St Norbert Parish History
The Norbertines came from the Netherlands and arrived in America in 1893. They were asked by a local Bishop to minister to the Dutch-speaking people near Green Bay, Wisconsin. It is there that they formed St. Norbert Abbey. In 1932 the Wisconsin Norbertines sent some of their brothers to Claymont, Delaware, and in 1934 others were sent to South Philadelphia.
It was in 1950 that the Norbertines purchased the Cassatt estate, presently the Upper Main Line YMCA, with the intention to establish an abbey in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. In 1954 a novitiate was begun at that location. At that time it was known as Daylesford Priory. It moved to its present location on South Valley Road in Paoli in 1963. By 1971 it was elevated to the status of an abbey.
In 1956 Cardinal O’Hara, then Archbishop of Philadelphia, formed a new parish, St. Norbert, from portions of St. Monica’s in Berwyn and St. Patrick’s in Malvern. He entrusted its care to the Norbertines.
The pastor of St. Norbert Parish is nominated by the Abbot of Daylesford Abbey. The nomination is then approved by the Archbishop of Philadelphia.
The founding pastor of our parish was Father Robert L. Hyde. He celebrated the first parish Mass at 7:00 AM on Sunday, July 15, 1956 in the old Paoli Fire House.
Things quickly evolved from that first Mass. On May 12, 1957, we broke ground on the crest of the hill that overlooks Route 252 for two buildings — a combined church and school, and a convent. Four sisters of the Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart came to open St. Norbert School. They held classes in the auditorium of St. Monica’s school while our buildings were under construction. By May of 1958 construction was complete. Our original church was on the ground floor of the present-day school building, and classrooms were on the second floor. The first Mass was celebrated on May 4, and the school was opened on May 26. The Grey Nuns served our children with tremendous dedication for the next 40 years.
Construction of the church in which we now worship began on April 15, 1984. Cardinal Krol, Archbishop of Philadelphia, officiated over the dedication ceremony on May 5, 1985. Known for the beauty of its faceted-glass windows, our church serves as a beautiful symbol of joyful worship. Maria de los A. Morales, a parishioner and gifted artist, donated her talent in designing this stunning hallmark of our church.
In 1992 we added our Parish Activity Center (PAC). In 1997, we renamed the center in honor of our former pastor, Father Walter J. Burke.
A new oratory adjacent to our church and dedicated to Our Lady of Guadaloupe as well as an addition to our education center was opened in 2005.
St. Norbert parish has been led by five pastors to date. In 1957, Father Hyde was succeeded by Father James M. Johnson. He served until 1964 when Father Burke was appointed to the position. He led our parish until December 31, 1996. On January 1, 1997 Father Domenic A. Rossi became our pastor. His great love of the Lord inspired and shaped our community greatly. Our current pastor, Father Michael J. Lee, came to us from our sister parish, St. Gabriel in South Philadelphia, in July of 2010. We pray that the Lord continues to guide and inspire him in leading our community.