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.

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!

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

A Holiday Party Can Be So Much More…

Picture this – almost 20 children under 3 years old, 25+children from 4-17 years of age and their parents, grandparents and guardians coming together to celebrate what we all feel at this time of year – we believe! We may believe different things but we’re all the same in wanting the best for our children.

Keep the Faith in Frankford sponsored the “Ho Ho Ho Holiday Party” held at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Friday night, December 12. Knowing we would not be able to accommodate everyone this holiday season, we decided to invite the mothers from Overington House, those we meet in ministry with the Dining with Dignity program and some of the congregation of St. Mark’s. We expected 45 children ranging in age from 3 months through 17 years old. Parents and grandparents were also invited.

Totally through donations, we were able to provide twin set sheets for the mothers of Overington House, a toy that each child could choose, and a board game for the other families. Most likely, if you’re viewing this video, you are directly responsible for the smiles that you see because of your donations – whether toys or money. Your generosity was awesome!! May you be rewarded for it!  (Any child invited but who was unable to attend will receive their toy.)

Part of our mission statement says, “we believe that the greater diversity of people within a community strengthens that community”. We focused on Hanukkah, which begins 12/16, Christmas on 12/25, Kwanzaa which begins on 12/26, and The Three Kings on 1/6/15. We learned from one of our Muslim mothers about Ramadan which begins Thursday, June 18 and lasts until July 15, 2015. We stamped with Hanukkah symbols, made a Nativity door hanger or story wheel and played Kwanzaa bingo.

We shared our individual beliefs, cultures, customs and traditions. We celebrated them, honored them and reminded ourselves we have much more in common and that unites us. We are not so different after all. That’s a good thing any time of the year!

Enjoy the show! For more information about Keep the Faith in Frankford please visit us online here or on Facebook! Follow us on Twitter at @fkdfaithful

 

Feeding the Frankford Hungry…and Ourselves!

As You DoWe participate in the Dining with Dignity Program hosted by St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. Check out this article which explains how this program started many years ago. The program has changed over the years and many groups take turns preparing and serving food to those in our area who are in need every week. Keep the Faith in Frankford participates at least every other month. Yesterday, we arrived at 10 AM to prepare 250 bag lunches. In the summertime, there is no cooked lunch so each diner receives two bag lunches. We fed 100 local residents yesterday with enough to give extras to those who asked for them. If you would like to help us in this effort, donations are gladly accepted on our website or contributions can be sent to Keep the Faith in Frankford, 4829 Penn St., Phila., PA 19124. (Our 501(c)(3) tax exemption application is under review with the IRS and we should have our tax exemption by the end of August. That status becomes retroactive to when we applied – would you believe November, 2013?)

Members of St. Joachim Parish and their family and friends are very generous with their time and effort in this worthy cause. It is awe-inspiring to see the goodness in our people who are willing to do so much for others – and you know “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). We are also very humbled by those who come every Saturday to participate in this program who struggle with the current economy and the challenges they are given but still believe in the Lord’s many blessings.

While Pope Francis has helped us to see our faith in a new way, he reminds us in “The Joy of the Gospel”, §187, that the “old question always returns: “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods, and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?” (1 Jn 3:17)

Special thanks to: Pete S., Joe and Maureen T, Al and Mary McK, Jack H., Sabina B-T, Kelly K. and Brian S., Nona B., Barbara J., Florence S., Bill, Marge and Morgan McG., Greg M., Maryanne S., Kate M., Mary C., Elaine and Natalie M., Tina D., Mary M. and Deacon Phil for his “guiding wisdom” and Me.

(Please click a photo and then you can scroll through the gallery to see these “beautiful people”!) God bless!

 

 

photo credit: Art4TheGlryOfGod via photopin cc