In the summer of 1881, Archbishop Wood of Philadelphia selected and purchased the ground on which the Holy Family Parish was to be built, on Hermitage Street, opposite Wilde Street. The site had been the residence of the Striffling family. The area, then known as Mount Vernon, was originally a part of the “Smick Estate.” The first pastor, the Reverend Michael C. McEnroe, was appointed to organize the parish on January 20, 1885. In April of 1885, he erected a frame chapel with unplastered walls and dedicated the church on the first Sunday in May. Singers from St. John the Baptist Parish and St. Mary of the Assumption Parish formed a part of this humble commencement. In 1893, Father McEnroe enlarged his residence and had the present church building built in 1897. The present rectory, for anyone who will take the trouble to climb its many steps, commanded a most inspiring view of both banks of the Schuylkill River and the bridges.
The site at “Mount Vernon” was soon to be known as the most elevated Catholic pastoral residence in the city. Father McEnroe, besides enlarging the rectory (the present convent), began classes for Holy Family School in the old chapel in 1906. Father McEnroe died on May 7, 1910 and was replaced by Reverend Joseph J. Hannigan. Although his pastorate only lasted six years, he left a great name in the form of Holy Family School’s main building, which he had built in 1911. He left in February 1916 after he purchased one house to serve as the Sisters’ convent and another to be used for the Catholic Church. Upon his departure from Holy Family, he was replaced by Reverend William P. Grace.
Father Grace, the new pastor from 1916 to 1935, came to Holy Family with a diocesan reputation for initiative and executive ability. He helped to clear the church’s total debt for the renovation by 1930. He died in the new rectory he built on April 15, 1935, being replaced by Reverend Joseph E. Marley, Holy Family’s fourth pastor. A man of outstanding spirituality, he also was known as an excellent administrator. Parish societies flourished and Mass attendance greatly increased. Interior and exterior of the school were renovated and the grounds were enhanced with trees and shrubs. He had the church repainted in 1951. He was seen quite often on the streets of Manayunk and Roxborough visiting with parishioners in their homes. Father Marley introduced many firsts in the school building and was responsible for the building of the school annex at Fountain and Fowler Streets in 1957-58.
In June 1968, Reverend John W. Gsell, the fifth pastor of Holy Family succeeded Father Marley who had been in ill health. The transition from Father Marley to Father Gsell was made easier since most parishioners were acquainted with him for he had served as a curate from 1955 to 1960. His years here at Holy Family were spent implementing the many aspects of Vatican II. He presided over the changing of the altar and the reform of the liturgy. At age seventy-five he retired to Villa St. Joseph as Pastor Emeritus in 1982.
Reverend C. Joseph Goodyear became the sixth pastor of Holy Family on Father Gsell’s retirement on July 1, 1982. Father Goodyear came here with many years of administrative experience as a teacher, administrator, and pastor. The parishioners opened their hearts to their new pastor. Their desire to have a centennial celebration in 1985 was expressed to him soon after he arrived at Holy Family. Although he had been occupied with many other details of the parish’s activities, he will be known as the Pastor in the year of Holy Family’s Centennial Celebration. Father Goodyear retired in his seventy-fifth year and was replaced by Reverend Francis X. McKee, the seventh pastor of Holy Family, on June 25, 1988. Father McKee was pastor from 1988 until his retirement at age seventy-five in June, 2014. Monsignor Patrick E. Sweeney became the eighth and current pastor of Holy Family on June 30, 2014.