REV. FRANCIS JOSEPH EGER, the reverenced pastor of St. Joseph's Catholic Church, at New Castle, has been identified
with the work of this parish since early in August, 1888. Father Eger was born in 1863, in the vicinity of Carrolltown,
Cambria County, Pennsylvania. In 1874 he entered St. Vincent's College, where he was thoroughly instructed in the
manner of the priests of the Roman Catholic faith, and after the long and thorough course of training, was ordained
a priest by the late Right Reverend Richard Phelan, July 8, 1886.
Father Eger's first charge was at Allegheny City, where he served as assistant priest at St. Joseph's Church, following
which came his appointment to the present charge at New Castle. The growth of St. Joseph's Church from its inception,
which was coincident with Father Eger's taking charge of the parish, is an interesting story, illustrating, as
it does, the deep religious sentiment of the people, and the zeal and efficiency of the priest, who, in a period
not covering twenty years, has accomplished so much.
For many years the Catholic residents of New Castle had but one place of worship, St. Mary's Church. As population
increased and Catholics came to the city from other points, the accommodations offered by the old church were discovered
to be totally inadequate, and the German Catholics, in particular, began an agitation looking toward the erection
of a new church. After a thorough examination of the demands as well as of the earnestness of the German Catholics
making the request, Bishop Phelan approved the plan, and recognizing the fact that a young and zealous priest,
whose quality and ability had been already tested, would be most useful at this point, he designated Father Eger
for the place.
After taking charge, Father Eger's first move was the purchase of the most available site, that being the First
Methodist Episcopal Church property, for which the sum of $4,800 was paid. Under his active direction the building
was put in order and was dedicated on December 16, 1288, by Bishop Phelan, a remarkable achievement to have been
brought about in the short space of four months. Services were established, a school founded, and peace and prosperity
had settled over the little congregation while plans were under way for still further extending the facilities
of the church. A disastrous fire, however, which occurred April 25, 1892, which occasioned the destruction of the
building, seemingly obliterated every effort. This was only seeming, for the congregation of St. Joseph, under
the leadership of Father Eger, was not discouraged, but rather was infused with fresh religious ardor, and before
the embers of the old building were cold, effort was directed to the erection of the new one, which is now a reality
and stands as one of the handsomest religious edifices in this city. Only an artist with his trained hand could
present an adequate picture of St. Joseph's as it stands in its beauty and dignity; mere words can only indicate
it. Its seating capacity is for 600 people. The interior of the building is finished in Wisconsin oak, the altars
the choir loft and confessionals are of beautiful architecture and of fine finish. The beautiful and appropriate
statuary was presented to the church by its friends and was imported from older sanctuaries in distant countries.
The light shines through stained glass windows and the latter represent offerings of piety and self sacrifice of
members of the congregation and of the Sunday school. Not the least of the fine equipment of this beautiful church
is the pipe organ, which is the largest to be found in this section of the State. The school attached to St. Joseph's
is under the charge of three Sisters of the order of Divine Providence, and they have 160 pupils, 125 of these
Father Eger has proved his capacity to look after the material matters of his parish, and both. his congregation
and the other citizens of New Castle appreciate his value as a pastor and as a faithful conservator of right and
justice. He has shown his sympathy in all movements inaugurated for the betterment of the moral standards of the
community, and has never failed to denounce apparent wrong in unmistakable terms. On the other hand, his preaching
of the Gospel is of gentle persuasion, kind warning and holy eloquence.
20th Century History of
New Castle and Lawrence County
Edited By: Hon. Aaron L. Hazen
Richmond-Arnold Publishing Co.
Chicago, Ill., 1908
Lawrence County Pennsylvania Biographies
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