I think this quote is true of all people and that’s why I have been thinking a lot about change. Our lives change daily with the dawn of a new day! Sometimes, we’re not even aware that something has changed until after it’s all done!!
Our spiritual lives greatly changed on July 1, 2013. What have we learned since St. Joachim and Mater Dolorosa, St. Joan of Arc and Ascension were merged into Holy Innocents?
More confirmation that nothing stays the same. God’s love and call is a constant beckoning for us to change, to grow closer to Him, to be more like Him. However you answer that call is between you and God.
Wherever you find yourself as you cope with change, we learned a lot since 2013. We learned that:
Our Parishes were pretty much “stand alone islands” and that made it more difficult to support and help each other;
The glory days of the Church in Philadelphia were long gone yet those years are exactly the ones we yearned for;
Religion can both unite and divide us;
Being taught that “We are one Body in Christ” doesn’t make it so;
We had the responsibility and the duty to “Keep the Faith in Frankford” and to preserve it as best we could;
The faith of the laity suffered but true faith is enduring; we better appreciated the efforts of those who built these parishes and paid for these parishes and we would not let them down;
Money talks – even in our houses of worship; and
Still, as we sing a favorite hymn, “All Are Welcome”, are they really?
We are the Church and if we expect the Church to change, we have to change, hard as it is. We have to be vulnerable, to open our hearts and to invite others in. If we look at our Patron’s statue, his hand is out-stretched and he is in motion, stepping out in greeting.
I started thinking about all of this because this year, St. Joachim’s Annual Feast Day Mass will be bi-lingual which it should have been. Even here in Chincoteague, I’ve been told and I sense that some people may not attend because of this. Or they will attend grudgingly but at least they will attend.
Another reality recently shared with me was after last week’s English Mass at St. Joan of Arc, Father Higgins had a meeting with folks to tell them that the attendance at both the English Mass and the Spanish Mass had dropped off. He would allow them time to build up Mass participation until Advent and if not, a real possibility of those Masses being stopped. It wouldn’t be easy, the right things to do never are, but if those folks don’t try to come together, both will lose. Today, we need every prayer we can get!
We’re not going to have a longer Mass because it’s bi-lingual but we are going to have a celebration together to include St. Joachim’s rich diversity. With more time of planning, I could have included even more cultures, our African American, Asian, and other brothers and sisters to truly be a multi-cultural Mass. God-willing, we will have time for that. Keep the Faith in Frankford’s motto is, “We believe our diversity is our community’s greatest strength”. Together, we can build the kingdom of God.
We are trying something new. We are trying to change. We are trying to be the people who have answered God’s call to serve each of His “beloved children of God! We are trying to mean what we say when we sing “All Are Welcome” in this place.
Our 4th Annual Community Spirit Day Honoring Al Stark, Jr. will take place Saturday, October 14, 2017 from 10:00 AM – 2:00 PM at St. Mark’s Church Parking Lot, 4442 Frankford Avenue.
Al Stark, Jr., longtime Frankford resident, was devoted to his family and to his Church – St. Joachim. Al believed in asking questions and righting injustices whenever or wherever he saw them. He used his energies for a better Frankford! Al set a high bar with his example. Sadly, he passed away during our efforts to reopen St. Joachim. I hope he is as proud of us as we are of him. In fact, if you look at the header picture on our website, Al is in the yellow shirt.
If you would like to volunteer to help us with this event or to donate needed items, please click this link, Planning Sheets, for an updated list of needs – both people and supplies. Thank you so much and God bless you!
For 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!!
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.
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 gather 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 “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!
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.
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.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 tenants 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!!
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!
Bad 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.
God 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.
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!