About Our Parish
St. Peter Roman Catholic Church
A Brief History
Presented by Linda V. Itzoe, Ph.D
In 1752 the first Mass was celebrated by Jesuit Father Ferdinand Farmer, a German missionary based in Saint Mary’s Catholic Church in Lancaster, at a farm belonging to Henry Eckenroth, head of the only Catholic household located in the area. This Mass was the beginning of the parish that later became Saint Peter Church.
As more Catholics arrived, Mr. Eckenroth constructed a log chapel on his property for their use. Although named Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the chapel became known as the “Donegal Mission.” During the last quarter of the eighteenth century, priests from Lancaster visited the mission on a regular basis. In 1798, Bishop John Carroll, the first Catholic bishop in the United Stated, visited the mission, then part of the Baltimore Diocese, to administer the Sacrament of Confirmation.
On May 30, 1799, the congregation gathered with Fr. Louis deBarth in Elizabethtown to lay the cornerstone of a new church that they would plan and build. Saint Peter’s remained a mission of Saint Mary’s until 1832, when it was transferred to Saint Patrick Parish in Harrisburg. Two years later the church was enlarged to accommodate its growing congregation.
In 1840, St. Peter’s was designated a parish in its own right with Father Francis Marshall as its first pastor. [Hence, the new church address: 1840 Marshall Drive]. In 1879, Father Jules Foin became pastor. He added a new bell tower and leaded stained stained-glass windows to the church and established a school, which is now the “Foin School House.” In 1956, the former Church of the Brethren and its parsonage was purchased for use as a new school and convent. The school opened in 1958. As the new parish continued steady growth, land for new parish facilities was purchased in Mount Joy Twp. In 1991.
On May 10, 1998, ground was broken for the new church. With completion of the construction of the new St. Peter Church at 1840 Marshall Dr., Elizabethtown, the laying of the foundation stone and the Rite of Blessing was held on September 5, 1999.