Tuesday, June 19, 2012

This blog now defunct.

All content has been moved to the new Philadelphia Church Project site, and further updates will be made there.


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mailbag 33: Words and Deeds

The Project's mailbag is overflowing with notes about Immaculate Conception. I'll produce a best-of soon, but in the meantime:

I am replying to your article about our parish and would like to invite you to return to our "Closing Mass" on June 24th, 2012 since out parish was recently notified that as of July 1st that we will no longer exist.  

It would take a lot for me not to be there.

You mentioned in your article that the attendance was extremely poor and that in the past the upper church could hold about 1400 parishioners for a single Mass.  You will be shocked and amazed at the love and devotion from all of our parishioners both present and past.  We are hoping to fill the house.  At our 100th anniversary (2002) we almost filled the upper church and since then have had a few homecomings and reunions which had great response. 

You know what would shock and amaze me? Actually supporting your parish before it goes belly-up.

Apologies to the author, because I get the sense he means well, but letters like this really piss me off. You want to pat yourself on the back for filling the house for the last-ever mass, or for the occasional reunion?

Whoop-de-doo. What do you want, a @&#^$% medal?

Supporting a parish you love isn't a one-time thing, or a reunion thing. It's a consistent thing. Give your time, give your labor, give your money consistently. Don't live in the area? Tough, do it anyway. Because that's what it takes to keep these places afloat.

Where were you when vigil masses attracted barely a dozen people? Where were you when masses and services were cut? Where were you when the parish became so financially burdened it had to go on Archdiocese assistance?

And you want to boast about showcasing your love and devotion to this parish? Give me a break.

Coming together at the end, when you've already lost, is meaningless. Coming together weekly, when the Saturdays and Sundays blend together and life gets in the way? That's true devotion.

Look, maybe in this crazy new reality, none of it matters. Maybe Immaculate was doomed anyway, as so many other parishes will be doomed in the coming years. But if every parish alumni gave a little something back more than once every 100th anniversary, I'm willing to bet we'd have a much difference church situation in Philadelphia right now.

Who wants to prove me wrong?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Closer Comes to Germantown

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has announced a new round of parish mergers, targeting Coatesville, Manayunk and Germantown.

Among other changes, Immaculate Conception, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Vincent de Paul will form a new parish, situated in St. Vincent's building. In Manayunk, St. Lucy will merge with Holy Family (at Holy Family), while St. Mary of the Assumption, St. Josaphat and St. John the Baptist will merge at St. John the Baptist.

All changes are effective July 1. See this press release for more information.

The Project: Well, this isn't the worst news I've heard lately, but it's close. The big news is the hatchet being taken to Germantown, which I've long held up as the current epicenter of Philadelphia church excellence. Manayunk is less of an issue, since all of the closing churches will still remain open as worship sites. But in a few short months it's lights out for Immaculate Conception and St. Francis of Assisi, who are the next victims to stripped and sold.

A couple of points on the Germantown closure:

This is devastating news, personally and professionally. This is a big blow to Philadelphia's church stock, which in two months will lose two of its finest specimens. And personally, well, it's no secret I'm a huge fan of Immaculate, and I've spent years hoping they can hold on long enough until their neighborhood starts to improve.

I'll talk more about both of them in the coming weeks, but for now, hearing this does not put the Project in a good mood.

They're saving the worst possible building. No offense to St. Vincent de Paul, but that building is garbage compared to the other two. The fact we're losing those and keeping this one is pretty disgusting.

I don't buy--and neither should you--the Archdiocese's explanation that "Both churches require serious physical improvements for which the parishes have no funds."

Bull@%#$. St. Francis maybe, since they had one corner of the church cordoned off back when we visited a few years ago. But Immaculate? I just don't buy it. That place looked great when we were there, and unless it's completely fallen off a cliff in the past 5 years, this is really just an excuse to get rid of it.

Remember, these are the people who rationalized the St. Boniface closing by saying brownstone has a useable life of only 100 years, while ignoring the fact that their own brownstone Basilica is far older than that and doing just fine.

What will this do to DePaul Catholic School? Formerly St. Martin de Porres Interparochial School, it's located at St. Francis of Assisi. What does the closing of the parish mean for the school? This may be the only case, by the way, of a parish closing before a school.

Speaking of schools, what about Immaculate Conception - St. Athanasius School? The mystery in this is Immaculate's closest neighbor, St. Athanasius, which is surviving intact for now. I don't get why Immaculate would be involved in a merger with a parish other than the one it's sharing a school with. Their communities are already probably pretty integrated, so merging with someone else has to be confusing for parishioners. Heck, I'm already confused.

And with no more Immaculate, will the school keep its name? Or just go by St. Athanasius now?

What does this mean for the Francis Triangle? Alright, alright, just kidding with that one. But you never know...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Mailbag 32: California Dreamin'

The Project's reach goes far and wide, courtesy the following, um, enthusiastic letter from Los Angeles fan David Bell.

I'm not on Facebook for many reasons so just contact me directly and feel free to pass my email address around. Those very few in our little world are my only interest in communicating with. Facebook is too invasive for me. And like real life it invites people to contact me that I would never have any interest in to begin with. Thanks! 

Ummm, you're welcome?

Now, down to business. St. Edward the Confessor is never mentioned or photographed anywhere, other than Google Space that we even know it exists? It's the work of George Ashdown Audley. A very obscure Architect and tecnition of the Victorian Century,(Age). He also designed the Wanamaker Organ in it's original conseption, (the LA Art Organ Co. 1890).

Not true. While I haven't covered it specifically, I have mentioned it here and there in passing. And yes, it still exists. It's now known as the Highway Temple of Deliverance, in case you're wondering.

My question also is: with all the digital ability to take pictures today in crystal clear clarity on a cell phone no less, why are there no pics of said church at 8th & York and too interior pics of Holy Child? 


Holy Child--or rather, Our Lady of Hope--was a first-year church--actually, the first church we ever did--so the interior images are limited to a couple of historic shots.

As for St. Edward, I can't take pictures of a church I haven't visited yet, can I?

We need these pics on your websites to give us a reason to care. 

You flatter me, but my hackneyed photography shouldn't be the sole you choose to care about these places. 

 St. Edward the Confessor is a small cathedral rotting away in N. Philly. Of all the church structures one would want to save, this one has to be at the top of the list. They is nothing fake or false about these two chuch structures. They are real stone and brick inside and out. Yes, they are steel super structured buildings but too are stone baring structures.(not ballon structures) as many churches of their time. 

Please, I know these two neighborhoods are dangerous to be in but we need photographic records of all aspects of these two piles. 

I've braved Camden, Tioga, Strawberry Mansion and Kensington, among others. The quality (or lack thereof) of the neighborhood isn't an issue with the Project.

(But Logan, for what it's worth, is far from the worst place you'll find in this city.)

 Once they are gone, they are gone for good. St. Edward has 10 more years before some aspect of it collapses of neglect. The Roman Church is quick to hord it's stained glass to sell to a cheap church in the berbs but hasn't any stewardship toward preservation as a Church structure.(?). Look up LA's roman cathedral (the old one). It's totally restored by an unrelated private party, as Mahoney was only interested in selling it to pay for the monstrosity he built up the street. (hidious to look at by the way).

Aside from the polotics, you guys are doing fabulous work. But if you had to pic the treasures that really need help, the two roman churches I mentioned are on the list and Church of the Advocate,21st & Diamond.

Aside from the politics? Huh? Has the Project been sleep-politicking?

Advocate, as we pointed out during our visit, is very much troubled. But if you want to get technical, Ascension of Our Lord is in far hotter water than any of them.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Project Rewind: Our Mother of Sorrows

During my visit to West Philly's Our Mother of Sorrows, I speculated at great length as to the changes the building must have undergone in its long and troubled life, since a church built in 1867 certainly wouldn't look the way that place looked.

Project reader Eileen, whose family has roots in the church, has provided a couple of vintage images to whet our appetites.

She writes:

Hope you don't mind as I was reading your project info on Phila parishes. I hope to find other family pictures to show you that can let you see what it looked like before it got into it's slump.
By the way.....I know you mentioned how bad the painting was now and my cousin told me it was Fr. Daly who was pastor who painted the church by hand himself. There was no money for improvements so he took on the job himself.

Hit it!

As I suspect, in 2008, OMS was a long, long way from 1867. Or, in this case, even 1962.

The most glaring difference is the spectacular altar, which is nowhere to be seen now. Churches have done a lot of stupid things to their decor post-Vatican II, but getting rid of altars usually wasn't one of them. Annunication BVM is the only other parish I've seen it do it, and that's because it's a !%@$#% terrible idea with no tangible benefit.

There's also confirmation of murals above the side altars, and what look to be completely different stations of the cross. Well, either that or they ripped out the frames, but again, that would be a decision that makes very little sense.

I hope to see more from this church, because it looked pretty remarkable back in the day. Certainly a lot better than this, no?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

St. Peter Claver Fieldtrip

Project reader Michelle H. took a trip to St. Peter Claver recently, and was kind enough to send us the following care package:

We took the youth of our parish to a retreat at the Saint Peter Claver Center. The church used to be a parish, but now serves as an evangelization center for Black Catholics. It sits at 12th & Lombard. There's a plaque inside the church that tells its history. The church used to be a Protestant church, Presbyterian specifically (if I remember correctly). I was able to take some photos of the church, with the Project in mind. Architecturally, it's not in the upper echelon of Philly churches. However, this place was very special to Black Catholics who were devoted to their faith, but not allowed to worship in many other Catholic churches. This was the first Catholic church for Blacks in Philadelphia, so in that regard, it was and still is very special. Enjoy!

As I noted in our last post on this building, Peter Claver was allegedly undergoing renovation as part of a parish reopening. The place has not been officially re-added to the list of parishes, and Michelle reports seeing no scaffolding or any other signs of work. So,

1. Either the plans were shelved, or
2. The work hasn't begun yet.

Either way, take a gander at the photos below (click to enlarge). St. Peter Claver won't win any architectural awards, but there's some nice touches to the place. Many thanks, Michelle.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Archdiocese Has a Heart

Wait, what?

Has the Archdiocese really reconsidered its school recommendations and reversed course on 18 of its closures?

Well, color me shocked. The AD isn't known for doing such an about-face on anything, so this is really surprising. Perhaps Chaput really is a different type of leader than his predecessors, and this really is the start of a kindler, gentler, smarter era of Catholic leadership in Philadelphia.

Then again...

The reversals were handed in the same ham-fisted way the original recommendations were, and now some schools--originally slated to stay open in one form or another--have been blindsided with news that they're going to close outright. No advance notice or, in some cases, a chance to protest.

But amid the celebration, there was shock and sadness in a few spots. As was the case with St. John the Evangelist in Morrisville, parents at Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Media were stunned to learn their school would close in June.

The school had been expecting to be the site of a new regional school with St. John Chrysostom in Wallingford. But St. John's winning its appeal means that Nativity now will close, and Media students will be expected to travel to Wallingford.

Karen Rosen, the mother of a kindergartner at Nativity, whose family has been active in the school and parish for 50 years, said Nativity parents were shut out of the process.

"We didn't have a chance to defend ourselves," she said.

Will they get a chance to appeal, too?

The easy reversals makes you wonder how ironclad the recommendations actually are. I mean, if they can be so easily overturned, the panel couldn't have been that confident in the picks, right?

Maybe I'm giving them too much credit, however, by assuming they actually went about this fairly and honestly. In the biggest story no one is talking about, the Archdiocese had made arrangements to let a new charter school use the facilities at Our Lady of Mount Carmel two months before the panel recommended the school close. (Despite an appeal, the school will still close.)

If you managed to save your school, congrats. But don't get complacent. Too many parishioners only get serious about saving a church or school once the axe is about to fall. You need to be proactive about this stuff. Don't take your institutions for granted. Find the money, find it now, and never stop, because you can't rely on the AD to have a change of heart. Seriously, this is like the first time ever.

And finally....

Archdiocese to Conshohocken: Drop Dead. That was the working title of this post. (Seriously). That said, Conshy's existing regional school lost its appeal, so students are, to put it mildly, SOL. (No, this is a family blog, so I'm not spelling it out.) They're less SOL than before--the AD will graciously let them choose their new schools, instead of forcing a trek out to King of Prussia--but SOL nonetheless.