52 Ancestors: St. Paul’s Chapel, Atlas, PA

Posted by: Eileen A. Souza

 St. Paul's Chapel, Atlas, Northumberland Co., Pennsylvania

St. Paul’s Chapel, Atlas, Northumberland Co., Pennsylvania


When I saw that “Going to the Chapel” was this week’s theme, I searched all my records for references to the word ‘Chapel’. I found only one occurrence and that was to St. Paul’s Chapel in Atlas, Northumberland Co., Pennsylvania. Atlas is a small village on the outskirts of the city of Mount Carmel, where both my grandmother, Anna Bianchi Furlani and her mother, Mary Bunt Bianchi lived. Both Atlas and Mt. Carmel are in the Borough of Mount Carmel. I lived in this borough from my birth to age four.

The reference to St. Paul’s Chapel came from an obituary in the Mount Carmel News Item, dated 12/13/2006, reporting the death of Victor Bianchi at the age of 98. Victor was my 1st cousin 1x removed.

“KULPMONT — Victor F. Bianchi, formerly of 26 Second St., Strong [near Mt. Carmel and Atlas], passed peacefully at the age of 98 on Tuesday, Dec. 12, at Serenity Gardens, where he was a guest the past four years.

He was born in Atlas on Oct.19, 1908, and was a son of the late Mary Bianchi. He was a lifelong resident of Strong and was employed as a miner and steel worker.

He was married July 4, 1932, in St. Patrick’s Church in Philadelphia to the former Mary E. Pollock, who preceded him in death on March 22, 2005.

He was a member of Divine Redeemer Church in Mount Carmel, and formerly a member of St. Paul’s Chapel in Atlas.”

I was intrigued by the text I highlighted in red above–it mentioned the word chapel. I wondered why Victor changed parishes, and since a chapel was unique in my genealogy, I decided to learn more about St. Paul’s.

St. Paul’s was established in 1928, as a mission chapel of St. Peter’s Church to serve its parishioners in the Atlas area. Originally housed in the Woodrow Wilson School, on May 20, 1928, the auditorium of the school became the site of the first Mass celebrated in Atlas. Father Paul D. Weaver (pastor of St. Peter’s) was the celebrant. Mass continued for a year at the Wilson School until Fr. Weaver purchased a former school building and converted it into a chapel.

The completed chapel was dedicated by Rt. Rev. Philip R. McDevitt, Bishop of Harrisburg, on Sunday, June 30, 1929. Celebrant of the Solemn Mass was Monsignor Aloysius Meuwese, pastor of Our Lady’s Church. There were two sermons that day – one by Bishop McDevitt, and one in Italian by Father Bonomo.

In June 1971, St. Paul’s Chapel was made a territorial church to include Atlas, Strong, Diamondtown, and Wilburton 1 & 2. In January 1972, property was purchased for use as parish offices and meeting site. “St. Paul’s Center” was dedicated on April 30 of that year. In November of 1973 the Conventual Franciscan Friars assumed administration of Saint Paul’s. During the friars’ tenure, St. Paul’s saw many physical upgrades and improvements, including renovations to the interior of the church.

St. Paul’s celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 1979, and its Sixtieth Anniversary in 1989. June 30, 2018 would have been its 89th anniversary. St. Paul’s Chapel, Holy Cross, St. John the Baptist, Our Mother of Consolation, and St. Peter’s were all closed in 1995, designating Divine Redeemer Parish to serve the parishioners from the closed churches. This explains why Victor was now a member of Divine Redeemer and formerly a member of St. Paul’s Chapel.

The churches that closed were primarily in Mt. Carmel. Most churches in this area were ethnic based. Holy Cross (1892 – 1995) served the Lithuanian people; St. John the Baptist (1892 – 1995) served the Slovak people; Our Mother of Consolation (1896 – 1995) served the Polish population; St. Peter’s (1904 – 1995) served the Italian and Tyrolean communities; and St. Paul’s Chapel (1928 – 1995) aligned with St. Peter’s communities.

I was baptized in St. Peter’s, and it is heartbreaking to see all these great churches closed and decaying.

The 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, initiated by Amy Johnson Crow, is a series of weekly prompts to get you to think about an ancestor and share something about them. The guesswork of “who should I write about” is taken care of. This week’s theme is Going to the Chapel.

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2 Responses to 52 Ancestors: St. Paul’s Chapel, Atlas, PA

  1. Eileen, I enjoyed how you combined genealogy and a history lesson. My favorite part of your story is where your cousin Victor is described, “at Serenity Gardens, where he was a guest the past four years.” A guest. Now if all nursing and retirement homes would treat people as guests the world would be wonderful.

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