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!
The 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!
It 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.
Here is Father Higgins’ response.
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.
Satan may be afoot 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!
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.
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.”
St. Joachim and St. Ann are the patron saints of grandparents. Father Thomas Higgins, Pastor of Holy Innocents, had our grandparents stand during Mass 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:
- We’ve lost respect for the clergy;
- 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;
- 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?);
- 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;
- 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?
- 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?)
- 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
- We rehashed the PPA process and the flaws, etc.
- 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:
- Reasons why Father can’t give us a Mass – maybe down to 2 priests in 9 months?
- 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?)
- Did they know we were planning a future action at Holy Innocent by distributing information to their parishioners why we can’t abandon Frankford?
- 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”.
This post was written by Gregory Minetola, a member of St. Joachim Parish and Keep the Faith in Frankford!
Recently, Joe Taylor and I had a meeting with Fr. Higgins, Pastor of Holy Innocents and Dean of Deanery 12, Lower Northeast Philadelphia, and Joe Paesani, Business Manager. I would not want to comment on the specifics yet I will tell you that it was an open dialogue full of passion and principles on both sides. As I have reflected and prayed on that meeting, a few ideas keep playing in my mind.
The first thing that I have not be able to get past is the idea that they really think there is a Catholic Church in Frankford. When I made the statement there is not a Catholic Church in Frankford I was looked at in disbelief. Joe Paesani stated, “There is a Catholic Church in Frankford, it’s Holy Innocents.” Yes, Holy Innocents does share part of the 19124 zip code yet, we, in Philadelphia, are strongly defined by our neighborhoods. Not only is it where we live, it is where we have loyalty. Some, especially Archbishop Chaput do not understand that because, especially, in his case since he has been in Philadelphia he knows the stats but really doesn’t know his people or the connections we, as Philadelphians, have. In a lecture at St Charles Seminary in Oct 2013 during the Q&A at the end of the lecture he alluded to the fact that Philadelphians often introduce themselves by which parish they are in. He stated no where else do they do this. That is right! We are deeply connected to our neighborhood and the parishes in them. There is a disconnect with our Archbishop. If you look at his public calendar he is very often somewhere else in the country or in the world other than truly leading his flock. If he was here long enough to learn about our neighborhoods he would learn that Juniata is 1.025 sq miles with 23,000 people to Frankford’s 2.6 sq miles with 56,000 people. The question arises, How can one parish serve so much area effectively and with no one falling through the cracks?
It was interesting on their understanding of why we have an active appeal. They think it is only about the building. To a certain extent it is. It is our Church! In 1843, 20 people meet in a small home to consult and devise plans to build a Catholic chapel. They knew the people in the area needed it. Our ancestors saved, built and sacrificed during the depression for much needed renovations, scraped to send their children to Catholic School and volunteered to do things to make up the difference of what they could not contribute. They were doing it for their faith community. The understanding was that this was our Church with ties to the Archdiocese and in turn Rome. Well, one would say we have been baited and switched. A little known fact is that The Bishops changed that and put our churches “in trust” for the people.
Then, years later the Archdiocese of Philadelphia creates “the PPA process”, which is copied around the country. Then, in our wave of parishes under study with little conversation with the people and very hush-hush meetings, it is decided that St. Joachim and Mater Dolorosa, which St. Joachim helped to establish for the Italian immigrants of Frankford, will close and in one document by the Archbishop dissolve and suppress 172+years of history, honor, tradition and leave the community with no church to worship in. Wait, didn’t we build and maintain it? Why have they decided our fate? Church is not about numbers. Where two or more gather in his name! So it is about the building even though it is the third St. Joachim Church. It is our ancestor’s legacy and what they left for us – a comforting place where we can meet socially and spiritually. Our Church is an inheritance from our grandmothers and grandfathers, mothers and fathers. How would you feel if after you parents died your childhood home was taken with no one asking?!! This is what has happened, Our church has been taken!
Fr Higgins and Joe made it clear that without the rental income from the school, we could not have been able to operate the parish.Those properties, too, are our ancestor’s legacy as well. The rental income fact may be true but we did not decide. Pope Francis has called for a smaller church overall that reaches out to those in need. Should we have been the ones to decide our fate? Maybe a storefront church on Frankford Ave. Maybe we sold one or two of those properties? We were not given the chance, it was decided for us. When St. Joachim closed, in one of my letters to the Archbishop, I asked where all of the rental income from the school & convent building went. He,or someone writing for him, stated it stays in the parish. Since St. Joachim Church was closed in June 2013, the parish of Holy Innocents has realized $600,000 plus in revenue from the school alone not counting the convent. What the Archdiocese doesn’t realize many people know is that parishes are required to keep a certain percentage of their funds in a Archdiocesan account that the Archdiocese borrows on and makes investments with.
Then there is the fact that Fr Higgins is the Dean of our Deanery and pastor of the merged parish. Is this conflict of interest? As he has said many times “I thought there should be a Catholic Church in Frankford, but the Archdiocese didn’t think there should be”. Why would he say that if he didn’t feel it was right or if he thought our Church could not be supported? One would thinks as the Dean he would say “I think there should be a Catholic Church in Frankford and I am going to fight for one”. This is about obedience. The Archbishop likes to used this word especially with initial contact with us. The clergy with important positions know they have to be obedient to look good in front of their boss and keep those positions of power, potentially even move up. In 2011 now retired Msgr. Rodgers who was the mastermind behind the PPA process said “The role of the Deans is to offer a better means of communication between the Archbishop, the priest and the people”. This quote is very telling. We are told what to do from communication handed down from our Archbishop never having a chance to participate in this process or in communication with the Dean and then Archbishop. This is the PPA process in a nutshell.
I was told to my face in this meeting that “There are very few Catholics in Frankford”, that “The Parish was on life support”, that “There will be no cooperation or collaboration as long as there is an active appeal”, that “We are not going to have people look over our shoulders” , that “Lots of time and money has been wasted on this appeal”, and “Don’t continue”. Well, our ancestor’s legacy, our history, our spiritual life and our neighborhood is too important to not continue.
Father Judge High School has been a prominent fixture in Northeast Philadelphia since 1954. My husband, Bob, attended Father Judge as well. It’s interesting to note that Father Judge’s boundaries were broadened in 1957 to help reach their enrollment of 3500 students and that’s how Bob attended Father Judge while both his older and younger brother went to North! He’s always been the man in the middle!!
Not so much is commonly known about Father Judge. But he believed in the power of the laity and that we are the ones to “Do Good! Be Good! Be a Power for Good!”. The Church needs to focus on the laity as the center of a circle, if you will, with the clergy being the outer part of the circle. A circle symbolizes unity, cohesiveness, respect. Father Judge saw the great potential when the laity were viewed as real partners with the clergy in carrying out the missionary spirit of the Church.
Earlier this month, Pope Francis raised the question of why so many people are leaving the faith. Read about it in this article, “Pope Francis and the Catholic Crisis”. In this article, you’ll find links back to a meditation from Pope Francis during Advent last year, explaining that by the power of Baptism, we are called to be prophets. That’s right, you and me and everyone else who is baptized. Pope Francis’ meditation from Dec. 16, 2013 – “The Eye That Is Opened”.
Pope Francis concluded his homily recommending “a prayer over the course of these days, as we prepare for the celebration of the Lord’s birth”. He prayed to the Lord that prophets not be lacking among his people: “All of us who are baptized are prophets. Lord, may we not forget your promise; may we never grow weary of going forward; may we never close ourselves in through a legality that closes doors. Lord, free your people from the spirit of clericalism and come to their aid through your spirit of prophecy”.
So, as we reflect on these final days of Advent, what can you and I do to more fully develop our powers of prophecy and to do and be the good in our world so desperately in need of our gifts and talents? How does this influence the work we do to reopen St. Joachim? How do we be a “Power for Good” as the Catholic presence in Frankford?
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
We 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!