What Happens At A Frankford Forward Prayer Vigil and Witness?

Frankford Forward Logo 1For those of you who think about joining us when we announce a Prayer Vigil and Standing Witness Against Violence in our community, might want to know exactly what’s involved.

Part of Frankford Forward’s mission, and one that many feel deeply about, is our efforts at responding to violence in our community. Two days after we learn that someone is a victim of violence, at 6:30 PM, we gather at the site where it occurred. These Vigils are 15 – 30 minutes long. We have signs that we hold or not and we gather together. Recent efforts had us meeting the family of the victim and praying with them and, another, we walked two blocks meeting our neighbors and inviting them to join with us. Several people expressed an interest in our next Frankford Forward meeting which is Monday, June 27, 6:00 PM at St. Mark’s Church.

This past Saturday, we ended with a prayer. Sometimes, we begin with a prayer. We do what seems best at the time. This is an important activity that we hope you will want to join, too. It is rewarding, we are meeting people who mostly appreciate what we are trying to do. We want peace in our neighborhoods. We want people to feel safe. We can do this – with your help.

Sadly, another young man was shot and killed in the middle of the day at Bridge St. and Torresdale Avenue, Tuesday, June 21. Man Shot, Chased and Killed in Frankford Identified Frankford Forward will gather there on Thursday, June 23, 6:30 PM. Many of us are going to the PSA 1 Meeting at Aria Frankford at 7:00 PM where we can meet with the police and talk about this situation. There have been 4 shootings in this area resulting in 2 deaths and 2 injured within the last 2-3 weeks. Something is definitely going on here.

Please take the time to view this 1 minute movie to better understand what we do. We hope to see you Thursday evening!!

Keep the Faith in Frankford Steps Into History!

Our Step Into History Tours #1 and #2 were a success. Those who attended agreed that it was informative, enlightening and a good way to spend some time on a Sunday afternoon.

Our next Step Into History Tour #3 takes place on Sunday, June 5. We will be touring the sites of former mills, mansions that the owners lived in and we hope to get inside some of these magnificient edifices for a peek.

As always, each tour begins at the Grand Army of the Republic Museum for a personalized tour given by Dr. Andy Waskie. Then we visit the sites in Frankford for that particular day. We finish at The Historical Society of Frankford for a wrap-up and light refreshments.

We hope you join us! Step Into History Tours Flyer



Prayer of Healing by “The Priest of the Holy Card”

One of the most rewarding ministries I think we do as Keep the Faith in Frankford is pray for those in need. At every prayer service and every meeting, whenever we gathJesus healing Centurion's daughterer together, one of our intentions is that the Lord touch those in need of healing in mind, body and spirit and they feel the power of our prayers as well as God’s comfort. We will also mention by name those we know or those for whom we have been asked to prayer for. This is important to us as community means all of us – not just those who are physically present with us. My favorite story in the Bible is the Centurion who sends the Jewish elders to ask Jesus to heal his servant but has such faith that he tells his servants to tell Jesus, as he’s approaching the Centurion’s home, “Lord, do not bother about it, for I am not worthy to have you enter under my roof. Therefore, I did not feel worthy to come to you, but say the word and let my servant be healed.”

I recently received an email from a dear cousin asking for prayers for a couple at her church. My cousin included The Prayer of Healing that was written by Father Larry Hess from the Lehigh Valley. Also, another good friend asked for prayers for one of her friend’s family members going through some recurring problems. Initially, I was  going to post right away on Facebook asking for those prayers but something intrigued me about Father Hess and I wanted to learn more about him and his Prayer of Healing.

As a young priest, Father Hess was involved in hospital ministry and known for his healing prayers said at each patient’s bedside. He would pray with each of the patients individually and spontaneously. The more he prayed with them the more he formalized his prayer and he wrote it down. He wrote it down he said, “So I wouldn’t forget it”. Father would also serve for many years at Notre Dame High School, Muhlenberg College, Cedar Crest College and Kutztown University. Many came to feel as one of God’s unique children because of Father’s kindness and patience.

He would later be pastor of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Bangor, PA and served at St. Vincent de Paul Mission in Portland, PA. Father’s last assignment was as Pastor of St. Anthony of Padua, in his hometown of Reading, in the Millmont neighborhood. Father was the 8th Pastor of St. Anthony and he oversaw the renovations of the church and school in anticipation of their 100th Anniversary in April, 2014. Father Hess would not live to see it as he passed away in February, 2014 at the young age of 63. He had been a priest for 35 years. He had such a personality that others were drawn to him and, through him, to Jesus. Father Hess was also a dynamic preacher, too!

Writing down his prayer enabled Father to make prayers cards for those he ministered to and to others who heard about his healing prayer. At the time of his death over 10,000 of his prayer cards were being asked for here in the US as well as other countries. His legacy came to be that he was “The Priest of the Holy Card”. I tried to find out if the holy cards were still available. It took some real detective work. As we know, churches close and merge, and I thought I wouldn’t learn the answer to that question. But through comments on a web post, I learned that Our Lady of Good Counsel and St. Vincent de Paul Mission Church merged. I called the rectory and their automated response asked if you were looking for the holy cards to contact David Rugh.

I called David Rugh to learn that he is the nephew of Father Hess and the family has taken over the sale and distribution of these holy cards. Now called prayer-warrior“Heavenly Father Card” as those are the beginning words of Father’s prayer, you can order them through their website, www.heavenlyfathercard.org. They also have cd’s and dvd’s of Father’s talks and sermons. They ask for modest donations to cover shipping and handling. Heavenly Father Cards are available in Spanish, too. You can get prayer cards that are for you to say for yourself or prayer cards for someone you are praying for their healing. Well, we will be ordering cards as I know that those we serve would welcome them in a special way. We have much to pray for. We are prayer warriors, too!

Here is Father Hess’s Prayer of Healing. When praying this prayer, just replace the “I” words with the name or intention for whomever you are praying. God will know who you mean.

“Heavenly Father, I call on you right now in a special way. It is through your power that I was created. Every breath I take, every morning I wake and every moment of every hour, I live under your power.
For if you created me from nothing, you can certainly re-create me. Fill me with the healing power of your spirit. Cast out anything that should not be in me. Mend what is broken. Root out any unproductive cells. Open up any blocked arteries or veins and rebuild any damaged areas. Remove all inflammation and cleanse any infection.
Let the warmth of your healing love pass through my body to make new any unhealthy areas so that my body will function the way you created it to function.
And Father, restore me to full health in mind, body and spirit, so I may serve you the rest of my life.
I ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Please pray for my cousin’s friends and my friend’s family member. And, say a prayer for Father Hess, too!  Thank you and God bless you!

Some links you might be interested in:

Former Easton priest make mark in the world with healing prayer card

Reverend Larry J Hess Obituary

Parishioners say goodbye as Millmont Catholic Church closes

Reverend’s healing prayer provides comfort to many

Prayer of healing by Rev. Larry J. Hess of St. Anthony of Padua Roman Catholic Church

Community Meeting Takes Aim At Recent Violence in Frankford

Dean Jon Clodfelter and Deacon Phil Geliebter, St. Mark’s Church, have been on a mission to address the drug trade and the violence that results because of it. Monday, March 28, they invited the community to get involved at a meeting held at the Church. The community was well-represented with faith and community leaders, active and concerned residents. To succeed, this effort will include everyone in the community and we must believe that we can make a difference. There was a roomful of believers present. The meeting was led by Deacon Phil.

We heard a presentation about Cease Fire, a national program, which intervenes in a community to prevent violence. Funded by many national and local partners, and based at Temple University, to bring this program to Frankford would cost $250,000. Cease Fire employs people who live in the community who have experienced and lived the “high risk street activity” but can be the “right messengers” to “interrupt” and offer different choices, a different path. You can learn more about them at http://philaceasefire.com/  We can look into possible funding. A representative from Temple was willing to help. All present agreed, that this would be but one strategy and we need to tackle these problems with many different solutions.

We know that everyone reacts differently to stress. We know that our modern times are stressful and made more so by the shots we hear, the news reports and the frustration and sadness that comes because it’s not only the loss of the victims of crime we mourn but also the lives of those who commit them – it’s senseless and tragic. The best advice for dealing with some of this stress was shared by  Ysaye  Zmore, Human Services Incident Response Planner, of the city’s Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services. Ysaye suggested that we each take the time every day to do something we really like – cook, garden, read, walk, play with your children or grandchildren. It’s trying to keep the balance in an unbalanced world. You can learn more about their services here – http://dbhids.org/

The Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia also provides counseling for individuals and families and victim assistance services to those most directly affected by violence. Lisa Christian explained that they serve families, individuals and work in high schools, too. This age of students 13-17 are the ones most savvy in social media. Of late, they have observed more posting of pictures of themselves holding weapons. Many, many autopsies of our youth, 17 years and older, with drugs in their system. President Obama, speaking at a drug abuse summit in Atlanta this past Tuesday, has made the correlation that we see drugs as a criminal problem but we need to look at as a health problem. Our youth are in crisis. Lisa told us, too, that 60% of school age children in our city have an episode of homelessness – 6 out of 10 children.

IMG_1769 (1)These were the experts sharing their truth. Those attending the meeting were experts, too, as each had many experiences and knowledge in addressing these issues, too. Robert Cook, the Pastor of St. James and standing up in our picture and speaking, has done much work with youth and families. St. James has planned a Coffee House, 6 PM, Sunday, April 10 for “live music, food and fun”. All are welcome! Pastor Rob also hosts a Family Movie Night, etc., bringing families in the community together. For more information, contact Pastor Rob directly at Pastor.Rob.sjelc@gmail.com.

Pastor Richard Smith of the Faith Assembly of God, spoke very passionately about the need for us to carry on Christ’s mission of caring for each and everyone in the community. Pastor Smith makes a dedicated effort to find the children that are hungry in our area.

Jim Boxmeyer, a local resident, spoke about he and his wife’s efforts to maintain and improve a block on Foulkrod Street by screening get involved communitytenants and taking care of the properties they own. We know many stories of absentee landlords in our area who care nothing except for the revenue their properties generate.

Kudos to all who attended. An impressive group!

The next meeting of this community group is scheduled for Monday, April 11, 6 PM at St. Mark’s Church, 4442 Frankford Ave., Phila., PA 19124. Our agenda includes the skills and talents we possess and can share  and concrete ways we can help to make a difference in our community of Frankford. We will be looking for you!!




Ecumenical Lenten Prayer Services Offered

All are invited and welcome to our Ecumenical Prayer Services on Wednesday evenings, February 17 – March 23, 2016. Sponsored by Keep the Faith in Frankford and held at St. Mark’s Church, 4442 Frankford Avenue, beginning at 6:30 PM! Join us for an opportunity to renew your soul with the Word and your body with cake and coffee!! Bring a friend or two!Got Faith Sessions

A Community Shares Tears and Grace

community in wordsBad things happen to very good people. I had seen this story on the news, one of too many. As I have been talking to our parishioners this week, a Dad told me that his two sons went to school with the victim of this latestes senseless murder, Don Green, and they were “feeling the shock, so senseless” an act. If you’re unaware of what happened Friday night, you can read about it here – “Two Suspects Sought After Juniata Man Gunned Down”. The name, “Don” stuck in my mind and I checked Facebook and realized that I had talked to Don’s Dad, also Don, when we were distributing our information to our fellow parishioners at Holy Innocents. Don had stood outside on a dark, cold, windy Saturday night and listened to me as I explained our desire and need for a weekly Mass in Frankford. His son had gone ahead to the car (I bet to warm it up!!) and waited patiently while Don took the time to listen. A true act of kindness! Don is very involved in Holy Innocents and his community. I shared the story with my brother-in-law because he works at Naval Support Activity on Oxford Ave with Don. He knew Don and had volunteered in a tutoring program that Don ran at Carnell Elementary School. Our prayers, hearts and thoughts go out to the Green family and to all whose lives young Don already touched or would have touched in the future. We are all one community – one in Christ. I am respectful of all that must be happening at Holy Innocents as they prepare to say good-bye to Don, a young man taken much too soon. Lord, may you bless, in particular, the Green family, with all the love and support that they need, during this most difficult time and may the community also surround them with all that they will need.

I have been calling our St. Joachim and Mater Dolorosa parishioners regarding a petition to reopen St. Joachim – to get a weekly Mass in Frankford. I realized that Frankford is the community that has kept us going since St. Joachim closed in June 2013. Community is the most often mentioned word encountered when I talk to people and their experiences since both Catholic Churches closed in Frankford. That’s what we miss and that’s what we try to hold on to and it’s what we look for at the many parishes we visit trying to find that “Frankford style of community”! It’s rare. It’s a community where you can speak the truth and people will listen and let you have your say. We may not always agree but we try to work it out. We try to find that common ground – which is our faith – which is ourselves!! 

Father Higgins announced over the weekend at Mass that the St. Joachim convent had been sold for $200,000 to the Capuchins. I called Father Higgins this morning and left a message hoping to learn more about the purchase. I also told the secretary that we are sorry for the grief the Green family are experiencing and that all are in our prayers. We are respectful of all that must be happening and that learning more will just have to wait for the appropriate time.

Well, we do know that Archbishop Chaput is a Capuchin. We know that the Capuchins run St. John the Evangelist Church on 13th St. But we don’t know what plans they have for Frankford yet.  Until, we know more, we must keep working to reopen St. Joachim and doing what we think (with God’s help) will bring that about. 

As for our Frankford community, we do know what has been said up until now. The Archbishop tells us that Father Higgins makes all the decisions for the Worship Site. We know that Father Higgins has told us nothing would change as long as he is Pastor. We know that he did not even acknowledge our requests for a Mass for the Anniversary of the Dedication of St. Joachim on December 13, 2015. Our experience tells us that for over 2 years and 7 months, the community of Frankford, the community of St. Joachim, the community of Mater Dolorosa and the community of St. Joan of Arc have not received  compassion or a willingness to honor or value our communities.

We do know that at St. Joachim, Father Steve had us say a prayer to Padre Pio before Mass during the time of the Area Pastoral Planning Process. We know that Padre Pio was a Capuchin. We know that we’ve had the Blessed Mother’s ear, the love of her Son, and the watchful presence of His grandfather, St. Joachim. We know “by the grace of God, I am what I am, and his grace to me has not been ineffective” (1 Corinthians 15:10).

We know that we are steadfast in our hope and belief in the need for a Catholic Church in Frankford. We know we are Keep(ing) the Faith in Frankford and beyond.


Can We Be People of La Mancha?

Man of La ManchaGod never asks us to do anything easy and neither does the Pope with his belief of mercy for all. Every time I want to get angry and ask for God’s wrath and mighty justice, I struggle with having compassion and mercy towards Archbishop Chaput and Father Higgins for their actions in closing our two Churches in Frankford. Their ease in refusing to see the hurt, the damage done to the faith and to the faithful, not just in Frankford, but throughout the Archdiocese truly boggles my mind. I choose God always so I choose mercy. Whether your Church remained open, was closed and merged, or now, partnered with another parish, we are all affected as we are all members of the “One Body of Christ”.

I seek forgiveness from all those whose parishes started closing in the struggling urban areas of our city starting in back in the late 1980’s and 1990’s. I’m sure I felt sadness as my Mother’s beloved parish, Our Lady of Holy Souls, went through many transitions, but is still alive as Our Lady of Hope. Where was my voice in outcry at the beginning of the abandonment of our city? If you haven’t read this post, “Dooming Us To Repeat History” by David Harris, please take the time and inform yourselves that this effort, especially closing Churches within city boundaries, began long ago. So many people that I’ve met have told me they’ve attended Churches throughout our metropolitan area that were closed, merged and closed again. The sadness is real and did this have to be?

Well, that’s why we need to be the people of La Mancha? Who are the people of La Mancha? You and I should consider ourselves people of La Mancha! We are very real – we believe that we can affect change – and those of us who opposed the severely-flawed Area Parish Pastoral Planning Process can take heart today that we did, ultimately, affect change for those parishes undergoing the process after us. There’s a new model the Archdiocese is using, “Partner Parishes” where a Church is not closed but partnered with another nearby. The “Partner Parishes” share a Pastor, staff and combine their Parish Councils. However, since each Church remains a Parish, they each have their own Finance Council. It seems this model has already been used in other Dioceses – why was Philadelphia so slow to adopt it?

David Harris shared with me earlier this week, the January 10, 2016 Weekly Bulletin from Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary regarding the outcome for the five Port Richmond parishes in PPA 570. You may remember they were granted additional time last year to more fully come to a consensus on their futures. (I checked the other parish websites but the weekly bulletin for this week was not yet posted as of this writing.) You can read their decisions that have been submitted to the Archdiocesan Strategic Planning Committee and the Archbishop and the explanation of how they arrived at them pictured below here on page 3.Nativity BVM January 10 2016 bulletin page 3

We pray with the parishioners of Our Lady Help of Christians, which will become a Worship Site of Nativity BVM that their Pastor has the mercy to see to it that they have a Weekly Mass celebrated there at the Worship Site. That was all we wanted in Frankford – a weekly Mass. As many have said, “What’s so hard about that?”

What has Archbishop Chaput, the Archdiocesan Strategic Planning Committee and, hopefully, the Pastors learned about this PPA Process? A lot and it shows. Here are some changes to the process since we underwent it in 2012-2013:

  • Meetings were held to “reach agreement”. For PPA 560 (the faithful in Harrowgate, Frankford and Juniata), the meetings were simply to get it done.
  • When “the Committee was unable to reach consensus”, they were given more time.PPA 570’s experience reflects a real process with invested members treated respectfully and “had the opportunity to contribute and present his or her viewpoints throughout the discussions”. The antithesis of what happened in our process. In PPA 560, we had two Committee meetings and then it was between the Pastors. Father Higgins and the Archdiocese ultimately decided.
  • “Every member of the PPA 570 Committee stated that he/she would accept and support the restructuring decision made by the ASPC, regardless of what it ultimately would be.” The committee members also had to state this later “publicly”. Someone didn’t want trouble after the decisions were made. I went to our archives to see what I was doing when St. Joachim first closed. Take a look here – Keep the Faith in Frankford. As a member of the Transition Team, I “walked the walk” and gave the “new” parish of Holy Innocents the openness they deserved. I attend Holy Innocents but fervently believe that we in Frankford need and are worthy of a weekly Mass.
  • As already explained there is a new,  to Philadelphia, “Parish Partnership” model. Who has the courage to “right the unrightable wrongs” to parishes that didn’t have this opportunity for consideration? It only leads us to believe that once the Archdiocese took the assets of the 46 plus Churches closed/merged, they had “righted their financial ship” and didn’t have to take such drastic measures. We believe those drastic measures were never needed had the Archbishop and our hierarchy been straightforward, honest and transparent with us rather than using the guise of the PPA process. Real estate, you’re money is in real estate was the rallying cry of those advising our Archbishop!
  • Keeping the finances separate is a good idea and there must have been some trouble or feedback about combining financials earlier. We estimate, and have proof from financial information shared by Father Thomas Higgins, Pastor, Holy Innocents, that rental income from St. Joachim School was $364,505 and Mater Dolorosa $231,952 for two years totaling $1,190,914 plus Mater Dolorosa had over $900,000 in the bank thus the assets of Holy Innocents gained over $2 million dollar when we both closed. Father Higgins, at the time was Dean, and we believe there was a real conflict of interest. Nevertheless, in spite of our contributions, Father Higgins reports as of this coming fiscal year (2016), Holy Innocents is projecting a loss of $776,871.00
  • Partnering allows “each parish in the partnership (to) remain a parish”. The parish of St. Joachim was suppressed; we’re appealing and believe no decree can suppress a parish community. It doesn’t work that way. We have had a parish in Frankford for over 170 years when 23 men and women first asked for one. We will not let our forebears down.
  • “Pastors and representatives all agree that the success of the process will ultimately depend on members of all parishes embracing the new communities…” Here, we can give you all real advice. Don’t fire people from the Transition Team simply because they used their rights as members of the laity to file a Vatican appeal. Don’t say “the decision is already made and we are not considering any changes.” “Don’t tell your new parishioners that “As long as I’m the Pastor of this parish, nothing is going to change”. Talk about self-fulfilling prophecies!

Father Higgins has refused to allow us to use St. Joachim for either private or public worship except for the occasional funeral, wedding and annual Feast Day Mass. The Congregation of the Clergy in January, 2015 established a precedent in the Diocese of Greensburg in Western Pennsylvania that every Worship Site also have a Mass on their Dedication Day. We wrote and emailed Father Higgins and he ignored us. We have looked to Archbishop Chaput to help us gain justice for Frankford as we have been totally ignored within Holy Innocents. St. Joan of Arc, a Worship Site, has a weekly Mass.

We celebrate with our brothers and sisters in Port Richmond and keep all those, especially those of Our Lady Help of Christians in our hearts and prayers. Our Lady, Help of Christians, pray for us! The people of La Mancha are with you all as we continue our efforts (to reopen St. Joachim and once again and to have a weekly Mass in our community) and as you await the final decisions of the Archdiocesan Strategic Planning Committee and the Archbishop in late January or early February. We’re very much aware that such recommendations have not always been so easily accepted. St. Joachim was supposed to stay open, too! The Holy Spirit is with us and our faith is strong! The people of La Mancha still believe that for us things “are impossible but with God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

Here’s a soulful rendition by Luther Vandross of “The Impossible Dream”! Thank you for reading and enjoy!

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.