millie Molina, celebrated Marciano in his greatest moments: performing christenings and marriages, meeting Pope John Paul II in Cuba and celebrating the patron saints of Latin-American countries that are the birthplaces of many parishioners.
Mayor Joseph D. Eppihimer presented Marciano with a ceremonial key to the city. With a flushed face and broad smile, Marciano held the key high and dedicated it to the Latino community.
In a farewell letter written in Spanish, Marciano thanked the parishioners for the privilege of serving the Latino community of Reading.
A Mass of Christian burial for Rev. Charles A. Marciano was celebrated Monday at 11:30 a.m. in St. Peter’s Church. He was buried in Resurrection Cemetery, Allentown.
The Rev. Christopher L. Wakefield, a Reading native who had been director of spiritual activities at Marian Catholic High School, near Tamaqua, came to St. Peter’s in June 2003, where he was formerly an assistant, to replace the Rev. Charles A. Marciano. Wakefield, 35, grew up in Shillington. He was a graduate of Holy Name High School and the University of Scranton, and studied at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Wynnewood. He was ordained June 1, 1996.
In June 2005, the Rev. Thomas J. Orsulak, assistant pastor of St. Anne, Bethlehem, replaced Rev. Christopher L. Wakefield as pastor of St. Peter’s.
Rev. Thomas J. Orsulak attended St. Michael School, Lansford, and was a 1980 graduate of Marian High School, Hometown. He prepared for the priesthood at St. Pius X Seminary, Dalton, Lackawanna County; the Pontifical Roman Seminary, Rome, Italy, and Mary Immaculate Seminary, Northampton. While in Dalton, he studied at the University of Scranton, and while in Rome he studied at the Lateran University, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in philosophy. He earned a master of theology degree at Mary Immaculate Seminary. He was ordained September 15, 1990.
In 2008, Rev. Thomas J. Orsulak was elevated by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, to the rank of Chaplain of His Holiness with the title of Monsignor. Monsignor Thomas J. Orsulak has served as pastor since 2005.
The rectory was renamed the Parish House in December 2008. It contains Saint Anthony Chapel named such to honor the Lithuanian parish located at 8th and Bingaman Streets which was consolidated with Saint Peter Parish in 2004. St. Peter’s School celebrated its 150th anniversary on April 25, 2009.
In June, 2009, the Rev. David J. Kozak was assigned as a parochial vicar at St. Peter Church. Kozak attended St. Mary’s Elementary School, Coaldale; Panther Valley Joint High School, Coaldale, and Marian High School.
He began studies for the priesthood in 1972 at St. Mary’s Preparatory School, Orchard Lake, Mich. In 1974 he entered St. Mary’s College Seminary, Orchard Lake.
In Sept. 1976 he was selected by Bishop Joseph McShea to complete his studies at the Pontifical Roman Seminary, Rome, Italy. He was ordained a deacon Oct. 30 in the Lateran Basilica, Rome. He was ordained a priest September 16, 1983 and has served as associate pastor of St. Peter’s since his assignment in 2009.
Description of Saint Peter the Apostle R.C. Church
The church is a perfect example of Gothic architecture. It was designed and built under the supervision of Architect Patrick A. Walsh, of Philadelphia. It is built of Port Deposit granite, with Woodstock granite trimmings and copper cornices. The stonework is a marvel of beauty. St. Peter's enjoys the distinction of being the only church in the United States in which the frames of the rose window and the transoms are made of granite. The sill of the rose window, dressed, weighs five tons.
The vestibule is a fitting introduction to the beautiful interior. The floors and steps, window sills, wainscoting, aisles. etc., are laid in gray and pink Tennessee marble. The transoms of opalescent glass and jewels, the beveled chipped glass and copper in the numerous doors, etc., are fine examples of domestic art and were furnished by James M. Kase & Co., 511 Washington.
On entering the nave, the beholder is struck by the beauty of the rich interior. The eye wanders from stained glass window to window and finally rests upon the sanctuary with its three altars of solid marble. These altars are magnificent specimens of decorated Gothic, their delicately carved pinnacles and ornaments being in keeping with the rest of the interior. The altars, together with the rest of the marble work, were supplied by the James E. Mahony Co., of Providence. R. I. The three altars, communion rail, wainscoting of the sanctuary, reredos and panels are composed of Skyros and Carrara marbles. The former was procured from an island in the Grecian Archipelago, from ancient quarries, discovered after centuries of disuse.
The crucifix, in the exposition niche of the main altar, procured by Father Cleary in Rome, is a masterpiece of ecclesiastical art. It is about three feet high and the entire cross was decorated by workers in mosaic of the Vatican, with beautiful designs, including faithful representations of St. Peter's, the Forum, Coliseum, St. John Lateran, Santa Maria Maggiore and other notable buildings of the Eternal City.
The grand pipe organ, costing $6,500, is a memorial to the late William and Catharine Nolan and was placed by their children. It is of dark oak and was built by the Austin Organ Company, of Hartford, Conn., and for its size is said to stand unchallenged in this part of the country. It is not lacking in architectural beauty and is strongly in keeping with its surroundings. The instrument is divided and so constructed as not to hide the large window behind it. It was at first supposed that this could not be done and that either the window or organ would suffer, but the difficulty has been happily overcome.
The 20 painted windows are from the studio of George Boos, of Munich, and most accurate and exquisite portrayals of scenes in the life of Christ. They were designed by a single artist to insure similarity of treatment, are originals in part, while the coloring was entrusted to another artist exclusively. Twenty men were employed 18 months in their production. The result of this method is a marvelous set of windows that would be equaled with difficulty. So meritorious was this work considered by the jury at the St. Louis Exposition, that it was awarded a grand prize. All are made exclusively of antique glass. The full sized drawings were the work of a well known Munich artist. The blending of colors in the different windows is exceptionally beautiful, rich and yet subdued. The attention of the beholder is drawn to the very expressive faces and the modeling of hands and feet. All the groups are very rich in figures and the bases and canopies, rich in coloring and design, form a beautiful frame to the pictures.
The pews are substantial and roomy and were made by the Grand Rapids Furniture Company. They are of Gothic design and Cathedral finish and were donated by Patrick Devlin at a cost of $1,825.
The Baptistry is located in the rear of the church and is composed of Pentalikon and Skyros marbles, while the lid of the font is of solid bronze. There is a receptacle for holy oils, on which is a panel taken from a convent at Cluny. This latter is a rare 15th century painting, done on copper, of the Immaculate Conception, and was secured at the time of the disposal of religious orders in France. This is the gift of Mrs. J. Lancaster Repplier, who placed it in memory of John George Haggerty.
Among the possessions of Father Cleary, which he intended to place in the new church, he prized none more highly than one procured by his friend, Monsignor C. G. O'Keefe, during their joint visit to Rome at the interesting period of the death of Pope Leo XIII, and the election of Pius X.
This is nothing less than the trowel presented by the French Government to Leo XIII., and used by his hands, at the close of the jubilee year of 1900, to seal up the holy door which connects the Vatican Palace with St. Peter's, and which is opened but once in 50 years.
The handle is of ebony, the trowel itself about eight inches in length by four inches at the widest part, and is of solid silver.
On the bottom is engraved the Papal coat-of-arms: on the face the inscription "R. F.., S. P., ANJVB, MCM," a translation of which would read: "The French Republic to the Sovereign Pontif, Year of Jubilee, 1900."
It is most unusual to allow such a highly honored article to be taken from the Vatican collection, and only through Monsignor O'Keefe's close friendship with the College of Cardinals was it rendered possible.
He, in turn, knowing the intense devotion Father Cleary had to the work in hand, most unselfishly gave it to him.
Appreciating that the gift was unique, and could have no counterpart in the world, Father Cleary treasured it for the church. It was placed in the rear of the tabernacle.
Alongside of the south tower of the magnificent edifice is the tomb of the lamented Father Cleary. A granite Mausoleum marks his grave. This in addition to the main altar, was erected as a memorial by the parishioners.
No greater tribute could have been paid to Father Cleary, than that of his intimate friend, Bishop Shanahan, of the Harrisburg diocese, which will be found on the bronze tablet on front of the mausoleum.
The murals which adorn the ceiling of St. Peter's Church were painted by Count Berthold von Imhoff, a famous painter of religious art works. He was born Jan. 14, 1868, in Karlsruhe, Germany. During the time he lived in Reading, approximately 1900-1913, he was a member of St. Paul's Parish. He painted many churches in the area.
St. Peter's Church Murals