One of Philadelphia's financial institutions is thriving today because Roman Catholic immigrants more than a century ago had more trust in God than in banks.
Many American immigrants of the 1800s put their money in the hands of parish priests for safe-keeping because they were unfamiliar with banking institutions.
By 1852, the savings of such immigrants were large enough to cause concern to John Neumann, the fourth bishop of Philadelphia, (later canonized as St. John Neumann). The bishop sought out leaders of the Catholic community to enlist their aid in pooling the immigrants' hard-earned wages.
Members of the Catholic Philopatrian Literary Institute and the board of Directors of St. Joseph's Hospital met with Bishop Neumann to formulate plans for a "safe depository for the savings of thrifty people." As a result, on April 20, 1850, Beneficial Savings Bank of Philadelphia received its charter from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
The bishop's efforts and the savings of immigrants have blossomed into a $1,4 billion Beneficial Savings Bank and in 1978 its depositors earned more than $82 million in interest on their savings.
Beneficial's concern for working people at the time of its origin is now reflected in the preamble to the bank's charter: "Whereas, experience has demonstrated the beneficial results to the industrious and careful, of having a place of investment for their earnings, where the deposits of teadesmen, mechanics, laborers, servants and others shall be perfectly secure."