Good Shepherd Parish was founded on May 28, 1951, by Bishop George L. Leech. Father Thomas J. Simpson was appointed the first pastor of Good Shepherd. Among his many duties was to plan for the building of a new church and school, but his primary concern was the building of a new parish community. Within three days of assuming his stewardship – May 31, 1951 – Father Simpson celebrated the first Mass with his new congregation in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Crowley at 3120 Chestnut Street, Camp Hill.
Obviously a private home would not be large enough for a parish that numbered in the hundreds. A search committee, headed by Dr. John Lanshe, soon found success by explaining the problem to the owners of the Camp Hill Theatre. They agreed to allow the parish to use the theatre for Sunday Masses free of charge, providing that the theatre was left in a clean and presentable condition.
The first Mass was celebrated at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday, June 10, 1951, with a congregation of approximately 100. The second Mass, at 10:00 a.m. had 150. The number of parishioners grew steadily and soon there was “Standing Room Only” on Sundays morning at the Hill Theatre.
Masses were being celebrated and the new congregation was coming together, but there were many obstacles yet to overcome. Initially suitable housing had to be located to establish a rectory. In the beginning, Father Simpson had been a guest at St. Theresa’s. Fortunately a house was found at 3223 Market Street that was close to the new church and school. Father Simpson moved in to the rectory on December 13, 1951. This was the first of many moves to accommodate the growing needs of those charged with the pastoral care of the people.
With land purchased by the diocese before the parish was founded, it was time to find money to build the church and school.
Fund raising became a way of life for the early parishioners- bazaars on the old Food Fair parking lot (on 32nd Street, now the Veterans Administration Clinic), blanket clubs and other social activities all contributed to raising the necessary funds. This togetherness in a worthwhile cause brought about a special kind of friendship with the parish family, since cooperation and teamwork were the key ingredients for success.
And success had its reward. On July 22, 1952, the ground breaking ceremony took place.
The first sisters to teach in the parish were the Sisters of Mercy from St. Theresa’s. They taught Religion in the Hill Theatre, while the priests provided instruction for the high school students in the home of Joseph Lawler.
With the church and school construction under way it fell upon Father Simpson to negotiate with various religious orders of teaching sisters to come and staff the school. This meant a convent had to be provided. A property at 3315 Market St. was purchased and arrangements with the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) from Immaculata, PA were completed in May, 1953.
On September 1, 1953, the school was opened with 121 students in grades one through eight. Three were four classrooms, each housing two grades. Twelve days later, on September 13, Good Shepherd Church and School were blessed and dedicated by Bishop Leech, who celebrated the first Mass.
The debt remained very high over the next two decades, but the pastor and the people of the parish were determined to pay it off. The decade of the 60’s saw an accelerated growth of the parish population until it became one of the largest parishes on the West Shore. In 1966, Father Frederick Bradel was appointed pastor. During his tenure an additional house was purchased at 6 South 34th St. as a new convent and the property at 3315 Market St. became the rectory and parish office. Father Bradel was instrumental in reducing the parish debt and, under the leadership of Father Vincent J. Smith, who was appointed pastor in 1973, the remainder of the debt was paid off.
While this was a joyous occasion, the fact that the now paid-off church constantly had “Standing Room Only”, even with the school auditorium in use for most Masses, spoke loudly of the need for a larger church. In addition, the auditorium at Trinity High School needed to be used to provide sufficient Masses each Sunday. To solve this problem, Father Smith was granted permission to purchase the present 7.6 acre site on Trindle Road. This meant that funds had to be raised again. The response from the parish family was immediate and heart-warming, resulting in donations and pledges amounting to $850,000.
These “brick and mortar” needs were important, but the main mission of the Church was never neglected. During their pastorates, in response to the message Bishop Leech brought back from Vatical Council II, both Fathers Bradel and Smith fostered good ecumenical relationships and took part in many community activities. Simultaneously, their primary duty of ministering to the spiritual, physical, and material needs of their parish family was conscientiously, and with dedicated love, faithfully fulfilled.
In the summer of 1977 the ground breaking ceremony for the new church and rectory initiated a new beginning for Good Shepherd Parish. Father Smith and Monsignor Thomas Leitch, representing the bishop, dedicated the land and prayed for the success of the project. Meanwhile, the decline of religious vocations in the ’60s and ’70s was taking its toll on Good Shepherd School. The number of IHM Sisters sent to teach and administer the school was continually being reduced, until finally in 1992 the community had to withdraw completely. Good Shepherd Parish was and is eternally grateful for the sister’s ministry and we continue to pray for an increase in vocations to their beloved order.
Since that time, building on a long tradition of dedicated lay teachers and with the return of a religious sister to the faculty, Sister Mary Ann Lawrence, a Missionary Sister of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, the school continued to forge ahead with its mission of educating our children in the ways of the Catholic religion and the secular arts and sciences.
In late summer of 1978 the new church was completed. The first Mass and dedication were celebrated on November 5, 1978, with Bishop Daley as principal celebrant and Father Simpson and Father Smith as altar concelebrants.
During the ensuing years Father Smith was named a monsignor by Pope John Paul II, a title well deserved and one which each parishioner was duly proud to see. Good Shepherd Parish has continued to be a source of spiritual inspiration to all of us and to those we touch. The programs within the parish are dedicated to the well being of all.
While the parish took a break from construction of buildings for the next 25 years, a spirit of community, which has been a hallmark of the parish, continued to grow and manifest itself in many ways.
In the 1970’s a Vietnamese family, the Nguyen’s, was sponsored by the parish and welcomed into the community. Neighbors reaching out to neighbors was the beginning of the Helping Hands, a friendly group of parishioners who provide luncheons for families after funerals. Perhaps one of the most significant developments was the establishment of the Caring Team, parishioners reaching out to others through the corporal works of mercy – preparing meals, providing transportation, visiting the sick in the hospitals and at home, keeping in touch with the homebound, and much more. The most recent ministry to be organized is the Arimatheans, who extend a hand of consolation to the bereaved at the time of the death of a loved one by representing the parish community at funeral Masses.
In January 1999 Monsignor Smith retired and Father Paul Helwig was appointed pastor, closing out the 20th century. Father Helwig was pastor until June 2015 when he was assigned to St. Margaret Mary Parish.
Father Sullivan strives every day to build bridges between heaven and earth by bringing Jesus to people and people to Jesus. Having served as parochial vicar at Good Shepherd for just 364 days in 2000/2001, he was installed as pastor on June 30, 2019. Father Sullivan is happy, honored, and humbled to be back at Good Shepherd and serve the People of God here. He is inspired by the faith and devotion of our parishioners and looks forward to the great things to come.