Thursday, February 4, 2010

Part of Gray's Ferry in Dixie!

Growing up in Gray’s Ferry had its great spiritual benefits. Living within a cluster of 3 parishes, all within walking distance made going to Sunday Mass an easily attainable ritual. With Saint Gabriel Church, King of Peace Church and Saint Aloysius Church all within the boundaries of Saint Gabriel Parish, the other two were designated as an Italian-National Parish, and a German-National Parish respectively.
All of the Gray’s Ferry Diaspora knows the story of urban decay that hit Gray’s Ferry in the 1960’s onward. As a direct result Saint Aloysius Parish & King of Peace Parish were originally, “twinned” with Saint Gabriel Parish. They were both given the politically correct title of “alternative worship sites.” Well, that did not last long and both parishes were closed because of declining parishioners and rising costs of buildings maintenance.
With the closure, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia quite literally, “dry-docked,” these parishes and sold off their interiors for the use of other parishes throughout the United States. The official title of the office at 222 North 17th Street is the Office for Special Projects and Closures. Its purpose is to dispose of religious materials properly, so no Catholic materials end up in a Ruby Tuesday’s, TGI Fridays or some other ridiculous place. One of the companies in the Unites States that works closely with the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is King Richard’s ( ), located in Georgia. They work with parishes that are closing and try to relocate various materials from suppressed parishes to parishes that are looking to build a new church or are refurbishing their old church.
All of the wandering Catholics from Saint Aloysius Church will be happy to know that their old altar has been recycled into a newly built church in the Arlington Diocese, Saint Theresa’s Parish ( On the site are photographs of the newly built church with the former altar and angels from Saint Aloysius prominently serving as the Altar of Reservation for the Blessed Sacrament.
I spoke via email with the pastor yesterday and sent him some photographs of Saint Aloysius Church. He was very happy to know where the materials had come from. I also told him that the Gray’s Ferry, St. Al’s crowd might just be coming to visit the new church to say a few prayers, especially if they travel to Dixie during summer vacation. He was happy to know the Gray’s Ferry bus might be coming!
On a more serious note, I did request that he celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass at the Altar and remember all of the faithful members of Saint Aloysius Parish in Gray’s Ferry that worked very hard to provide such a beautiful altar for their church, which now serves the people of St. Theresa’s Parish.
While I am not making a commercial, if any Gray’s Ferrites are inclined to request Masses at Saint Theresa’s Parish for the departed members of Saint Aloysius’ Parish, I’m sure they would be happy to celebrate the Sacred Liturgy for our past generations of Saint Aloysius most colorful residents. The email and address of Saint Theresa’s is on their website, (
On a point of theology, we as Catholics share in the Mystical Body of Christ through our lives and the Sacraments. This participation is one that transcends our concept of earthly time and space. Our Eucharistic Celebration remembers everyone, from the past, in the present and in the Church future as part of the People of God.
The use of materials from a closed parish, specifically Saint Aloysius in Philadelphia at a new place of Catholic liturgical worship illustrates the true transcendence of our Catholic Sacraments and faith in Christ Jesus. The inclusion of old altars into a new church is a magnificent example of the Church’s constant life and development towards the Kingdom of God.
Reuse of altars from Saint Aloysius Parish unites the parishioners of Saint Theresa’s Parish in Ashburn, Virginia in a mystical manner that gives us all a unique perception of our unity through the Holy Eucharist that survives even when the bricks, mortar and materials used in our old parishes are transformed into new, “living stones” of Catholic faith.
Best wishes to the Parish of Saint Theresa. Hopefully your parish will last over 100 years as Saint Aloysius’ Parish existed. Remember our faithful ancestors of Gray’s Ferry when you celebrate the Eucharist in Ashburn, Virginia. Deo Optimo Maximo!


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