O Lord, St. Joachim People Are Grateful and Blessed!

Over the weekend, we learned the process will begin this month to relegate St. Joachim Church and rectory in Frankford to profane use and that will enable it to be put up for sale.

Here we are in July 2020 and if this were a regular year, we would be getting ready  for our St. Joachim & St. Ann(e) Annual Feast Day Mass! But we know this is not a regular year!

St. Joachim closed and merged with Holy Innocents in July 2013. We know that Mater Dolorosa closed and merged, too, as did St. Joan of Arc, which has remained as an active Worship Site. Ascension was already a part of Holy Innocents Parish.

My intent is not to bring up the pros and cons of the PPA or to rehash what was an injustice and a wrong for us and for so many of the faithful throughout the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

I want to talk about what was right. St. Joachim is us; we are St. Joachim! We are the Catholic Church of Frankford. We are the Catholic community that stayed together – then and now. Keep the Faith in Frankford led the appeal effort to give us time – to do good in the community, to pray to Our Lady of the Locked Gates and to Padre Pio! Our prayers and so many others were heard.

It is unthinkable that a Church, especially in an urban diocese gets a new lease on life. But, thanks to the Capuchin Franciscans of the St. Augustine Province, we did. In 2016, they bought the former IHM convent for their, yes, Padre Pio Friary and have used the Church as the Padre Pio Prayer Center. What I am thinking is that Padre Pio may want them to annex the Church as well. St. Padre Pio, what do you think?

We are grateful to the Lord for these extra years of being able to celebrate Him within the walls of St. Joachim! He has blessed us, just like Lazarus, bringing us back from shuttered doors.

We’re grateful to former Archbishop Chaput! In the end, the Archbishop has to give the okay for whatever happens in the Archdiocese. Without his approval, the sale of the convent and arrival of the Capuchins would never have been. The Archbishop, too, had a daunting task when he arrived in Philadelphia. Thank you, Archbishop Chaput!

Father Tom (Higgins), Pastor, Holy Innocents Parish, from the beginning, was willing to meet with us and talk with us. We didn’t always get what we wanted but he never totally shut the door to us! Father was honest with us and very much in a very difficult position. I know Father worked very hard trying to find a way to re-open St. Joachim. We have got to balance our budgets; Father has his. As the years have passed, Father Tom has been more of a friend to us rather than as an adversary. We never saw him in that light but I’m sure he must have felt that way. Father was very receptive to new ideas and efforts to honor those buried in our cemetery and those still above. Thank you, Father Tom!

You may wonder why I can say we are grateful and blessed! But it’s because we are! It’s because of what we mean to each other! We have a special bond that nothing on earth can break. That will never change! The news of the possible relegation to profane use and sale hits the heart like a heat-seeking missile. But I also know that it’s not over yet! It will take time!

We had our one miracle; I don’t doubt the possibility of another. Going forward let us be the people of hope, diversity and faith! Whatever God’s plan is for St. Joachim and for us, it will be special! Because you and Frankford are special!

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.