Old Saint Joseph’s Church, founded by Jesuits in 1733, was the first Roman Catholic Church in Philadelphia. Its present building on Willings Alley was built in 1839 and is unique in having no entrance visible from the street. This configuration saved the church, both the present building and original chapel, during Nativist riots.
The first congregation was founded by English Jesuit, Joseph Greaton, S.J. (1679-1753) Old St. Joseph’s sacramental records are among the earliest in the nation.
Felix Joseph Barbelin, S.J. (1808-1869), a pastor and educator who founded Saint Joseph’s College continued Father Greaton’s work. St. Joseph’s College and St. Joseph’s Preparatory School were founded by Father Barbelin, in 1851. Saint Joseph’s College became Saint Joseph’s University, whose archives now house the OSJ Church collection.