As noted in his personal journal, on September 16, 1855, Bishop John Neumann, now St. John Neumann canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1977, met with Father Michael Scanlon and a committee consisting of Anthony Brown, Con Kelly, Henry McCabe, James Mooney, John Gorman, Neil Brislin, and Dennis McGinty to discuss building a 70 by 40 foot church in Hazleton, PA. The population was shifting in the area from Beaver Meadows to Hazleton and the demand for a church in the Hazleton area was increasing. Bishop Neumann was to return to St. Gabriel's on December 29, 1856 to confer the sacrament of confirmation on 95 young men and women of the parish.
In the spring of 1856, Father Scanlon oversaw the building of St. Gabriel's-the church was completed the same year. It was a plain wooden structure, standing on the corner of South Wyoming Street and Chapel Street, near the present rectory. The Lehigh Susquehanna Turnpike skirted the grounds, coming directly from what is now St. Gabriel's Cemetery.
The flooding of the mines at Beaver Meadows and the opportunities for work of the North Side were the occasion of a general exodus from the Meadows. It was evident that Hazleton indeed had a future. A rectory was built adjoining the church and St. Gabriel's status went from a mission church of St. Mary's in Beaver Meadows to the "mother church" of the region's Roman Catholics.
St. John Neumann, C.S.S.R Bishop of Philadelphia Consecrated the first St. Gabriel Church September 16, 1855
Second Saint Gabriel's Church (1869)
The church had become entirely too small for the ever increasing congregation and through Father Filian's efforts, steps were taken to build an edifice more in keeping with the importance of the parish. In was Father Filian, too, who completed arrangements to provide a cemetery for the congregation. The first body interred in St. Gabriel's cemetery was that of Mrs. Patrick Bonner in 1866.
Plans were drawn for a very large church but when the division of the diocese occured in 1868, it was decided to reduce the dimensions. Father Filian was recalled to the Philadelphia Diocese and Father O'Hara was assigned to St. Gabriel's. Father O'Hara's first work was to finish the church which had already been started. This was brought to a successful conclusion with the help of William O'Malley as builder and Durang of Philadelphia as the architect. The windows of the second church were sponsored by parishioners John Paul, Jeansville, Charles McCarren, John Gough, Hazleton, James Shovlin, Stockton, Neil Brislin, Hazleton, John Gorman, Hazleton, William O'Malley, contractor and Charles Murray, Yorktown.
At its completion, the structure was judged to be the most complete and beautiful church in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Third Saint Gabriel's Church (1927 to Present)
During the years of World War I, there was a great fear that St. Gabriel's Church was in danger of collapsing. Plans were quickly made to strengthen the structure. By 1922, it became obvious that a new church was needed, and the plans were formulated. The parish itself continued to grow so a new worship space was more than needed. The cornerstone for the new church was set in 1925, after the old church was torn down. Peter Sheridan, a noted architect, was engaged to design the new church, resulting in the Gothic revival edifice. The new church building was dedicated to Cardinal Dennis Dougherty on December 8, 1927. Following the dedication of the new church, St. Gabriel's continued its expansion and reputation for being one of the most vibrant and faithful parishes in the diocese. Upon the death of Monsignor Fagan, Mosignor Dennis Kane became the pastor of St. Gabriel's. Monsignor Kane presided over the parish for 3 decades. In spite of becoming ill in the 1950's, Monsignor Kane's influence continued to set the tone for the parish. The deeply respected and soft spoken Monsignor Kane passed away in October of 1962. In 1963, Monsignor John J. Maher was named pastor. During his 15 years of service, many new programs were introduced into parish life and, many improvements were made to the parish cemetery and rectory. Upon Monsignor Maher's retirement, Monsignor Paul Purcell became the pastor of St. Gabriel's and presided over the 125th anniversary of the parish. In 2000, Monsignor Michael Delaney oversaw a capital campaign which restored and repaired St. Gabriel's to its original grandeur. Father Peter O'Rourke and our dedicated priests from the Oblates of St. Joseph have continued the tradition of dedicated and compassionate men who have served this parish throughout her history.
St. Gabriel's Catholic Parish Complex was entered in the National Register for Historic Places on August 22, 2002.