The City of Bethlehem in 1954 was growing into what was then called the "Great Northwest", as new housing was under construction throughout the area known as Hanover and Schoenersville straddling the newly opened superhighway named Route 22.   Companies such as Bethlehem Steel and Western Electric were attracting new employees and their families to the area.

           In response to the need to provide new facilities for religious worship for the increasing number of Catholic families, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, on February 11, 1954, authorized the establishment of a new parish to be located at Catasauqua and Kelchner Roads in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.   The site was a five-acre plot of land, part of the Werner estate, containing only a farmhouse and an old dairy barn.

THE BARN . . . before conversion into a church

           Since 1954 was a Marian year, the new parish was named Notre Dame of Bethlehem, Notre Dame meaning Our Lady.   Appropriately, it was founded on the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes.   Archbishop John F. O'Hara, C.S.C. appointed Rev. Thomas J. Doyle as the first Pastor of Notre Dame.

           Fr. Doyle then visited and enlisted the aid of future members of the newly named parish and a contract was awarded to remodel the barn.   The remodeled barn served as a temporary church while a refurbished farmhouse served as a temporary rectory.   Two months later on Passion Sunday, April 4, 1954, the first Mass was celebrated by Fr. Doyle in the first church which seated 350.

Services in the "new" church

April 1954


           By June 1954, 280 families had been registered and by September 1955, the registered families had increased to 430 families, an increase of over 50% in fifteen months.

           Noting the need for schools, an elementary school was the first building project which began in September 26, 1954.   The Sisters of Saint Joseph of Chestnut Hill were asked to staff the school and provisions were made by including a convent in the building project.

Sisters of Saint Joseph who staffed the new, enlarged Notre Dame School in 1961.
TOP ROW (left to right): Sr. Rose Lorena, Sr. George Aloysius, Sr. Clare Isabella, Sr. Ellen Cornelius, Sr. Rose Edward
CENTER ROW: Sr. Martin Maureen, Sr. John Joseph, Sr. Grace Eileen, Sr. Rita Marian
BOTTOM ROW: Sr. Regina Immaculata, Sr. Catherine Bernard, Mother Regina Angela, Sr. Caroline, Sr. Anna Dennis

           Various fundraisers were undertaken, the first of which was a card party held at the Knight of Columbus on May 1954.   Another fund raiser was the first Annual Parish Carnival held on August 18 – 21, 1954 in a rainstorm.   Nevertheless, it was a social and financial success.

           The plans for the school and convent were approved by the Diocesan authorities and on September 26, 1954, a ground breaking ceremony was held with the Rt. Rev. Msgr. Leo G. Fink officiating.   It was estimated that the overall cost was about $143,000 and it was expected that the school would be ready in time for the 1955-56 school year.   The parishioners responded generously to the Building Fund Campaign initiated in October 1954.

           On Holy Thursday in 1955, a new Repository, donated by the Holy Name Society, was exhibited in the church.   The first Forty Hours Devotion was held on May 1 – 3, 1955.   Most impressive was the attendance by numerous visiting priests and the procession which included the men of the parish.   It should be noted that processions in those days used the center aisle, and side doors to the outside of the church and then back in the main doors.

           The new school was dedicated by Archbishop O'Hara on September 25, 1955 with Sister Joseph Daniel serving as its first PRINCIPAL for a student population that numbered 240.   The teaching faculty of SSJ nuns were temporarily housed at 1905 Catasauqua Road.   The new building contained eight classrooms with health room, offices and storage spaces for school supplies.   Accomodations would support 400 students and was built to allow for future expansion for a second floor.


           By 1956, enrollment had risen to 320.  

STANDING: Donald Bicking, Daniel Rept, Theodore Polansky, Ronald Marich, Peter Beck
SEATED: Marion Halliday, Judith Casey, Fr. Doyle, Georgene Almer, June Clorise

           The old farmhouse which served as the temporary rectory had to be demolished to make way for the widening of Catasauqua Road.   A new (current) rectory was then built and completed on September 12, 1956.


           By 1957, 600 families belonged to the parish and the school enrollment had risen to 400 in th 1958-59 school year.   It was decided to add a second floor to the school in the summer of 1957.


           With the growth of the teaching staff, the construction of a larger and permanent convent building was began in August 1958, and occupied on April,1959.


           In 1958, a shrine to the Blessed Virgin Mary, under whose patronage the parish was founded, was built by the men of the parish and dedicated to Our Lady of Bethlehem.


           On July 1960, ground breaking for a new church was held and the first Sunday Masses were celebrated on June 25, 1961 with a 7:00 AM Mass and the first Solemn High Mass at 12:15 PM.

           In 1969 January 28, the Diocese of Allentown was erected separate from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.   In 1961 February 11, Bishop Joseph Mark McShea appointed by Pope John XXIII as the first Bishop of the Diocese of Allentown and served until 1983 February 3.

           In 1962, Pope John convened the Second Vatican Council which eventually ushered in many liturgical changes.

           In 1963, Father Doyle was elevated to Domestic Prelate, with the title of Reverend Monsignor and was among the first group of priests to be so honored in the newly established Allentown Diocese.

Rev. Msgr. Thomas J. Doyle
First Pastor

           The renovation of the main altar allowing celebrants to face the people was completed in 1969.   By April 1970, the new order of the Mass began at Notre Dame.

           A significant occasion in the parish history occurred when the $565,000.00 mortgage was declared paid on October 12, 1971.   The occasion was marked by a ceremonial mortgage burning held in the parish Church Hall in November.

           In October 18, 1975, a new shrine in honor of Our Lady was dedicated and located in the vestibule of the church and the Baptistry was relocated to the Sanctuary.


           The 25th year was marked with celebrations on February 8 – 11, 1979.  

           In 1983 February 3, Bishop Thomas Jerome Welsh was appointed second Bishop of the Diocese of Allentown and served until 1997 December 15.

Bishop Thomas Jerome Welsh
Second Bishop

           When Msgr. Doyle retired in 1984, Bishop Thomas J. Welsh, appointed Rev. Frederick J. Loeper as the second pastor of Notre Dame.   The parish experienced continued growth in the eighties and nineties giving rise to new parish organizations.  

Rev. Frederick J. Loeper
Second Pastor

           For the 40th anniversary celebration of the parish, a capital campaign in 1995 gave rise to an annex in the school, the refurbishment of the Church interior, and the addition of a new portico entrance.


           Unfortunately, Fr. Loeper was called by our Maker the day after his 68th birthday on August 31, 1996.   With Fr. Loeper’s passing, Bishop Welsh appointed Rev. Msgr. Joseph E. Kurtz as the third pastor of Notre Dame.

Rev. Msgr. Joseph Edward Kurtz
Third Pastor

           On October 1997, the parish belatedly celebrated the 40th anniversary of the parish by rededicating the refurbished church and the dedicated the new annex of the school in memory of Fr. Loeper.


           On December 8, 1999, Notre Dame lost Msgr. Kurtz to Knoxville, Tenessee when he was ordained and installed bishop of the Diocese of Knoxville.

           In 1997 December 16, Bishop Edward Peter Cullen was appointed third Bishop of the Diocese of Allentown and served until 2009 May 27.

Bishop Edward Peter Cullen
Third Bishop

Bishop Edward Cullen, third bishop of Allentown, appointed Rev. Msgr. William E. Handges as the fourth pastor of Notre Dame.

Rev. Msgr. William E. Handges
Fourth Pastor

           On September 3, 2000, a statue of Jesus with Children was dedicated by Msgr. Richard E. Loeper, Bishop Kurtz, and and Msgr. Handges in remembrance of Fr. Loeper.

           On November 11, 2000, a special concert was held to dedicate the new Allen Organ which was donated in memory of parishioner Dr. Joseph Zaladonis.

Mary Green Loch on the new Allen Organ

           For Notre Dame's 50th anniversary, Msgr. Handges headed a major and highly successful Diocesan Campaign which resulted in additional physical improvement to the church and the addition to the educational endowment plan.   Over 50 years, Notre Dame experienced almost a ten-fold growth from some 280 families in 1954 to over 2,200 families and more than 5,900 parishioners in 2004.   Over the same 50 years, Notre Dame has seen 1,500 weddings, 4,200 baptisms, and some 250 conversions to the Faith.   And today, Notre Dame has more than 50 parish organizations.

           In June 2005, Bishop Cullen appointed Rev. Msgr. Thomas J. Benestad as the fifth pastor of Notre Dame.

Rev. Msgr. Thomas J. Benestad
Fifth Pastor

           In February 2007, Msgr. Benestad went on a medical leave and in March 2007, Bishop Cullen appointed Rev. Thomas D. Baddick as administrator and eventually the sixth pastor of Notre Dame.   On April 6, 2008, at 4:00 PM, Papal Honors were conferred on Fr. Baddick giving him the title of Reverend Monsignor.

Rev. Msgr. Thomas D. Baddick
Sixth Pastor

           In 2009 May 27, Msgr. John Oliver Barres was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI and in 2009 July 30, was ordained fourth Bishop of the Diocese of Allentown.

Bishop John Oliver Barres
Fourth Bishop

Diocese of Allentown
19610211 – 19830203 Bishop John M. McShea
19830203 – 19971215 Bishop Thomas J. Welsh
19971216 – 20090527   Bishop Edward P. Cullen
20090527 – present   Bishop John O. Barres
Notre Dame of Bethlehem Parish
1954 – 1984 Rev. Msgr. Thomas J. Doyle
1984 – 19960831 Rev. Frederick J. Loeper
1996 – 19991208 Rev. Msgr. Joseph E. Kurtz
(Bishop in 19991208; Archbishop in 20070815 )
1999 – 2005 Rev. Msgr. William E. Handges
2005 – 2007 Rev. Msgr. Thomas J. Benestad
   2007 – present Rev. Msgr. Thomas D. Baddick
1958 – 1961 Rev. Edward W. McElduff
1961 – 1965 Rev. Msgr. James J. McHale
1962 – 1969 Rev. William H. Mooney
1965 – 1968 Rev. Msgr. Thomas E. Hoban
1965 – 1969 Rev. Francis T. Gillespie
1969 – 1970 Rev. Robert J. Potts
1969 – 1970 Rev. James J. Agosta
1970 – 1971 Rev. Thomas M. Courtney
1970 – 1971 Rev. Leo F. Lenick
1971 – 1975 Rev. Edward G. Ganster
1971 – 1972 Rev. Richard C. Mushorn
1973 – 1975 Rev. Steven J. Safko
1975 Rev. William H. Carter
1975 – 1976 Rev. John J. Denburger
1976 – 1977 Rev. John G. Pasura
1976 – 1979 Rev. Joseph A. Lukach
1978 – 1979 Rev. William J. Nahn
1978 Rev. Joseph Allan
1979 – 1989 Rev. James J. Morgan
1979 – 1980 Rev. Joseph J. Campion
1980 – 1983 Rev. Stephen J. Radocha
1981 – 1983 Rev. Robert J. McConaghy
1982 – 1983 Rev. Francis P. Schoenauer
1983 – 1991 Rev. David W. Karns
1985 – 1987 Rev. William P. Jones
1989 – 1993 Rev. John A. Frink
1991 – 1992 Rev. Eric J. Gruber
1992 – 1995 Rev. Richard Brensinger
1993 – 1996 Rev. Thomas D. Baddick
1995 – 1997 Rev. Richard W. Campo
1996 – 2000 Rev. Paul Rothermel
1997 – 2001 Rev. Gregory R. Karpyn
2000 – 2003 Rev. Joseph D. Hulko
2003 – 2004 Rev. Edward J. Essig
2004 – 20091130 Rev. Joel E. Kiefer
20091201 – 20130611 Rev. Patrick Lamb
20130611 – present Rev. Jason Stokes
1954 – 1963 Rev. Henry E. Strassner
? Rev. John J. Duminiak
? Rev. Paul L. Bader
? Rev. Robert R. Fagan
? Rev. Msgr. John A. Rusak
? Rev. Walter T. Schaeffer
  1989 – 20130611 Rev. Bernard J. Ezaki
2000 – 2005 Rev. Msgr. John A. Auchter
  2005 – present Rev. Achilles O. Ayaton
1982 – 20010908 Mr. Lemuel B. von Leer
19950520 – 20080111 Mr. Richard T. Sewald, Sr.
20060520 – 2008 Dr. Hugh M. Carlin
  2009 – 20130611 Mr. Michael Doncsecz
Notre Dame Elementary School
1955 Sr. Joseph Daniel Monaghan (PRINCIPAL)
Sr. Gabriel Marie MacDonald
Sr. Anne Dennis Mara
Sr. Edward Annice Quigley
1956 Sr. Alma Loretto Murphy
Sr. Grace Eileen Forker
1957 Sr. Regina Meehan (S. Martin Maureen)
1958 Sr. Regina Immaculata Monaghan
Sr. Katharine Doyle (S. Maureen de Lourdes)
1959 Sr. Catherine O'Brien (S. George Aloysius)
Sr. Consolata Maria Dunleavy
Sr. Ann Massarelli (S. John Joseph)
1960 Sr. Catherine Bernard Lowe
Sr. Caroline Pout
Sr. Anne B. Towey (S. Clare Isabelle)
Sr. Rose Edward Carlin
Sr. Patrick Francis McCormac
1961 Sr. Regina Angela Lawler (PRINCIPAL)
Sr. Rose Lorena Reilly
Sr. Ellen Murphy (S. Ellen Cornelius)
Sr. Rita Marian Connell
Sr. Dorothy Patricia Quinn
1962 Sr. Clare Regina Cramsey
Sr. Ellen McCarthy (S. Thomas Maureen)
Sr. Marion Francis
Sr. Therese Margarite McFadden
1963 Sr. Alice Elizabeth Moran
Sr. Saint Hilda Clark
Sr. Elizabeth Mercer (S. Mary Claude)
Sr. Agnes Genevieve Kelm
Sr. Miriam Carmelita Romanelli
Sr. Regina Smith (S. Regina Raphael)
1964 Sr. Mary Patricia Gorman (S. Charles Joseph)
Sr. Kathryn F. McTague (S. Edward Anglea)
1965 Sr. Mary Philip Robinson
Sr. Elizabeth Ann O'Donnell (S. Helena)
Sr. Marcia Ann Gehman (S. Marion William)
Sr. Elizabeth Tombler (S. Marie Eulalia)
Sr. James Gertrude Millett
1966 Sr. Therese Gertrude Dougherty
Sr. Marian Agnes Pearson
Sr. Catherine T. Henry (S. Joseph Catherine)
1967 Sr. Ruth M. Snyder (S. Ann Agnes – PRINCIPAL)
Sr. Dolores C. Byrne (S. Catherine Edward)
Dr. Dolores Burkhardt (S. Stella Joseph)
Sr. Mary Esther Lee (S. Dorothy Therese)
1968 Sr. Mary Theresa Holmes (S. Margaret Fidelis)
Sr. Miriam James McGovern
Sr. Veronica Mary Batley (S. Dorothy Joseph)
Sr. Veronica Anne Kaiser (S. Alice Veronica)
Sr. Berenice Adams
Sr. Diana H. Cerchio (S. Charles Christopher)
Sr. Rita Therese Kehoe
Sr. Christine Marie Farrell
1969 Sr. William Stanislaus White (PRINCIPAL)
Sr. Josephine Marie Tray (S. Mary Maud)
1970 Sr. Karen Marie Doyle (S. Denise Anne)
1971 Sr. Anne Patricia Meyers (S. Patrick Christine)
Sr. Roseanne Orchon (S. Joseph Rosemary)
Sr. Elizabeth Bowden (S. William Kathleen)
1972 Sr. Patricia Ann Brennan (S. Robert Loretta)
Sr. Marie Francine O'Brien (S. Gerald Francine)
Sr. Mary Ursula Lockhart
1973 Sr. Diana Stone (S. Florence Peter)
1974 Sr. Angela Hemler (S. Miriam Angela – PRINCIPAL)
Sr. Roberta Hoolahan (S. Roberta)
Sr. Ann Marie Crowley (S. WIlliam Annice)
Sr. Paul Christin van Thuyme
1976 Sr. Leah M. Jones (S. Mary Eunice)
Sr. Deborah Lyn Miller
Sr. Alma Patricia Giles
1977 Sr. Regina Consuela Kropp
Sr. Maria Bernadette Zakreski
1978 Sr. Marianne C. Whelan (S. Mary Isabella)
1979 Sr. Mary Hugh Murphy
Sr. Loretta Kathleen McGuckin
Sr. Karen Anderson
1980 Sr. Saint Esther Ryan
Sr. Dorothy Wilkinson (S. Vincent Martha)
1981 Sr. Helen Madara (S. Mary Palma)
1982 Sr. Mary Adalbert Chiswalk
Sr. Mary of the Nativity McNamara
Sr. Ann Sweeney (S. Regina Muriel)
Sr. Marie Patricia O'Hagan
1984 Sr. Audrey Butler (S. Saint Madeline)
1986 Sr. Carol Ann Polack (S. Laura Edward – PRINCIPAL)
Sr. Mary O'Donnell (S. Michael Raymond)
1987 Sr. Eileen Kean (S. Thomas Dorothy)
Sr. Mary Elizabeth Guyer (S. Margaret Eugenie – PRINCIPAL)
1988 Sr. William Cecelia Whelan
Sr. Ann Walter McAllister
Sr. Rita Miriam McDonald
Sr. Marie Lawrence Robinson
1990 Sr. Patricia Cullen (S. Joseph Raphael – PRINCIPAL)
Sr. Anita Joseph Wagner
1992 Sr. Virginia Stephanie Bator
1993 Sr. Marie Saint Mark McGrillis
Sr. Mary Agnes Foy
1994 Sr. Marion A. Pfaff (S. Adelina)
? – 2006 Mrs. Christine Schwab
2006 – current Mrs. Kathy Maziarz
Notre Dame Convent
Sisters of Saint Joseph IN RESIDENCE
1976 Sr. Alma Patricia Giles
1978 Sr. Marianne D. Whelan
1979 Sr. Cecile Anne Reiley
Sr. Rosemarie Lorenz
1980 Sr. Mary Elizabeth Kendall
1982 Sr. Catherine Loyola Tasker
Sr. Marie Bernadette Conley
Sr. Marie Adelbert Chiswalk
1984 Sr. Mary McCarron
1985 Sr. Mary Louise Piccone
1988 Sr. Francis Celine Bennett
Sr. Marie Saint Mark McGrillis
Sr. Saint Urban O'Donnell
Sr. Mary Esdras Allwein
Sr. Anne B. Towey
1993 Sr. Mary Audrey O'Connor
Sr. Francis Dolores Meyers
1995 Sr. Frances Bernadette Dolan
Sr. Eleanor Mary Bringenberg
Sr. John Bernard Gallagher
1996 Sr. Elizabeth Agnes Zubaly
Sr. Agnes Mary Foy
1997 Sr. Alice Loretto Brennan
Sr. Elizabeth Ochs
2000 Sr. Mary Audrey O'Connor
2001 Sr. Eleanor Therese Day
Sr. Jane Day
Sr. Marion L. Steiner
2002 Sr. Agnes Leona Arnold
Sr. Saint Urban O'Donnell

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created: 2005-08-13 ; last update: 2013-08-08 23:18