Old St. Joseph's Church
321 Willings Alley, Philadelphia, PA 19106
St. Joseph’s Church is named for the father of Jesus from the nativity story found in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 2. Because William Penn’s Charter of Liberty protected people of all faiths, at one point in the history of the British empire, Philadelphia had the only legal English Roman Catholic Church. A commemorative plaque inside the church reads: “When in 1733 St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church was founded and dedicated to the Guardian of the Holy Family, it was the only place in the entire English speaking world where public celebration of the Holy sacrifice of the Mass was permitted by law.”
And since we’re speaking of Christmas and religious liberty, don’t forget that Philadelphia is also the birthplace of the beloved Christmas Carol, “O Little Town Of Bethlehem.” Its words were written by Phillips Brooks, the Episcopal rector of the Church of the Holy Trinity, on Rittenhouse Square (1904 Walnut St.). He composed the words just before Christmas in 1868, only a few years after a trip to Israel. The music was written by Lewis H. Redner, the church’s organist. It was first sold by Richard McCauley at his bookstore on Chestnut Street west of 13th Street.