Missionary priest first celebrated mass in Franklin in 1821 in a private home for the two resident Catholic families. The Nashville bishopric planned a Catholic church in Williamson County as early as 1843, but it was the influx of Irish Catholic railroad workers after the Civil War that energized the effort to establish St. Philip Catholic Church in 1871. The workers hand-formed and fired the church's bricks on site and died all the construction themselves.Until 1898 the church had mission status with Father James Orengo of Italy as the first mission priest. Early notable pastors included Timothy Abbot, the first Tennessean ordained to the priesthood and John Hardeman, the first Williamson Countian ordained to the priesthood.
Father John Nolan built a rectory in 1898 and thus the church became a parish with a resident priest. Fr. Nolan, a talented wood carver, decorated both the church and rectory with his own carvings. In 1921 at the Golden Jubilee descendants of many of the church's founders donated the stained glass. St. Philip reverted to mission during World War II as the congregation shrank, then regained parish status in 1946. Rapid growth began in the 1960s as the congregation rose from 53 to 212 families. Today the original building serves as a chapel, while the 1997 1,100-seat sanctuary accommodates a thriving congregation.
Early family names were Dempsey, Shea, Doyle, Kelly, Hagerty, Fiinn, Kernahan, Riley, Lyons, Mulloy, Sheehan and Smith.