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!!

 

 

 

What Church Really Is – A Consecrated Building But, Most Importantly, Consecrated People!

joachims closed copy

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 Frankford mapworld 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 IMG_5982about 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.

Cornerstone

Cornerstone for the new church in 1874

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.

You Don’t Want to Miss This Event!

What’s the hottest ticket in town? No, it’s not along the Avenue of the Arts! It’s the ticket for tonight’s presentation at the Historical Society of Frankford, 1507 Orthodox St. See you there! The most fun for $5 you can have anywhere!!!!

HSF September 2014 program half page

Keep the Faith in Frankford Hosts Saint Joachim Get Together and Free Pasta Dinner

This Sunday, May 18th, at 2 PM and 4 PM, Keep the Faith in Frankford is hosting all interested Saint Joachim parishioners for a Get Together and Free Pasta Dinner. Below are the details! Hope to see you there!

SJ Spaghetti DinnerYearly Reflections 2

 

 

 

Has Your Church Closed or Merged? Are You Under Study Now?

We, the parishioners of St. Joachim in Frankford, have learned that there are system-wide flaws in the Archdiocesan Parish Pastoral Planning Process! Please join us for a rally on Thursday, March 20, to ask the Archbishop to redo this process. Here is more information. See you Thursday!

 

PPA rally

 

 

 

 

Sharon Browning Presents a Lenten Evening Not To Be Missed!

lent image smallAs you know, Keep the Faith in Frankford, has many active committees working to continue and promote the Catholic presence in Frankford. Our Rebuilding the Parish committee has engaged Sharon Browning, a local retreat faciliatator and spiritual guide and teacher, who will present an evening titled “Our Hearts Are Restless; Embracing the Lenten Journey!”  To learn more about Sharon, please check out her website, JUST Listening.

This time of year can be so filled with energy and new life, not simply because we are excited about spring, but as we travel and relive the last days of Jesus here on earth, it offers us an opportunity for us to experience new life and a “resurrection” from self. Jesus has called us to conversion – not to think about ourselves – but what gifts we are able to share with others! Matthew 22:1 says “Love your neighbor as yourself”. We can forget that we must first of all, show ourselves the love and compassion that recognizes that we are beloved children of God. Then, we reflect that love and compassion to all we meet. Then, we are fully alive and sharing in the mission of Jesus! We are creating a better world for all!

Please join us! Bring your family and friends for what is sure to be a rewarding evening! Please share this information and all are welcome to attend. We look forward to seeing you!

Sharon Browning flyer

Smileys Unable to Accept Merger Plan So Removed From St. Joachim’s Transition Team

Father Thomas Higgins, Pastor of Holy Innocents, reached out to Bob and Pat Smiley, the Transition Team representatives from St. Joachim. The Smileys were invited to meet with Father Higgins at the parish rectory. We met today. The beginning of the meeting was very cordial with Father asking how everything was going and we asking about his work. Father shared with us, as he has said from the beginning, that he believed there should be a Catholic presence, a church, in Frankford.

This pastoral planning process was long and arduous for all. That we can all agree on! Father told the Smileys that he had made two proposals himself suggesting first that St. Joachim merge at Mater Dolorosa and St. Joan of Arc at Holy Innocents. When that was not accepted, Father tried again with St. Joachim and Mater Dolorosa merging with St. Bartholmew and St. Joan of Arc merging with Holy Innocents. Again, that was not accepted. The Smileys thanked Father for his efforts and believe that someone in the Archdiocese will have the wisdom to overturn this unfair and unjust decision.

JuniataAs it became clear that the Smileys would not cease trying to “Keep the Faith in Frankford” by keeping one Church open in Frankford, Father expressed concerns that the Smileys would not be able to truly “be on the same page” with Father and the rest of the Transition Team. The Smileys, especially Pat, restated their committment to helping in this important process while acknowledging that, according to Father, we wanted the same thing, a Catholic presence in Frankford. Pat Smiley asked if either Smiley had done anything to warrant or cause these feelings. Emails Father has received from the Archbishop, Monsignor Rodgers and the latest article from the “Juniata News” titled “St. Joachim Parishioners Want to ‘Keep the Faith in Frankford’ by Keeping Their Church Open are evidence of the successful efforts that St. Joachim parishioners and supporters have demonstrated regarding the unfair and unjust decision to close St. Joachim. Father indicated that we were not accepting of the Archdiocesan decision to merge our parish. Father felt this gap was too big to be able to be bridged and he was not comfortable with the Smileys remaining on the Transition Team. As of today, the Smileys are no longer on the Transition Team. The Smileys expressed regret that Father felt this way and wish the entire Transition Team and staff of Holy Innocents only the best and many blessings on their efforts.

 

 

 

 

 

The Spirit is With Us!

spiritHello, all! Much has been happening behind the scenes and I really appreciate your patience. I have not been able to share this simply because of time and wanting to give you the full story.

As you know, we began today what I feel is one of the most important things we can do to get the attention of the Archbishop and our ecclesiastical hierarchy. That is to “demonstrate” by physically walking for what we believe in, in effect, picketing.

I went to the Archdiocesan office building yesterday to let them know we were coming. The Information Office is staffed by two very kind people who understood our sincerity and desire just to express our views and share information with those entering and leaving the building as well as those passing by.

You’ll remember that I had posted that we would be demonstrating Monday – Friday from 11:00 AM until 1:00 PM downtown, Sundays at the 6:30 PM Mass that the Archbishop says at the Basilica, and that we would greet him as he traveled within the Archdiocese. That meant going to Downingtown on Saturday at 4:00 PM for the rededication of St. Joseph’s Church there. We had volunteers at the ready.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   

You have been heard! The Archdiocese is listening!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

WE ARE NOT GOING TO DOWNINGTOWN! WE ARE NOT GOING TO DOWNINGTOWN! SPREAD THAT WORD FAR AND WIDE! WE ARE NOT GOING TO DOWNINGTOWN!

Yesterday, I received a phone call from Fr. Steve, who received a phone call from Monsignor Kutys, Vicar General and Moderator of the Curia, who received a call from the Archbishop in California to ask us to please respect the celebration of those at St. Joseph’s. To show their good faith and acknowledge that we have been effective, Monsignor Rodgers, Coordinator of Archdiocesan Planning Initiatives, came out to greet me today. We spoke for at least one-half hour and covered our reasons that St. Joachim needs to stay as a full parish. If you know me, you know that I am more of a talker than a listener and this was our opportunity to make a good case – in a good way. In good faith, I agreed to respect the celebration scheduled for the people of St. Joseph’s. Monsignor talked about the idea that parish reorganization was to insure sustainability of our parishes. I did counter with the fact that no one knows the future and that the fact we are “small” has not kept us from making a “big” impact within the neighborhood in large part because of Father Steve and the 15th Police District. So many people have had contact with St. Joachim and our spirit of community. For those of you who remember Mary Teat, Monsignor would have tea with her and he said that’s probably what he would be doing now. I said that she probably wouldn’t give him any cake to go with that tea because of these announced closings. God bless you, Mary!  

As we finished talking, Monsignor had to leave to hear confessions, but as Pastor of the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, he let me know that the Archbishop greets those who attend Sunday Mass there. He invited us to come. We can make the best of the good faith that we have engendered in the style of the way we have opposed the closing of our churches. We will not picket on Sunday but we will wear our badges and sit together. We hope to have our chance to greet the Archbishop.

We are demonstrating on Friday (tomorrow could be questionable due to the weather but Tina, Barbara and Mary may go – remember I can’t).

Shortly before we were finished downtown, I received a call from Father Higgins, Pastor of Holy Innocents, asking Bob and I to come to a meeting on Friday afternoon. I don’t know what it’s about and it might be related to our transition. You know I will inform you.

We are meeting tomorrow night at 7 PM at Church. This meeting to open to anyone who wants to actively help us in our efforts to show that St. Joachim, though a church building, brings the Church to our neighbors. We will be planning new strategies!

We will meet again after the 10:30 PM Mass! We must keep pressure on! We can’t let up!

Because of the Archdiocese’s efforts to reach out to us through several highly placed Monsignors, you have had an effect. We have stayed together, united and purposeful. Keep the Faith in Frankford! Keep working to spread the Good News of St. Joachim!