St. Joseph on the Brandywine

Coordinates: 39°46′20″N 75°35′19″W / 39.7721°N 75.5885°W / 39.7721; -75.5885
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St. Joseph on the Brandywine
St. Joseph on the Brandywine, August 2010
St. Joseph on the Brandywine is located in Delaware
St. Joseph on the Brandywine
St. Joseph on the Brandywine is located in the United States
St. Joseph on the Brandywine
Location10 Old Church Road, Greenville, Delaware
Coordinates39°46′20″N 75°35′19″W / 39.7721°N 75.5885°W / 39.7721; -75.5885
Area2 acres (0.81 ha)
Built1841, 1848, 1878, 1941 and 1950
NRHP reference No.76000572[1]
Added to NRHPNovember 07, 1976

St. Joseph on the Brandywine, originally Saint Joseph's Church until St. Joseph's Church- Wilmington was built in 1947, is a parish of the Roman Catholic Church in Greenville, Delaware, United States, in the Diocese of Wilmington. It is a historic parish church complex and national historic district located on Old Church Road. Since 2002 its old convent building has housed the diocesan archives, with records going back two centuries. It is also the home parish of the 46th President of the United States, Joe Biden.[2][3]


The complex encompasses four buildings as well as a large parish cemetery. The main church is a stuccoed stone structure, painted yellow, with the pedimented gable of the facade pierced by the church's steeple. The other buildings consist of a rectory, convent, and former school.[4]

The school was opened in 1853 and was originally staffed by the Sisters of St. Joseph,[5] and later by the Order of St. Francis in 1887.[6]


While there was a strong Catholic presence in the Wilmington area since 1813,[7] Catholic masses were relegated to traveling priests at private homes and in the local manufacturing mills. Irish mills workers began petitioning the Diocese of Philadelphia for their own church in the region starting in the late 1830s. They were supported in their efforts by the Du Pont family, who contributed financial assets and political pressure to the establishment of the parish. The original church of St. Joseph was built in February 1841[8] by the Duponts for Irish and Italian Catholic workers at the C.I.DuPont de Nemours & Co. The land was originally granted by Charles I. du Pont, who also served on the original board of Trustees along with Alfred du Pont, Henry du Pont, Peter N. Brennan, Edward Dougherty, Charles Dougherty, and Michael Dougherty. The church itself was dedicated the following winter in December 1842 by Francis Kenrick, Bishop of Philadelphia.

Additions were made to the church structure in 1848 under Fr. John Walsh to accommodate 550 parishioners. In 1853, a house on the campus burned down and was rebuilt with the assistance of Amelia du Pont, who converted the building into a convent, thereafter inviting the Sisters of St. Joseph to occupy the grounds and open a parochial school through the parish. The parish school, which originally occupied the church basement, was moved in 1855 into its own building.

The parish house was destroyed in 1866 during a fire originating from the roof. The school was also shut down during this period as the Sisters of St. Joseph were recalled by James Frederick Wood, Archbishop of Philadelphia. The school would re-open under the direction of the sisters of the Order of St. Francis, as well as lay teachers from the parish. It would remain in operation under the sisters until the spring of 1972, when it was permanently shut down due to decreased attendance. The sisters have since vacated the campus to attend to their educational social mission elsewhere. Additional repairs and alterations to the church were made in 1878, 1941 and 1950, so much so that the present form displays very little of the original 1841 church structure. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976,[1] a marker was placed on the campus in 2016 by the State of Delaware.


  • Rev. Bernard E. McCabe, OSA:[9] 1841–1842, previously built St. Malachi's Church in Coatesville (d. 1857) (killed after falling asleep while reading with a candle)[10]
  • Rev. John Frost: 1842
  • Rev. Daniel Magorian: 1843-1846
  • Rev. John S. Walsh: 1846-1867
  • Rev. John Scanlan: 1867-1869
  • Rev. George J. Kelly: 1869-1887
  • Rev. Dennis J. Flynn (Assistant Pastor)[6] 1883–1885, Later President of Mount St. Mary's College
  • Rev. Edward Henchy SJ: 1887–1893, formerly President of Loyola College in Maryland
  • Rev. Peter Donaghy: 1893, a native of Ireland and Gaelic-speaking priest,[11] previously Assistant Pastor
  • Rev. John D. Carly: 1893-1895
  • Rev. George S. Bradford: 1895[12]
  • Rev. William J. Bermingham OP: 1895-1900[13]
  • Rev. William J. Scott: 1900-1926 (d. 1932)
  • Rev. Martin McHale Ryan: 1926-1933
  • Msgr. Patrick A. Brennan: 1933-1946[14] (d. 1950)
  • Msgr. Francis X. Fitzpatrick: 1946–1950, later Vicar of St. Peter's Church- New Castle (d. 1972)[15]
  • Rev. Henry J. Dreyer: 1950-1966 (d. 1969)
  • Rev. John L. Noonan SSJ: 1952-? (Assistant Pastor)[16]
  • Msgr. Henry I. Foltz: 1966-1977
  • Msgr. Paul J. Schierse, Jr.: 1977–1992, Canon Lawyer and Chancellor of the Diocese of Wilmington[17] (d. 1998)
  • Rev. Peter P. Harney:[18] 1990-1995 (Assistant Pastor)
  • Rev. Stephen J. Connell, Jr.:[19] 1992-1997; (Assistant Pastor) 1962-1963
  • Rev. Joseph Wharton: (Assistant Pastor) 1994-1997
  • Msgr. Thomas Cini: 1997–1998, Previously Principal of St. Mark's High School and St. Elizabeth's High School[20]
  • Rev. William Mathesius: (Assistant Pastor) 1997-1998
  • Rev. David F. Kelley: 1998-1999
  • Msgr. Joseph F. Rebman: 1999–2021
  • Rev. John O. Barres: (Assistant Pastor) 2001-?
  • Rev. Brian Lewis, (Assistant Pastor) 2018-2020[21]
  • Rev. Glenn Evers, (Assistant Pastor) 2020–2021
  • Msgr. John P. Hopkins: 2021–Present

Notable burials[edit]


  1. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  2. ^ Forgey, Quint (November 3, 2020). "Biden attends church on Election Day morning". POLITICO. Retrieved December 2, 2020.
  3. ^ Lapin, Tamar (November 1, 2020). "Protestors heckle Biden outside his Delaware church over abortion stance". Retrieved December 2, 2020.
  4. ^ J. M. Norton (April 1976). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination: St. Joseph's on the Brandywine". National Park Service. and accompanying four photos
  5. ^ Beirne, Mary Helen (May 13, 2015). Ready for Any Good Work: History of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia 1944–1999. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9780761865858. Retrieved December 2, 2020 – via Google Books.
  6. ^ a b Scharf, John Thomas (December 2, 1888). "History of Delaware : 1609-1888: Local history". L. J. Richards. Retrieved December 2, 2020 – via Google Books.
  7. ^ "St. Josephs on the Brandywine". Retrieved December 2, 2020.
  8. ^ ROWE, WILLIAM (1889). "St. Joseph's Church, Brandywine, Delaware". The American Catholic Historical Researches. 6 (3): 139–142. JSTOR 45213314. Retrieved December 2, 2020 – via JSTOR.
  9. ^ Philadelphia, American Catholic Historical Society of (December 2, 1896). "Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia". American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia. Retrieved December 2, 2020 – via Google Books.
  10. ^[bare URL plain text file]
  11. ^ "Irish Culture Club of Delaware - History". Retrieved December 2, 2020.
  12. ^ "Past Priests". Retrieved December 2, 2020.
  13. ^ "Biographical and Genealogical History of the State of Delaware". December 2, 1899. Retrieved December 2, 2020 – via Google Books.
  14. ^ "Msgr. Patrick Brennan Dies - 25 November 1950 - The News Journal pg 1 - Wilmington, Delaware". The News Journal. November 25, 1950. p. 1. Retrieved December 2, 2020 – via
  15. ^ "MSGR. FITZPATRICK, PASTOR IN LIBERTY (Published 1972)". The New York Times. August 30, 1972. Retrieved December 2, 2020.
  16. ^[bare URL PDF]
  17. ^ "New Mixed Marriage Norms: Practical and Procedural Aspects for Chancery Personnel". The Catholic Lawyer. 17 (2). February 23, 2017. Retrieved December 2, 2020.
  18. ^ "Harney Peter P, News Journal (Wilmington, DE), April 18, 2000". Retrieved December 2, 2020.
  19. ^ "Stephen Connell Obituary (2011) - The News Journal". Retrieved December 2, 2020.
  20. ^ Dialog, The (May 14, 2018). "Eleven diocesan priests, one Franciscan celebrate milestones". Retrieved December 2, 2020.
  21. ^ "Fr. Brian Lewis moves to St. Joseph on the Brandywine". St. Elizabeth Catholic Church. Retrieved December 2, 2020.

External links[edit]