St. Martin Parish History
Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Saints Simon and Jude in Blairsville served Catholics in the New Derry, Derry and Blairsville areas until 1853, when a congregation was organized at what was to become St. Martin Parish in New Derry, PA. On July 11, 1853, George Miller, Sr. and his wife Nancy, for the sum of one dollar sold a parcel of land to the Bishop of Pittsburgh, Michael O’Connor. Peter Martin, a merchant and Jacob Miller, a farmer had petitioned him for a priest and a Benedictine from St. Vincent, Latrobe, then, Father Odilo Vandergreen, was sent to establish the parish and build the church.
The congregation had been gradually increasing due to the railroad and other businesses, and by 1869 the church was enlarged and lengthened along with significant interior renovations. The newly renovated church was then dedicated on august 3, 1869.
A painting descriptive if the legend of St. Martin’s cloak was presented to the church by Mrs. Elizabeth Barry of Rochester, New York and placed as a ceiling decoration in the church during the church’s seventy-fifth anniversary. The legend of the cloak relates that Martin, while a roman soldier and catechumen, came upon cold, shivering beggar one day. The future saint, seeing the beggar’s plight took his sword and sliced his own crimson cloak in half, giving part of it to the beggar. That night, in a dream, Christ appeared to Martin and asked if he recognized the cloak, He was wearing for Martin had shared it with Him that day. Later, Martin was baptized, left the army and served as a missionary before studying for the priesthood. He subsequently became Bishop of Tours. In the spirit of St. Martin, the parish instituted an annual used clothing drive at the New Derry Parish on November 11, Feast of St. Martin in imitation of their Patron Saint. The coats are collected and donated to individuals and families in need.
St. Joseph Parish History
The Parish began as a mission church of St. Martin, New Derry in 1883. St. Joseph was consecrated as its own parish in 1907, then the Diocese of Pittsburgh. . The original red brick church stood in what is now the upper church parking lot. In 1959 the present church opened, originally as a temporary facility until the formal church could be built.
Many of the early Catholics in this area were of Irish ancestry. With the construction of the railroad, many more immigrants came to the region. Early records, which were kept at St. Martin contains the names of many Irish Catholics. Later, peoples of many other ethnicities, principally Italian began to appear. The new immigrants continued to help the Church to grow, prosper and thrive.
Today, the Parish Facilities include a beautiful church containing a stunning collection of stained glass windows, which is handicapped accessible, a Parish Hall and St. Joseph Parish Center. The Parish Hall is located beneath the church and used for a variety of activities. The Hall contains a fully equipped kitchen, large gathering space, recently renovated restrooms and ample storage facilities. The Parish Center, formerly the school until 1995 is currently used as offices, meeting room, and Faith Formation programs, RCIA and Marriage Preparation. The Parish Center includes a well-equipped library and restrooms. The parish rectory is next to the Church building.