First Holy Name Catholic Church

1816 – 1850: The First Church and The Pioneer Priests

Our Holy Name Parish family tree was planted by the most central figure of the Catholic Church in this area – Prince Demetrius Gallitzin. Father Gallitzin, having been ordained in 1795, brought his priestly zeal and personal wealth to serve near the town of Loretto. The rich legacy of Prince Gallitzin should serve as a source of pride for all Holy Name parishioners who look back to 1816 when our family tree first sprouted.

Demetrius Gallitzin, the Russian prince-turned-priest, was given the title “Servant of God” by the Vatican in 2005 and advocates currently have reached the second of four steps toward a declaration of his sainthood, the Inquiry Phase, to prove Father Gallitzin lived a life of heroic virtue.

It is important to remember in the early period that Holy Name, then Saint Patrick, was a mission church originating from Father Gallitzin’s church in Loretto. The Ebensburg congregation began in 1816 when Father Gallitzin began to pay regular visits to the little log cabin church, but it did not have a priest assigned to it until 1829 and it did not have a resident priest until 1844. Additionally, it remained a mission church, until 1857, was designated a regular parish and received its first pastor. It served under the patronage of Saint Patrick for 51 years, from 1816 until 1867, when it became Holy Name of Jesus.

It is believed a small framed church was erected by Judge Murray in 1816 and that Father Gallitzin dedicated the church to Saint Patrick. It was only the second Catholic church built in Cambria County, and among the earliest built between Lancaster, Pennsylvania and St. Louis, Missouri. The church stood on what is now the old Holy Name Cemetery bounded by Horner and Julian Streets.

By 1816, Father Gallitzin had too many mission churches to be able to shepherd them properly. For a long time, he had been pleading with Archbishop Carroll of Baltimore for an assistant. Finally, in 1829, Father Patrick Rafferty was assigned to the mission in Ebensburg.

Welsh was still the primary language being spoken in Ebensburg prior to this time, although many German immigrants were farming the surrounding land. But by 1829, an increasing wave of Irish countrymen, brought in to work on the Allegheny Portage Railroad, began to fill the Catholic churches. This influence is reflected in the fact the first set of priests to serve at Saint Patrick also had Irish sounding names.

Father Rafferty, Father Duffy, Father Bradley and Father McGirr all served the Holy Name family from 1829 to 1834. Typically, these priests stayed in homes in the Ebensburg area. David Todd, Michael Hasson and John Ivory all served as host families for the priests.

Father Duffy had the priviledge of welcoming Bishop Francis Patrick Kenrick of the Diocese of Philadelphia to Ebensburg. This marked the first episcopal visit ever made in these hills. In two days, October 14 and 15, 1830, Bishop Kenrick confirmed one hundred and twenty-six people.

Father Bradley, who also ministered to the Irish railroad workers, was aided by Father Terrence McGirr from Westmoreland County. At his home in the southwest area of town, Father McGirr often celebrated Mass for Catholics from Ebensburg and Johnstown, since there was no Catholic church in Johnstown at the time.

In 1834, Father Peter Henry Lemcke was appointed pastor of the Ebensburg flock by Father Gallitzin. Father Lemcke, a convert, had been a Lutheran minister. At first, Father Lemcke lived at the home of John Ivory. From Ebensburg, he administered to a few Catholics at Hart’s Sleeping Place, a few miles north of Carrolltown, and to the rest of the county as far south as Johnstown. In 1837, Father Lemcke moved to a farm near the present site of Carrolltown, leaving Ebensburg without a resident priest for the next seven years.

In 1840, Father Lemcke moved to Loretto while continuing to serve Ebensburg. Following this period, from 1840 to 1844, other priests from Loretto also served Ebensburg – Father M. Gibson, Father Hugh Gallagher and Father A. P. Gibbs.

The increasing number of Catholic churches in the state of Pennsylvania now made the formation of another See necessary. The Diocese of Pittsburgh was created by a decree of Pope Gregory XVI on August 11, 1843, and included Cambria County. Soon after the formation of the Diocese, the new Bishop, Right Reverend Michael O’Connor of Pittsburgh, visited Ebensburg.

Bishop O’Conner noted that the parish of three-hundred Catholics had outgrown the church, and he suggested a new church be built. Late in the year 1844, Father Thomas B. O’Flaherty was appointed pastor in Ebensburg and the parish gained its first truly resident priest.

Holy Name School

The first Catholic School in Ebensburg was a one room school located on the northwest corner of what is now the Holy Name cemetery. It was erected in 1890.

In 1910, three nuns, Sr. Antoinette, Sr. Benedict and Mother Genevieve came to Ebensburg to teach in the newly built four room school erected at the site of the present building.

The nuns lived at St. Joseph’s Infant Home until the purchase of Holy name Convent in 1917.

In 1953, an addition of four rooms was started and completed in 1954. The school is presently comprised of eight classrooms, a social room and a well-managed cafeteria. The student body has grown from 87 in 1910 to nearly 400 pupils.

As reported in the Mountaineer Herald, Aug 16, 1954