Our History


The history of St. Theresa’s Parish is the life of Monsignor Roy C. Keffer, a man for all seasons for more than 40 years.

A 30-year-old secular priest just 3 1/2 years out of the seminary, Father Keffer was appointed by Bishop McDevitt in November, 1926, “to take charge of the people on  the West Shore”–an area stretching from York County to 10 miles past Amity Hall in Perry County and encompassing 29 towns and 200 Catholics.

“For 1 1/2 years I had a room at 111 State St. in Harrisburg,” Msgr.  Keffer recalled, “and for 8 1/2 years I had the pleasure of eating at the table of Bishop McDevitt.”

After working as chaplain of the Dominican Convent and as pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes in Enola, Msgr.  Keffer got permission to ‘DUV the property’, including a two-story house, at 1212 Bridge St., New Cumberland, for $15,000.

“I was then relieved of the chaplaincy and was placed in charge of this new parish along with Our Lady of Lourdes,” he said.

The living room of the new rectory was converted into a chapel and on April 29, 1928, was dedicated by Bishop McDevitt.  The parish was born; the next step was a name.  Bishop McDevitt suggested St. Joseph.  Msgr. Keffer preferred St. Theresa.

St. Theresa, who called herself the “Little Flower” was a member of the Carmelite Order in France and was canonized in 1925–about the same time Msgr.  Keffer was touring Europe.

“I became very friendly with a priest in the Carmelite Order,” he said “and, through him, became very interested in St. Theresa. I even said Mass in the room in which she was born.”

After his return to the U.S., Msgr. Keffer studied St. Theresa’s life.  “She was very interested in missionary work,” he said, “and wished she were a man so she could do this type of work.”

When he began his missionary duties on the West Shore, Msgr. Keffer never forgot his favorite Saint and vowed to name a new parish after her.

“It’s the only church in the diocese with that name,” he says proudly.

Boasting a new church with a new name, Msgr.  Keffer made his first purchase–71 folding chairs at a $1.01 a piece for the 71 Catholics in New Cumberland, Camp Hill, Lemoyne, two townships in York County and a territory on the Gettysburg Road called Rana Villa.

In 1934, as the congregation enlarged, Bishop McDevitt appointed Father Francis Dinkle as Msgr. Keffer’s first assistant.  Father Dinkle took charge of Our Lady of Lourdes, which would later become a separate parish.

St. Theresa’s, meanwhile, continued to grow rapidly, forcing its young pastor to add a small brick chapel to the rear of the Bridge Street rectory for $8,000.  Msgr. Keffer then lived on the second floor above the chapel.

By 1947, facilities were so crowded and the clamoring for a school so great, Msgr.  Keller asked and received permission to borrow $225,000 to construct a combination church-school behind the rectory.

Ground was broken on May 9, 1948, and in 1949 the 600–seat church and the eightclassroom school opened their doors.

The new church and school attracted more Catholics.  The huge parish was becoming too large and in 1948 Newberrytown Twp. was made part of another York County parish–a sign of things to come.

In 1951, Camp Hill and a portion of Lemoyne were taken from St. Theresa’s and a new parish–Good Shepherd– established.

Despite these losses, St. Theresa’s congregation has grown to 5,000, about 1,000 less than Good Shepherd’s, its convent and school have been expanded and a new $660,000 church-in-the-round has become a reality.

The new church was planned after the need for more space in the old church and school became acute in the early 1960s.  With the permission of the diocese, Msgr. Keffer, In September, 1965, announced a fund drive to build a church at Bridge Street and Park Avenue.

When the new church is constructed, he said then, the present church would become part of the school’s facilities.

On July 2, 1967, ground was broken for the ultra-modern, all-brick structure and on Dec. 8, 1968, the newest church on the West Shore was dedicated by Bishop George L. Leech.

Said Msgr. Keffer gratefully: “St.  Theresa gave a lot to this parish: a new church, good people and the answer to my dreams.”