On June 3, 1970, St. Isaac Jogues Parish was founded by decree of John Cardinal Krol, Archbishop of Philadelphia. Reverend Thomas J. Lawlor was designated founding Pastor, and parishioners were drawn from the parishes of St. Monica, St. Ann, St. Norbert, St. Teresa of Avila and Our Lady of the Assumption.
The first parish meeting was held in the auditorium of St. Monica’s in Berwyn, where Father Lawlor had taken temporary residence. A program of home Masses was initiated enabling the new pastor and parishioners to meet and pray, and establish a close Christian community.
A warm demonstration of ecumenism was exhibited by surrounding Protestant churches, especially St. Matthew’s United Methodist Church, whose Pastor, Reverend Menno Good, most generously offered the use of its church facilities. Two Masses each Sunday were celebrated at St. Matthew’s through the summer of 1970. At that time the original parish choir, altar guild, acolytes, “treasury men” and ushers groups were formed.
On September 23, 1972, St. Isaac Jogues was solemnly dedicated by Cardinal Krol. C.C.D. classes were held in the rectory and the church and the children showed true Christian generosity by initiating the custom of the “Giving Tree” at Christmas that is still carried on today.
The church also had to accept its incidents of tragedy. On Sunday, October 27, 1974, Father Lawlor finished his last homily with the words of St. Paul: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” Moments later he was stricken and late that night Father Lawlor died. Those final words of Father Lawlor to his people symbolized the life of a good man, loved by all. Cardinal Krol then appointed Rev. Hugh J. Nolan as Pastor of St. Isaac Jogues effective November 29, 1974.
In 1989 Father Nolan (later to become Monsignor Nolan) retired.
Monsignor Cunningham had served the Archdiocese for over fifteen years at the Archdiocesan Offices in Philadelphia. He held the position of Vicar for Financial Affairs and Archdiocesan Controller prior to his appointment to St. Isaac’s. Monsignor Cunningham continued to direct the parish’s spiritual growth with the gift of Perpetual Adoration so loved by our parishioners as well as those from surrounding parishes. In addition, he committed himself to keeping alive the various programs initiated by Fathers Lawlor and Nolan and added many new ministries, programs and activities, so that the people of St. Isaac’s could have every opportunity to be fully involved spiritually, educationally and socially.