Saint Catherine Labouré Parish was established on March 1, 1948, becoming the first parish in the world dedicated to Saint Catherine Labouré who had been canonized in 1947. Father Charles Murray was appointed its first pastor. The parish started with 900 people. The first Mass of the parish was celebrated in the Paxtang Municipal Building on Easter Sunday, March 28, 1948.
On July 4, 1948, ground was broken for the parish building that would include a space that could be used as a temporary church (until a larger one could be built), four classrooms, and a cafeteria. Construction began on July 11, 1948 and the corner stone was laid on November 28, 1948 (the Feast of Saint Catherine Labouré). Christmas Mass in 1948 was celebrated in the church basement (cafeteria). By Easter 1949, Mass was celebrated in the church. The church and school building were officially dedicated on November 28, 1949.
The parish school opened in September 1949 and was staffed by the Daughters of Charity from Emmitsburg, MD. In 1953, additional classrooms were added to accommodate the growing school population. Subsequently, three more additions to the school building were needed: one in 1988, one in 1991, and one in 1998.
The Daughters of Charity continued to serve until 1975. At that time, the administration of the school was given to the Sisters of Saints Cyril and Methodius who served the parish until 2011. Since 2012, the school has been conducted by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Immaculata).
As the parish grew, it became apparent that the original church and school buildings were insufficient. Ground was broken in October of 1974 for the new church. The sacred edifice was dedicated on July 5, 1976 and named a Shrine of the Miraculous Medal. The windows of the Shrine Church (referred to as a “symphony in blue”) were executed by the world renown Gabriel Loire of Chartes, France. The original church was converted into a gymnasium/social center and named Murray Hall, after the founding pastor. In addition to the growth of the school, the convent (1955), rectory (1964), and parish office center (1986) complete the campus. A parish picnic grove is located two blocks north on 40th Street.
Why are we the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal? In 1830, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to young Catherine giving her specific instructions for a medal to be cast in Our Lady’s image. Catherine fulfilled this mission and we know it as the Miraculous Medal. Catherine always kept some of the first Miraculous Medals made with her throughout her life. Only ten of them survive today. Eight are guarded in the archives of the Daughters of Charity in Paris. One is on exhibition in the Miraculous Medal Art Museum in Philadelphia. Because this parish is the first parish in the world named for Saint Catherine Labouré, the Daughters of Charity gave the parish one of these original Miraculous Medals that was in Saint Catherine’s possession on the day she died. It was formally presented to the people of Saint Catherine Labouré Parish by Mother L. Roge, DC at the Shrine Church’s dedication in 1976. This medal was originally enshrined in the ambo (pulpit).
During the 2017 refurbishment, a new Miraculous Medal Shrine was created inside the Shrine Church. Located to the left of the sanctuary, the Shrine provides an accessible, peaceful view for prayer, meditation, and reflection of the Miraculous Medal. On September 16, 2017, a Solemn Mass was held with the Blessing of the Miraculous Medal Shrine. A First Class Relic of Saint Catherine Labouré is enshrined in a Reliquary, and mounted on the wall to the left of the Shrine.
Today, Saint Catherine Labouré Parish has more than 2600 registered households with over 7000 parishioners. The faith formation of our children is assisted by the Parish School, Parish Religious Education Program, and Parish Youth Ministry Program. The parish has numerous spiritual, catechetical, social service, outreach and athletic organizations and committees.
Our parish stands ready to answer the Church’s call to the New Evangelization and make Christ known to all the world. While deepening our own knowing and loving of Jesus, we seek to authentically help others to do the same. With hearts raised in thanks and praise, we honor our past, celebrate our present, and look to a future filled with hope as we pray, believe, and live as disciples.