In 1871 the Augustinians at Villanova College applied for permission to
open a church in Bryn Mawr, but were refused. In 1885, because of the
interest of the Pennsylvania Railroad in getting a Catholic Church in
Bryn Mawr for the large Catholic population during the summer months,
the group applied again and were granted permission to establish the
mission. With this, Our Mother of Good Council was founded in 1885.
On Sunday July 26, 1885 the Rector of Villanova celebrated the first
Mass in a small wooden schoolhouse in Bryn Mawr. Later that year,
officers of the corporation at Villanova purchased a 2/3-acre lot on
the south side of Montgomery Ave., just west of Penn (now Pennswood)
Street extending 200 feet back toward the railroad tracks. On May 15,
1886 ground was broken and the work began. Despite all their efforts to
fund this construction, they were unable to meet the requirements to
finish the building within the three years, allowed in the contract
with the railroad and on December 27, 1888 the Augustinians returned
the property to the previous owner.
A Penn Street lot on the south side of the railroad tracks,, containing
almost three acres became available, so the Augustinians purchased that
property. Plans to move the original frame Church building to the new
location were interrupted when it was discovered that the telegraph
wires over the Penn Street bridge were too low to allow the Chapel to
pass underneath. Michael Gallagher, a parishioner, contacted A. J.
Casssatt, the President of the Pennsylvania Railroad, with the problem.
The Pennsylvania Railroad wanted a Catholic Church in Bryn Mawr because
of the area's large summer population. With Cassatt's assistance,
arrangements were made to cut the wires and place them under the
bridge. It is said that while the Church sat atop the bridge, Mass was
celebrated. The Church was placed on the property where the convent was
later built. On April 21, 1889 Mass was celebrated in the new location.
A new rectory was completed in 1894.
The cornerstone for a new larger Church was laid on Sunday July 6,
1896. The new church was designed by Edwin Forrest Durang and built in
1896-1897 at a cost of $41,000. This stone gothic revival church, with
90 ft. tower on north, features a portcochere on the south for those
arriving in carriages. On Sunday, November 21, 1897 the newly completed
Church was dedicated. This new Church served not only the summer
residents, but also the growing Irish and Italian communities who came
to the area to work for the railroad, in the carriage and livery
industries, and in construction.
Augustinians have always served the parish, with the Sisters of Mercy
in charge of the school, which was built about 1904. A convent was
added in 1912 and a new school in 1965.
Our Mother of Good Counsel