What Does the Future Hold for Holy Innocents?

Pope Francis and futureThe weekends of November 7/8 and 14/15, members of St. Joachim, Frankford, will distribute information regarding our current efforts to have a weekly Mass said, once again, in our community. You can read our information below which will be translated into Spanish and Vietnamese. Please pray for us and that our efforts are successful!

We want to share with you, the parishioners of Holy Innocents, why a weekly Mass in Frankford would help you. The Parish Pastoral Planning Process, which closed both St. Joachim Church and Mater Dolorosa Church in Frankford failed and only created “Roaming Catholics” who don’t support any particular parish. Some of us remained with Holy Innocents while others chose other parishes. But we are all the Body of Christ.

When St. Joachim was merged with Holy Innocents, we asked to meet with Archbishop Chaput as Frankford no longer had any Catholic church. Our pastor felt the Parish Pastoral Planning Process should be kept secret and that we should trust him. We had an Oblate priest so we did not depend on an Archdiocesan priest. We were not in debt but our school was rented for several hundred thousand dollars per year and that was ready cash. Since no one would talk with us, we filed a Vatican appeal that is every Catholic’s right under Canon law. That appeal is still pending a review by the Vatican Supreme Court.

Frankford has over 50 churches but not one is Roman Catholic. For many of these people, it is beyond their ability to travel to Holy Innocents or any other church even via the bus provided. Frankford is home to people who have lived there all their lives but also a more transient population who are here for rehab or making their way after being released from prison. Archbishop Chaput tells us we have to ask Father Higgins. Father Higgins has told us, “As long as I am pastor of this parish, nothing is going to change.”

Father Higgins has been sharing with all of us the “state of the parish” these past few weeks. Father Higgins will explain to us that there is a “need for increased giving”. Recently, on Fox 29 News, Father Higgins said that 4 of his 5 Masses here at Holy Innocents were not well attended. Why not be “creative” as Pope Francis has said and say a Mass in Frankford? We have asked over and over again for the use of St. Joachim for public and private worship and would pay all expenses for the upkeep of the Church and cemetery. We recently submitted a proposal to Father Higgins. We offered to pay for a retired or underutilized priest to say a weekly Mass. Holy Innocents would get the collections thus adding to your coffers. We would come to Holy Innocents and support all activities as well. We would evangelize in Frankford making Holy Innocents even stronger. We’d be active parishioners of the “Inn”.

You have all been very welcoming to us. While we are grateful to you and that makes us happy, it’s not the issue. You know how big Frankford is, you may know the problems Frankford struggles with regarding drugs and housing needed for those trying to rehabilitate themselves. It’s not simply a matter of getting on the bus; it’s a matter of worshipping in your own community. A church building is a physical symbol of God’s presence in the community that tells everyone God’s love is for all and there are second chances for everyone.

There is no longer a Catholic presence in Frankford except for us, the parishioners who remain to do the work left to us after the Archdiocese abandoned us. There is no pastoral care for those most marginalized by society in Frankford, an area certainly in need of God’s care. Please ask these questions, too, because placing extra burdens on you when all other avenues of possibilities are not explored is not the answer! If unity is truly desired and we all want Holy Innocents to thrive, then you must include Frankford! We will be here next weekend, too, in case, you have questions or want to talk further! Please keep us in your prayers and we will pray for you, too! God bless you!

Please like us on Facebook at Keep the Faith in Frankford, too!

Spanish Translation      Vietnamese translation

Mega-Mergers Do Not Make Us Mighty!

merger aheadIt began, for us, in 2012. Ascension of Our Lord Church in Kensington would close in October 2012. You can read more about the parish here. Parishioners had a choice of going to Holy Innocents Church or Visitation Church. How much choice the parishioners really had in this decision, they would have to tell you.

St. Joachim, Mater Dolorosa and St. Joan of Arc were part of the Area Parish Pastoral Planning Process taking place in our Deanery (560) during 2012 and culminating with “recommendations” and “decisions” in mid-2013. If you have been following our story, you know that the parishioners of St. Joachim were not involved in this “process” which we maintain is severely flawed for many reasons. Here’s a brief synopsis of our cause. Much has transpired in the more than two years of our Vatican appeal (it’s still active and we are waiting for a hearing before the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican Supreme Court).

We were warmly invited by Dean Jon Clodfelter to work out of St. Mark’s Church. St. Marks, an Episcopal Church, has a history of working with St. Joachim parishioners before when outbreaks of diseases greatly affected the various waves of immigrants coming to Frankford looking for a better life for themselves and their families. Keep the Faith in Frankford participates in the Dining with Dignity program and does other community events, for free, as well as our public efforts to bring attention to all the churches that have been closed/merged.

Most, if not all, of the people we meet have had contact with Frankford at one time or another. When we tell them we no longer have a Catholic Church in Frankford, they are dumb-founded, as we still are as well. We have not yet had any significant interaction with Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Archbishop of Philadelphia, other than for him to tell us that he would no longer answer our letters. We write anyway. Father Thomas Higgins, Pastor, Holy Innocents Parish, has told us many times in one way or another, that “As long as I am the pastor of the parish, nothing is going to change”.

Yet, we continue to work to re-open St. Joachim. (We began wanting a Catholic Church in Frankford but only the parishioners of St. Joachim filed a Vatican Appeal.) While St. Joachim is a Worship Site, in effect, it’s closed unless there’s a request for a funeral or a wedding. We have an annual Feast Day Mass in July and we are hoping for a Mass in honor of our dedication of the new Church, December 13, 1981. This second Mass resulted from a Decree this past January that a Worship Site should have at least two Masses. This decree also suggested that weekly Masses do not always have to be at the main Church.

The laity know that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has bigger problems than just closing/merging Churches. They are losing souls because the pastoral care we are receiving is not about God’s saving love, mercy and compassion but the need to fill the Church coffers – it’s always more, more, more. This week’s Bulletin from Holy Innocents shows an $11 decline from last year. $11, I know, not bad, but when you figure that before the mergers, Holy Innocents had less than 2100 families and after the mergers almost 2900 families, there’s a much deeper problem. Also, Pope Francis was just here in Philadelphia and you know, the hierarchy was hoping for a resurgence in faith based on his visit. I think we were just sad when he left.

Both Archbishop Chaput and Monsignor Daniel J. Kutys, Moderator of the Curia, tell us that “The parish of Holy Innocents is under Father Higgins’ leadership so it is up to him to decide what worship sites will or will not be used based on his experience of the needs of the parish at large”. Every liturgical season for two years, we have asked Father Higgins for services at St. Joachim. We have asked for a Mass, for an opportunity for us to hold a Prayer Service (we’re hearing about mission and lay leadership) and to use our Church for private worship. All for naught. After our Feast Day Mass this past July, Father Higgins wanted to have a “conversation” after Mass. We believed he was looking for real solutions to real problems he has. But here again, nothing.

We made and sent a proposal to Father Higgins. You can see our proposal below.

SJ Proposal Possible Meeting Sept 2015

Here is Father Higgins’ response.

Higgins Re St Joachim Proposal

Now, think about it. Father Higgins was interviewed and told Joyce Evans, Fox 29 News, that 4 of his 5 Masses aren’t full and could use “hundreds of more people”. (See this interview and our response here online.) Say a Mass in Frankford, you would get our collection! Father Higgins wants to tell you, those who are already attending Mass, the need for giving more during the Masses on November 14th and 15th. This doesn’t make sense. Well, we have another idea for you, Father Higgins. Come and use St. Joachim as the main worship site. Our church is newer, smaller, easier to maintain and upkeep and we have a parking lot. Think this is a crazy idea? It’s no crazier than closing two churches in Frankford.

Are You Up For The “Pope Up” At Globe Dyeworks?

Bob and I went over to the Opening Day of the “Pope Up” Exhibit at the Globe Dyeworks! The Globe Dyeworks is a Frankford treasure! We really enjoyed it and I really think you might, too! There are a set of wide steps you must go down to see the full exhibit but doable for most.

The Exhibit will be open on the next two weekends – Sept. 12 and 13 from 12 Noon to 5 PM and on Sept. 19 and 20 from 12 Noon to 5 PM with a public reception on Sunday, Sept. 20. Here’s a link to the article which tells you more and explains some of the artwork you’ll see.

A piece of high interest to us is the steel sculpture titled, “Steeple”, a symbol of all church steeples.

Personally, my mother went to Bingo every Wednesday night at St. Henry’s Church. Lou Serna did not want his Abuelita (grandmother) to find out about “Bingo Jesus”. She won’t hear it from us, Lou! But I love it!

The Grand Review is on Facebook where you can buy prints and other merchandise. I have my eye on the one where Pope Francis replaces Billy Penn at the top of City Hall! Enjoy! Let us know what you think if you go.

We Possess Divine Truths But Is Our Hierarchy Listening To Our Human Truths, Too?

Satan may be aTime with Godfoot but it took me at least 30 minutes to troubleshoot why the Fox 29 News video wasn’t playing. For you tech types, was it the embed code? Was it a problem with WordPress? No, it was as simple as the “Play” button is overtop the white cloud on the left. Who knew? Now you do and, hopefully, you’ll take the time to view it. Give the first movie a moment to start. Also, therein lies the answer to all of our problems – with God, high above the clouds and that’s where we need to direct our attentions so that we can make a difference in this earthly world here below.

Deacon Phil Geliebter of St. Mark’s Church is a sharing guy and I had just read one of his inspirations today and thought it was perfect for right here. Thanks, Deacon Phil! I also used it for our 8 AM Prayer Service Announcement outside St. Joachim tomorrow morning.

The title of this blog post came to mind because, as Catholics, we do have many beliefs that we consider to also be truths of the Church. Much like our Declaration of Independence has certain truths that our country is based on. But there is a problem – our church hierarchy is spending so much time trying to counteract the voice of the laity when this time and effort could be so better spent in us listening to each other and finding a way to solve the urgent issues of today’s church. As you know, our efforts were featured in the September issue of Philadelphia Magazine in the Bob Huber article titled, “Archbishop Charles Chaput: The Hardliner”As the Archdiocese was aware of this impending article, Father Higgins is interviewed to counteract us. And so it goes! So, we give you both versions of the story. Please watch both videos! Our churches depend on you being informed!

Last night on Fox 29 this segment aired about Holy Innocents and about many of us. Keep the Faith in Frankford continues to, as my Aunt Pearl would say, “Speak the truth” and try to get justice not only for the closed churches in Frankford but for all closed churches in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Rather than writing a long explanation of our response to this report, I make a video, too, which I hope you’ll take the time to watch. We would love to hear your “truths”, too! We are brothers and sisters in the one Jesus Christ, who can unite us all!

“Humility Rocks” – Jack Hohenstein

This past Saturday, July 25, 2015, we celebrated the Third Annual Feast Day Mass at St. Joachim in Frankford, Phila., PA since we merged with Holy Innocents Parish, Juniata. Mater Dolorosa in Frankford and St. Joan of Arc in Harrowgate also merged with Holy Innocents Parish. Ascension Parish merged the year before. Yes, you are correct, that’s quite a few churches. These mergers left Frankford without a Catholic Church. St. Joachim’s beginnings date back to 1843. No Catholic Church in Frankford.

World Meeting of Families icon

World Meeting of Families icon

I have been blessed with many gifts from the Lord. Humility is one I really have to work at and, if you know me, you understand that. But God has certainly humbled me over these past two years – every time we need to demonstrate the level of faith that the members of St. Joachim Parish and Mater Dolorosa Parish still have, I am in awe. Saturday was another occasion when I felt so grateful for those who continue to support and believe that Frankford needs and deserves a Catholic Church.

You may remember that we wrote to Archbishop Chaput after the unveiling of the World Families’ icon to say that we felt that St. Joachim, Jesus’ grandfather, was too much in the shadows and grandfathers and grandmothers play a very active role in family life these days for many reasons. Well, the Archbishop thought we were just looking for things to get upset at and as, is his way, the icon is perfect and will not be changed. Take a look and what do you think? I remember my grandfather, James, as a larger than life person. He had one gold tooth. I can still see myself looking up at him and my Mother being devastated when he passed rather early. One of our grandfathers, Jack Hohenstein, wrote a haiku:

Holy Family Icon
“Where is Grandfather?”
“He’s hidden in the shadows.”
Humility rocks!

St. Joachim and St. Ann are the patron saints of grandparents. Father Thomas Higgins, Pastor of Holy Innocents, had our grandparents stand during MassBlessing for Grandparents and gave them a blessing. St. Joachim also accomplished and delivered a surprise gift. At the end of Mass, over 100 people were in attendance, he offered to “continue the conversation” after we had our pretzels and water ice outside, supplied of course, by Keep the Faith in Frankford. We would have had even more people at Mass but we knew the air conditioning was not working. Relive our celebration of St. Joachim and our community with us.

At this point, 20-25 people returned to talk with Father Higgins. I admired his willingness to listen to the frustration and pain of the people since St. Joachim closed. This was never about a building; our efforts were aimed at the Archdiocese whom we felt abandoned Frankford and we would not allow that to happen.

Father wanted to talk about how we could be a more active part of Holy Innocents. He started out by telling us that Joyce Evans of Fox 29 here in Philadelphia interviewed him for a piece next month. He said if he could fill Holy Innocents, he would think about what he could do for us/other worship sites?

Father Higgins listened – Bob said it was for the “first time” and heard the people say:

  1. We’ve lost respect for the clergy;
  2. Take our money and then tell us that rental income can’t be counted on for support though you used it to support Holy Innocents;
  3. Wanted at least a monthly Mass in Frankford (overwhelming majority favored this but I said what would the people we are fighting for – the disenfranchised, the marginal, do the other 3 weeks?);
  4. 11 year old, Morgen, told Father Higgins, she wanted to worship in her own church because of her important memories and she wants to pass these experiences on to her own children;
  5. Are the two priests of the House of Mercy in Kensington assigned to Holy Innocents? They will be going to assist in other parishes saying Masses. Since they have to say Masses why can’t they come here to Frankford who has nothing?
  6. Hardly anybody would have been here today had it not been for the efforts of Keep the Faith in Frankford and our Vatican appeal. (Why was this Mass “missing” from the parish bulletin. It was never advertised but announced at Mass. Did Father Higgins just want to see who would come after all this time?)
  7. We knew that he was the “poster boy” for the Archdiocesan megalopolis church because he has 22 properties – now, he said he is down to 17
  8. We rehashed the PPA process and the flaws, etc.
  9. Why is it that whenever the laity ask questions, we are labeled as “disloyal Catholics”?

Why, now? Why is Father Higgins talking to us? We listened to:

  1. Reasons why Father can’t give us a Mass – maybe down to 2 priests in 9 months?
  2. If we come over to Holy Innocents to fill it, to contribute…(the two rentals of our closed schools is over $50,000 per month and the tenants moved out. Holy Innocents is feeling the pinch. Is it just for the money?)
  3. Did they know we were planning a future action at Holy Innocent by distributing information to their parishioners why we can’t abandon Frankford?
  4. It was obvious he wanted our passion and energy but what is he willing to give in return?

Many reasons, still, why we can’t have something in Frankford. Not yet a discussion on how to make it happen. We’ll have to see if this “conversation” bears any fruit. Again, Father Higgins, we bless you for being willing to be humble yourself, too. Luke 14:11 tells us all, “Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted”.

Has Archbishop Chaput Been “Partial” to Some of Us in the Archdiocese?

For almost 2 years, we have been asking this question and no one from the Archdiocese will meet with us or talk to us. Unless efforts are made to review and reverse some of the 46 church closings in the last three years, we would have to answer a resounding “Yes” to that question. To learn more of the reasons why we feel this way, please take the time to read a recent post, “Our God of Suprises”.

Organized by Keep the Faith in Frankford and Philly Catholics, please join us as we ask for the Parish Pastoral Planning Process to be redone!

For more info, please call Pat Smiley, 215.520.5616. Thank you and God bless you!

Parishioners' Pilgrimage Flyer


“Ask and It Will Be Given to You…(Mt 7:7)”

Come and ask for the many gifts of the Holy Spirit!



Mary, Help Us To Undo Our Knots!

Pope Franics and Lady of Knots We know that all change must start with ourselves. Prayer creates change. May is a month when we think of our Blessed Mother, Mary! Starting May 1st, we are   “kicking off” a month long event dedicated to our Blessed Mother knowing that all we ask will be granted through her intercession. Mary is locked behind the gates of St. Joachim but we are closer to her than ever. Pope Francis has a special devotion to “Mary, Undoer of Knots” and we will ask her to help us “Undo Our Knots”. Let us ask Mary to help us change those things in our lives that need changing and allow us to inspire others with our devotion. Please say a rosary every day and then visit our form to add your name and the number of rosaries you’ve said. Anyone who says at least 20 rosaries during this month and records it on our form, will receive a holy card and a card listing the 15 Promises for those who recite the Rosary (see below). Once you say your 20 rosaries, please email me at patsmiley@keepthefaithinfrankford.org with your mailing address and we will send you your gifts.


Mary, Undoer of Knots

15 Promises of Mary

15 Promises of Mary











Perhaps it has been a while since you’ve prayed the Rosary. Please check out this link about how to pray the Rosary and what mysteries are said on what day. You may want to also read about Pope Francis and his devotion to Mary, Undoer of Knots.

Here is the form where you will enter your name, the date and the number of rosaries you’ve said on that day. Scroll down and click “Submit” to record your responses. God bless you and God bless us all!


Our “Indescribable Gift” – 2 Corinthians, Chapter 9

Palm SundayWe are in a struggle – a real and difficult struggle! This struggle is to reopen our beloved St. Joachim Church which was closed almost 22 months ago. Is our struggle for the Church building or is the struggle to Keep the Faith in Frankford by keeping St. Joachim Parish together as a family and as a faithful worshipping community? I suggest the latter is most important. If we do not stay together as family and live our Catholic faith daily, it won’t matter that we no longer have a Church building. This struggle is real – from Father Higgins, as pastor of Holy Innocents, who tells us that nothing will change as long as he’s pastor, to Archbishop Chaput, who refuses to even talk to us, and we know that actions speak louder than words. We have heard the naysayers. We know that we and others in our city and suburbs have been abandoned by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as they believe Catholics have sought “greener pastures” and that’s where they will shepherd.

So, as difficult and challenging and even heartbreaking at times, we carry on. We carry this cross as Jesus carried his cross for us! What keeps us going? Where do we find the strength to believe and to go forward on a seemingly, impossible mission? Because of Jesus and his message and example and the “Jesus” we find in each of you and in everyone we serve. We don’t do this wearing sackcloths and ashes but with joy and purpose and determination that this is indeed the will of God. This is what God is asking of us:

“Consider this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each must do as already determined, without sadness or compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. Moreover, God is able to make every grace abundant for you, so that in all things, always having all you need, you may have an abundance for every good work. As it is written: ‘He scatters abroad, he gives to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.’…Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!”

Take the time this Holy Week to read 2 Corinthians, Chapter 9. We ask the Holy Spirit to fill us with that generosity that makes us thankful for God’s gift and graces and allows us to glorify Him who has given us EVERYTHING, including His own Son. This week we celebrate the Last Supper and mourn with Mary as Jesus is crucified, died and rose from the dead so that we will have eternal life. “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift(s)!”

I would like to celebrate all those who participated in Keep the Faith in Frankford’s Dining with Dignity efforts today at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 4442 Frankford Ave. Our friends at St. Mark’s are real blessings to us as they opened wide their doors for us when St. Joachim closed. They didn’t ask, “Are you Episcopalians?” They knew we were Christians, and as such, their brothers and sisters. We must extend this relationship to all of God’s children, whether they believe in Christ or not. They are all God’s children and that makes them out brothers and sisters. Thank you, Mary and Al McKay, Maureen and Joe Taylor, Florence Stanowski, Maryanne Seifert, Nona Bloom, Greg Minetola, Mary Carroll, Tammy Harrity, Pete Specos (who does all our shopping and cooking), Bob Smiley (who does anything I ask him) and our new friends, Donna Heron and her daughters, Alyssa and Cameron! To the steering committee of Keep the Faith in Frankford, Mary Moretz, Bill and Marge McGeehan, Sabina Baker-Tegeder, David and Shannon Harris, thank you. To my sister, Elaine Martin, and her daughter, Natalie, to Johanna Giles and her crew, Shayla, Brian and Aidan and Holy Innocents Girl Scout troops, Jack Hohenstein and anyone I didn’t mention, God knows who you are! Thank you for being “cheerful givers”! Enjoy this slideshow from our efforts this past Saturday, March 28! Wait just a moment and it will start automatically!

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We Have One Fundraiser a Year! This is It! You Will Make It a Success!

MM Memo to Family and Friends