Category: people

Mary Alice McLaughlin

An historic marker at The Woodlands Cemetery (40th and Woodland) celebrates achievements of Alice Fisher and S. Lillian Clayton, two prominent historic figures in the field of Nursing, but tucked into a quiet corner nearby (N190-192 on the VA side of the cemetery) is another nursing figure with an SFDS connection and local roots who also deserves some recognition.

A 1978 history of the Philadelphia General Hospital (PGH) School of Nursing describes Mary Alice McLaughlin as “a tall woman, stately and immaculate in uniform…she possessed a combination of dignity, strength of purpose and total professionalism blended with patience, fairness, and compassion.” Today, she should be remembered for her efforts to improve nursing education in a time when few universities were interested, and hospitals – including PGH — operated nursing schools, mostly just to take advantage of the student labor.Dedicated to her vocation, it was said that Mary “never lost interest in her students’ welfare despite the terrible physical ordeals she suffered” in a long, ultimately fatal bout with breast cancer.

Mary received her diploma from Pennsylvania General Hospital in 1930 (the city’s public hospital, once part of Blockley Almshouse, which operated until 1977 on property now shared by HUP, CHOP, and the VA). A firm believer in continuing education for nurses, she became “the first student to register in the newly formed Department of Nursing Education at the University of Pennsylvania, receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in 1940.” For sixteen years, she worked as Assistant Director of Nursing Service at PGH, then Assistant Director in charge of Nursing Education, before becoming Director of the School of Nursing and Nursing Service from 1949 until her death at age 44.

Throughout her professional life, Mary labored to get nursing recognized as a serious career: “It was at her instigation that the first program in Pennsylvania to train Licensed Practical Nurses was begun.” In 1950, she pushed through a rigorous evaluation, so that the PGH School of Nursing achieved full academic accreditation with a curriculum centered around training nurses in effective patient care,teaching disease prevention and health education, and developing students’ “ability to adjust to all nursing situations.” In pediatric wards, student nurses learned ordinary child behavior expectations, as well as how to deal with “blindness and other specialized problems…” (the children’s department at PGH was equipped with top-of-the-line Isolettes – incubators piping pure oxygen to aid premature babies’ breathing. The archdiocesan St. Lucy School for the Blind would be founded across the street from SFDS in 1955 to fill an important need after it was realized that pure oxygen saved babies but had become a prime cause of childhood blindness!). Professional training also opened new horizons: a course on Professional Adjustments, “once intended to teach only professional courtesies,” was “redesigned to help seniors adjust to a career that could take them far away from friends and advisors.”

In addition to improving nursing education, Mary worked to make studying at PGH more attractive: for years, she advocated with the hospital board so that “finally, in 1950, students again received a stipend of $15 monthly from the city – a practice that had been discontinued during the Depression years” and more scholarships were made available.  She also “boosted student morale greatly by allowing seniors to go into white shoes and stockings. They must have felt they were almost full-fledged nurses!” and “interns and student nurses all joined in the fun of burning black shoes and stockings, or else draping them in rather surprising places around the hospital grounds, as soon as the intermediate year ended.” Seniors received special curfew privileges. As a sign of changing times, students were also “permitted a moderate amount of makeup and were allowed to wear shorts on the tennis court.”

Sadly, nursed through her last days “by those who loved and respected her.” Mary finally succumbed to her disease. She had attended All Saints Chapel at PGH, (which, incidentally, had its rectory at 3951 Baltimore Ave.), and also St. Francis de Sales with her mother, Mrs. Catherine McLaughlin, who lived at 4619 Chester Ave. She was buried at the Woodlands from St. Francis de Sales in 1954.

Priest Bails Out of Falling Jet

 “Priest Bails Out of Falling Jet, Lands in Tree – Gets to Wedding.” Was it the sensational news headline that distracted from the original research subject on the same page, or was it the oddly familiar name of the adventurous priest, Captain Cornelius F. McLaughlin?

Rev. McLaughlin   tells his tale to the newlyweds

It took a minute to place that distinctive name, then memory clicked with a smile on a small boy in a whimsical 1928 Parish Monthly Bulletin account of a children’s movie outing https://sfdshistory.wordpress.com/2018/08/06/a-trip-to-the-movies/ quoted in a history column a few years ago. “Bad Boy Brady…in the Third Grade at SFDS School,” had reported that “We all met at the school…and marched over to the Belmont Theatre on Fifty-second and Market Street…Me and Joe Rody and Cornelius McLaughlin (then about 11 years old) walked over together, and talked about marbles and baseball players. Joe said he wants to be an outfielder like Al Simmons, but Cornelius said he wants to help his father on the Ice Cream truck...” Cornelius popped up a few other times in other 1920s bulletins – in lists of altar boys, and school awards, and writing his own thank you for another movie treat

If he could have looked forward in time, young Cornelius might have been surprised by his future career and amazed by his calamitous adventure – a real-life caper as exciting as any of the movies he enjoyed!

On June 3, 1956, the Inquirer reported that Air Force chaplain Captain Cornelius McLaughlin (then age 39) was on his way from Sioux Falls IA, where he was stationed, to officiate at his cousin Barbara Coyle’s marriage to Edward Norbert Dooling in St. Alice’s Church, Upper Darby, PA, when his pilot realized that their T-33 jet trainer was running out of fuel. “Shortly thereafter, the pilot bailed out, having satisfied himself that his passenger had done likewise.” The jet crashed near Pine Bush, NY just before midnight, and “no-one knew what had happened to Father McLaughlin. It was 5:30 AM when police finally got a telephone call from the missing priest” who “had spent the intervening hours up a tree – trying to extricate himself from the harness of his parachute. Then came the breakneck race to get to Philadelphia in time for the 10 AM ceremony.” Would he make it? The Inquirer noted the first hurdle: “When New York State police picked up Father McLaughlin he was clad only in coveralls, the normal ‘uniform’ for jet flight…” so “he would have to obtain proper vestments, and quickly…After a few inquiries, the Rev. James Dalsey, of the Epiphany College in Newburgh, was willing and able to supply them…” Others helped as the race continued: “Police took him to Stewart Air Force Base at Newburgh, NY. There an obliging operations officer got Father McLaughlin a seat on a (C-47) transport plane just about to take off on a training flight. The transport landed at the International Airport here just four minutes after 10 AM. Father McLaughlin’s brother, Patrolman Martin M. McLaughlin, of the Upper Darby Police, met him there and sped him to St. Alice’s Church.”

But, as the Inquirer sadly noted, “yesterday was the first Saturday in June. At St. Alice’s, there was a wedding scheduled for 10 AM, another scheduled for 11 AM and still another scheduled for noon. Fifteen minutes was the maximum delay permissible under the circumstances. So the ceremony was already under way…when the McLaughlin brothers arrived at the church. Father McLaughlin entered the sanctuary and quietly took a seat there while Father Nolan, assistant rector of the church, performed in his stead.” All was forgiven, though, when Father McLaughlin attended the Wedding Breakfast and told his story!

Who was Cornelius McLaughlin? Baptized at SFDS in 1917, one of five children of William and Margaret McLaughlin, his family lived at 5028 Beaumont Street. He graduated from SFDS School and West Catholic High School, before entering St. Charles Seminary. McLaughlin was ordained at the Cathedral in 1945 by Bishop Hugh Lamb (who was, at the time, pastor of SFDS) and served at several parishes in the archdiocese before becoming a chaplain in the U.S. Air Force in 1952. Father McLaughlin served in the Air Force during the Korean War and remained on active duty for 20 years, earning several awards. He retired to San Diego, died in 1995, and is buried back here in PA, at Holy Cross Cemetery.

The Big Picture

This history column usually focuses on the single “planet” that is our parish, showing how it fits into the “solar system” of our immediate neighborhood. Every now and then, though, it’s good to step back and look beyond our single point of light, to the whole sky and the many galaxies beyond our view that form our universe – and the many cultures and communities that form the wider Catholic Church, of which we are such a small part. And in that, Sister Gertrude Borres is our key!

Sister Gertrude, of the Religious of the Assumption – in the convent across the street from the church – was named Director of the Archdiocesan Office for Pastoral Care for Migrants and Refugees in 2019 – just before the Covid pandemic hit — and has been working steadily ever since, through crisis after crisis, with different waves of immigrants and migrants. Her mission is two-fold: working with Catholic Social Services to connect people with resources to take care of their physical needs (loss of jobs, healthcare during covid, documentation, etc.), and, also, to help people feel welcomed by recognizing that “language, culture, and customs are important” and it’s vital to “nurture faith as lived.” Her office currently supports chaplains saying Mass in seventeen different languages other than English or Spanish – and embraces the rich diversity of customs and traditions that anchor and enrich Catholic experiences around the world – from Asia and the South Pacific to Europe, Africa, and the Americas.

How has our parish intersected with Sister Gertrude’s work?

As the Afghan crisis unfolded, Sister Gertrude says, when Catholic Social Services welcomed about fifty Afghans arriving in Philadelphia, her role was to support and help with resettlement. When a family who moved to our neighborhood wanted to send their children to St. Francis de Sales School, she went to Father Eric, who went to Sister Mary McNulty, and among them, they arranged for this to happen. Parishioners contributed to help cover tuition. The parents then needed to learn English, so Sister Kathy Benham, IHM, was also looped in, and the parents began to attend English as a Second Language classes at the IHM Literacy Center.

Ukraine is currently immersed in an ongoing war and conflict. The Ukrainian Catholic Archeparchy is Orthodox Catholic and has its own support organization, so Sister Gertrude’s efforts have focused on spiritual solidarity and the understanding that there is little we can do physically to help, but “it strengthens them to know that people are praying for them.” The Zoom Novena Pilgrimage that just ended – a joint effort with the local Ukrainian Church, in which, each night, participants learned the story of one city and the impact of war – cultivated empathy for people in Ukraine who, she notes, in their suffering, “are experiencing the passion of Christ.” The Taizé Prayer Service at our parish, at the end of the novena, strengthened the newly-forged bonds with the Ukrainian community and the sense of sharing in the same mission.

On World Communications Day, Pope Francis compared the church to a choir, in which “unity does not require uniformity, monotony, but the plurality and variety of voices…” He hopes to “rediscover a symphonic Church, in which each person is able to sing with his or her own voice, welcoming the voices of others as a gift to manifest the harmony of the whole that the Holy Spirit composes.” Sister Gertrude who is herself a migrant, born and raised in the Philippines, feels that the role of her office is to “make the big church closer to the migrants and refugees.” Here at SFDS, she would like to “open us to not only our little world but to the universality of the church and our parish mission expressed right there in our title, as ‘United by the Most Blessed Sacrament’!” Let the dialogue begin!

The End of the Honeymoon

The 1930s are mostly remembered for the dreary slog of the Great Depression, the end of the national alcohol Prohibition experiment, and the dangerous rise of fascism around the world. But many personal milestones were also marked during the era – some with joy, some with sadness, and some in now-forgotten news headlines.

On September 1, 1934, our parish records show Reverend Toye officiating at the wedding of Joseph A. Drummond (of 3450 “F” Street) and Madeline Claire Finn (of 4618 Chester Ave.) M. Claire’s twin sister Marian was among the witnesses. A few hours later, following a wedding breakfast at the Hotel Normandie (366h and Chestnut), the couple went by train to New York City, to board a fateful honeymoon cruise.

The Morro Castle cruise ship was one of many “party boats” which had originated during the 1920s, to get around the Prohibition laws. The cruises sailed from New York City to Havana, Cuba, in two and a half days, spent two days there, then returned. It must have seemed like a perfect honeymoon: exotic travel with a hint of danger; cocktails, dining, and entertainment; ocean, tropics, moonlight, and a touch of luxury – all in one short jewel-like week.

The Drummonds enjoyed the first part of their trip, sending postcards home from Havana saying they were having a “swell time.” Cuba was an interesting place: historians note that “The period from 1933 to 1937 was a time of ‘virtually unremitting social and political warfare’” but the travelers were largely cocooned from the troubles.

A first hint of disturbance came when the ship’s Captain Willmott, who had seemed preoccupied, complained of indigestion after dinner on the last night of the cruise. Shortly afterwards, he died of an apparent heart attack. The evening dance was canceled out of respect. Then, somewhere near the coast of Asbury Park NJ, fire erupted, possibly in two separate places onboard, and the acting captain and his crew discovered that the mechanisms on half of the attractively-decorated lifeboats were clogged with dried paint, and couldn’t be lowered.

Gale force winds whipped up an inferno. The Catholic Standard related a survivor’s terrifying tale: “All the passengers were huddled together near the stern…There must have been 200 or more of us there. Most of them were half crazy with fear…Then…we saw Father Egan. He stood there outlined in flames…He raised his hands…and then he began to pray, while the passengers fell to their knees…Father Egan gave general absolution and then the fire got so close we all had to jump…” The NY priest would be among those rescued, but at least 134 people died, and many others were injured.

The Drummonds gave a short interview from a hospital in NY, recalling that “as the flames crept upon them they jumped hand-in-hand into the water. The impact of the water knocked Drummond unconscious” but he retained a bruising grip on his wife’s wrist. They stayed together, and when a Cuban woman drifted up, crying for her children, “they undertook to hold her above water” for six hours until they became exhausted, and she flailed and drifted away to her death. A lifeboat picked them up an hour later.

Joseph Drummond had puzzled over one odd incident before they sailed from Cuba, when a young black boy tried to board and the captain “seemed very excited. After the boy was searched he was put off the boat.”  Disgruntled sailors sometimes tried to supplement poor pay by smuggling goods and stowaways. Passengers were unaware of labor problems making the captain particularly jittery on this trip; the chief radio operator’s police record of theft, terrorist threats, arson, and murder has since come under scrutiny.

A handful of melted rosary beads, later recovered from the Drummond cabin, were the couple’s honeymoon memento, as they settled near the church at 4516 Springfield Ave. — baptizing two children, Joseph Kevin Drummond in July 1935, and Brian “Cresson” Drummond in April 1939 – before disappearing into the mists of parish history.

Border Mission: Sister Kathy’s Tale

Sister Kathy delivers supplies

Sister Kathy Benham, of the IHM Literacy Center, was among the first to volunteer for the IHM Border Mission last year – a combined operation of the three separate Monroe, Scranton, and Philadelphia branches of IHM sisters, offering humanitarian assistance during the refugee surge at the U.S. southern border after President Biden’s inauguration. That she was among those first IHMs to go for three weeks starting in April 2021, was due to chance or the Holy Spirit: when Catholic Relief Services asked for women religious volunteers, many of her Literacy Center pupils were observing the month-long Muslim season of Ramadan — a time when class attendance tends to be erratic — so it seemed a reasonable time to be away!

Sister Kathy was actually on the committee that chose the relatively remote site of El Centro CA, diocese of San Diego, for the mission. She went down with Sister Mary Elaine Anderson of the Scranton IHM Sisters – a nice reunion, since they had met years before – to set up. There, the two sisters employed their special skills as religious – with a heritage of hospitality and a talent for organization — to build an efficient operation. Sister Mary Elaine, who was able to stay for the full three months of the mission, even found use for her art therapy training to help anxious children!

Sister Kathy reports that immigrants to El Centro did not stream in, steadily, in long processions, as in some other areas. Instead, they crept across the border quietly, one family at a time. Many were desperately poor. Most, at the time, were Brasilians, fleeing the repressive Bolsonaro regime, hoping to find humble jobs to feed their families.  They went west to California because they hoped it would be easier to get in. Picked up there by the U.S. Border Patrol, they had no idea what to expect, and, since the Brasilians often spoke only Portuguese – no Spanish or English – language was an extra challenge.

Immigrant families were split up just inside the U.S. border, with men sent to one facility, and women and children to another, for covid testing and paperwork. Those with covid were then moved into quarantine in a large motel at Holtzville. Those who tested negative were taken to El Centro. Boys over 18 years old were considered independent adults and generally sent back across the border to Mexico, which was an incomprehensible and unexpected tragedy to those accustomed to living together in big multigenerational families; most had no phones and no way to keep in touch. The rest had no idea what would happen next, so they were surprised, and sometimes moved to tears, when they were reunited on a bus, enroute to a motel room in El Centro, to be met with the relief of a welcoming smile, clean beds and a bathroom, and meals. Once there, they had 48 hours to contact relatives in the United States who could pay for their plane tickets, and to get to the airport. Sister Kathy and her fellow volunteers organized a clothing room to provide clothing (since shoelaces had been confiscated at the border, these were especially prized!); distributed meals; and, muddling along in a mixture of Spanish and google translate, helped their charges to work through the English-language airport bureaucracy. The airport was an hour away from El Centro, so the nuns and volunteers drove families there in vans supplied by Catholic Charities. A knowledgeable former border patrol officer wisely advised them to explain to the families that the long bumpy ride would take them to the faraway airport, since they were in unfamiliar remote territory, with people they didn’t know, who spoke a different language, and the families were stressed, terrified, and confused about everything happening outside their control.

Sister Kathy highlights the amazing efforts of Catholic Relief Services to make a real difference, and feels humbled by her experience.  Now, the IHMs hope to return to the border! They are in the planning stages for a combined mission of all three IHM groups and the related Sisters of Providence. The hope is to set up a permanent “unretreat” center – a place where volunteers can come, not for solitary soulful meditation, but to offer their time and energy to help others. They have also received funding from SOAR – the funding for retired IHM religious – which hopes to involve retired sisters who still want to contribute.

MBS Nativity

The Nativity scene that has graced the Rectory lawn in the Christmas season these past few years is a Most Blessed Sacrament Parish artifact with important St. Francis de Sales connections

The two-dimensional relief-carved Holy Family sculptures were commissioned by longtime MBS pastor, Father John Newns, in 1991. Aileen McGovern, wife of artist Bob McGovern, recalls that Father Newns “was renovating, and had old pews,” and that wood was used for the carvings. An accounting sheet lists these as MBS Upper Church pews, but the Lower Church was deconsecrated in 1987, and its furnishings put in storage, so that is also possible. In any case, Aileen recalls that “we chipped a lot of chewing gum off them” so the DNA of MBS – and generations of its young parishioners — is deeply embedded in that old oak.

The DNA of St. Francis de Sales Parish was in the blood of the artist, Bob McGovern, who was born into our parish in 1933, and whose family lived at 1239 Hansen St.  Bob attended the parish school, and was one of “Dooner’s Crooners” (Boys Choir under Choirmaster Albert Dooner). De Sales was central to his early development. Interviewing him in 2001, Robert Wuthnow wrote that “McGovern was still young when he recognized what he now calls ‘the double-edged scary and comforting business of spirituality’…the comforting part appeared in the daily and weekly religious rituals” that appealed to his poetic side – and SFDS had many of those. The scary side came in moments such as when “he remembers the nuns making him write ’I won’t talk in line’ in his notebook a thousand times, then going out in the rain, dropping his notebook, and seeing the words, written in soluble ink, disappear…” McGovern admitted to being a poor student at De Sales, more interested in art than academics. Monsignor Francis Carbine observes that McGovern’s artistic poetic sensibilities showed early at home: “As a young boy in the 1940’s, he drew a giant ear in chalk on Hansen Street in West Philadelphia. Next came a Christmas crèche made from wood of orange crates and grape boxes…

In 1947, at age 16, McGovern was struck with Polio and life instantly changed. Then attending West Philadelphia Public High School, he had to drop out and be tutored at home, “but through a state disability program was soon able to attend art school. ‘It was magical.’” Sally Downey reported that “He was encouraged to pursue his art and, while wearing full braces on both legs and using crutches, he commuted from his home to the Philadelphia College of Art, now the University of the Arts. Later he learned to drive a car with hand controls. After graduating from what is now the University of Arts, he was invited to join the faculty. For the next 43 years, he taught freshmen drawing and design as well as printmaking and other courses until retiring in 1999”

Bob continued to live in the neighborhood as an adult. Parishioner John Deady recalls visiting him at his parents’ house, at 4807 Kingsessing, where “he must have had a studio upstairs. I remember staying in the living room with his parents” while he printed an artwork. “Felt badly as I believe he was wearing braces and had to go up and down the stairs.” After Bob married Beverly at SFDS in 1963, the young McGoverns moved into the apartment house then owned by the Parish, on 47th Street between the convent and the Little School. Later, they moved to a more accessible place with a studio in Narberth – where Bob stayed after Beverly died and he married Aileen (also at SFDS!) in 1971. Bob and Aileen ultimately became members of both St Malachy and St, Margaret of Antioch in Narberth, so they had many church connections.

When Bob McGovern passed away in 2011, Lou Baldwin wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer: “So vast a number of McGovern’s woodcarvings, sculptures, wood and linoleum cuts, paintings and watercolors adorn churches, institutions and major museums in the Philadelphia Archdiocese and across the country (and Father Eric’s office) that his epitaph could well imitate that of Sir Christopher Wren in St. Paul’s Cathedral, London: ‘If you seek his monument look around you.’’” We are privileged to be a part of his story.

Bob McGovern

Seasonal Anniversaries

The end of the year seems to be hard on priests! Ten of our seventeen pastors have died since our founding in 1890; and of those, seven have their anniversaries within the next few weeks. This year, oddly, many of the dates happen to fall on Sundays or holy days, which feels like a sign that we should take a few moments to reflect on their special contributions to our story.

Monsignor John T. Mitchell, our seventh pastor (1967-1976), died on November 25, 1981, so his anniversary falls on Thanksgiving Day this year. He came to de Sales from St. Saint Ignatius Parish, where he founded St. Ignatius Nursing Home and was known for his civil rights activism and efforts for the black community. At de Sales, focused on social ministry, he worked to hold the neighborhood together in a time of great societal changes. The controversial Venturi neon lights renovation happened during his tenure.

Sunday, November 28 commemorates Bishop Joseph Mark McShea, our fifth pastor (1952-1961; died 1991). Bishop McShea was the last of the three bishops to serve at SFDS. He grew up in the shadow of our dome: in his youth, he was altar server to Bishop Crane and his family home on Farragut Terrace was one of those knocked down to build the addition to the school. The lower church was refurbished by the Dagit firm during his tenure, and the dome was re-tiled in an unsuccessful attempt to stop leaks. He also established St. Lucy’s School for the Blind in the building that today houses the IHM Literacy Center. Bishop McShea went on to become the first Bishop of Allentown.

Reverend Monsignor Joseph J. Anderlonis S.T.D., our sixteenth pastor (2016-2019), saw the need for stability in the parish. He promised that he would never abandon us; he’d have to be “carried out feet first.” And so he was, on December 6, 2019 – the Feast of Saint Nicholas. Monsignor Joe was our Lithuanian connection, having spent much of his career at Saint George Parish. Learned and sociable, he encouraged book clubs and educational and social gatherings to help bring our diverse community together.

Bishop Hugh Lamb, our fourth pastor (1936-1951; died 1959) has his anniversary on Wednesday, December 8, Feast of the Immaculate Conception and the official closing day for this Year of Saint Joseph. The middle of the three SFDS bishops, he is remembered for radio broadcasts, expanding parish activities, paying off the parish debt, and overseeing the 1940 Parish Jubilee. He became first Bishop of Greensburg, in Western PA.

Reverend Edward L. Gatens, our third pastor (1929-1936; died 1955), is commemorated Sunday, December 19. Rev. Gatens came to us from Pottsville, where he was known for defiantly building a Catholic high school, with a bold cross-shaped window, on the hill where the anti-Catholic Ku Klux Klan liked to burn its crosses. He arrived at SFDS just in time for the Great Depression and struggled to minister to the many in need among his flock. Due to a debilitating chronic health issue, he resigned his post in 1936.

Sunday, December 26 belongs to Bishop Michael J. Crane, our second pastor (1903-1928), who built our church and opened the school. Consecrated in 1921, he was the first of the three bishops to serve at SFDS. In addition to the church, he also built the convent and the addition to the school. Bishop Crane is buried on the Rectory lawn.

January 5 celebrates Monsignor Francis J. Fitzmaurice, our eighth pastor (1976-1977; died 2004), who was also Parish Administrator 1973-1976, when Reverend Mitchell’s health began to fail. When Father Fitzmaurice wrote his memoir for the parish 100th Anniversary, he recalled two exciting events: the glorious Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia and a scary break-in at the rectory – both emblematic of that interesting era. He went on to become pastor of St. Laurence, Highland Park/Upper Darby.                

Through good times and bad, our intricate parish tapestry is woven from the unique threads contributed by our succession of pastors. We are who we are today, in part, because of them.

A Bell Named Edmond

St. Edmund of Abington shown in the Nuremberg Chronicle,

Who was Saint Edmund of Abington and why is one of our bells named after him, but with a different spelling?

Edmund was a 13th century British teacher of Mathematics and Dialectics (similar to Debate), who studied Theology, was ordained, and became celebrated for his integrity. Pope Gregory IX appointed him Archbishop of Canterbury, but he came into conflict with King and Pope over politics. He died while traveling in Poitingy, France, was buried there, and canonized in 1246 after miracles were reported at his grave. St. Edmund’s Hall Oxford, and St. Edmund’s College Cambridge in England were both named for him. Closer to home, the Society of St. Edmund, a religious order established in his name in France in 1843, moved to the U.S.in 1889, and became active in Alabama in the 1930s, supporting African Americans through the Civil Rights era. Today, the saint’s right arm relic is in a shrine near Mystic, CT – at St. Edmund’s Retreat, a house for all, including “those whose life experiences have alienated them from God and the Church.”

Philadelphia Archbishop
Edmond Francis Prendergast

Philadelphia’s Edmond name connection dates back to Archbishop Edmond Prendergast (Auxiliary Bishop 1897-1911; Archbishop 1911-1918), whose patron saint and inspiration was “St. Edmond of Abington” (which he spelled with an o) and who named a number of local institutions in the saint’s honor. Our Faith-Filled Heritage states that “in 1912 the archbishop founded Saint Edmond Parish in South Philadelphia and in 1914, a new residence building for students at Saint Charles Seminary was named Saint Edmond’s Hall. He also saw to the founding of Saint Edmond’s Home for Children, at 44th Street and Haverford Avenue. This home…was the first Catholic school in the United States to provide educational opportunities for severely handicapped youth.”

Bishop Prendergast was a fairly busy guy. According to Encyclopedia.com, in addition to his various Saint Edmond projects, “During his episcopate he increased the number of parishes from 297 to 327, provided parochial schools for 23,000 more children, erected the free West Catholic High School for boys, and opened the free Hallahan High School for girls… He opened the Archbishop Ryan Memorial for the Training of Deaf Mutes, the Madonna House for Italian immigrants, a similar home for the Spanish-speaking immigrants, St. Francis Country Home for Convalescents… a boarding home for working girls, and three new orphanages… He established the Catholic Home Bureau, sponsored the erection of the Misericordia Hospital, and provided a Catholic hospital for Allentown.. Under his direction the forerunner of the Newman Club was established at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia.

Reverend Michael Crane – our Second Pastor – knew the Archbishop well, having been his Assistant at St. Malachy’s Church from 1889 to 1903 – through the period when Reverend Prendergast was appointed the first Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia in 1897. When Reverend Crane, himself, became an Auxiliary Bishop at SFDS in 1921, the Catholic Standard reported that he paid homage: Bishop Crane’s chosen motto “‘Ut Sim Fidelis’ – ‘That I may be faithful’ – is the same as that of the Most Rev. Edmond F. Prendergast, D.D., the late, lamented Archbishop who departed this life on February 26, 1918.

Our church tower bells, installed in 1916, were called Adolph, Michael, Elizabeth, Anthony, Cecilia, Theresa, Edmond, John, Thomas, Maurice and Gervase. They were ostensibly named after saints, but the names also had other associations. Adolph probably referenced sculptor Adolfo de Nesti, who went missing that year; Michael would have been the pastor, Rev. Michael Crane; Elizabeth likely honored Elizabeth Lippe, donor of the bells; Gervase probably honored the pastor’s sibling, Mother Mary Gervase, IHM; and the bell named Edmond almost certainly honored the Archbishop.

Today, there’s another Edmond of note, perched in the choir loft by the bell tower: look up and wave to Edmond Collins after Mass, who manages our parish livestream video and Youtube channel along with Susanna Collins!

Find it here and please help by subscribing:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCkJF5ohnZQGikuhxV6OJV5w

The Bishop’s Feast

 Our second pastor, Reverend Michael J. Crane, was consecrated as a bishop one hundred years ago on September 19, 1921. Afterwards, he and his fellow priests celebrated with a grand feast. Some dishes seem ordinary now, but were exotic at the time. Some were chosen to surprise and delight. Today, the menu offers a portal into another age.

Celery was a status vegetable in the early 1900s — luxurious enough to be served in first-class cabins on the Titanic — and it appeared twice on the bishop’s menu: in Cream of Celery Soup and as an appetizer, probably served in a special-purpose dish.

Other pre-meal crunchies included olives and salted nuts – typically served with alcoholic beverages — which could hint at off-menu refreshments during Prohibition.  Radishes, also, are supposed to aid in “detoxing” the liver.

Braised Sweetbread” is a mystifying first course. Was it a favorite dish, a reminder of mother’s home cooking, or a nod to Irish heritage?  “Sweetbread” is a polite term for thymus or pancreas of calf or lamb – much more popular in Britain and Ireland, than in the United States. (Unconsciously ironic, since Bishop Crane was afflicted with a malfunctioning pancreas that caused his diabetes. The following year, Cardinal Dougherty would pull some strings to get his new bishop enrolled in a clinical trial of insulin on humans in Toronto, which saved his life for a few more years).

Rashers of bacon” and “Saratoga Chips” were next — both shown on the same menu line. “Saratoga Chips” was a fancy name for potato chips! Listing pig and potatoes together could have been another nod to the Bishop’s Irish heritage. It could also have referenced something closer: Saratoga, NY appears to have been a popular vacation spot for clergy (Rev. Francis O’Neill, after whom our parish may have been named, died there of a heart attack in 1882). Curiously, a town in Saratoga called “Bacon Hill,” had formerly been known as “Pope’s Corners” – which, if commonly known, could have made a good inside joke around the table of a newly-consecrated Bishop.

It’s a fair guess that “Long Island Duckling” was the closest that the menu planner could get to putting a crane on the table. Long Island was a center for raising Peking Ducks, which first arrived in this country in 1873; and duck with applesauce was a luxury dish (also served on the Titanic!).

For vegetables, Candied Sweet Potatoes, now often served at Thanksgiving, were a novelty, reportedly dating back just to 1917! Succotash – a mixture of corn and lima beans – was a traditional Thanksgiving dish in New England and upstate Pennsylvania. Bishop Crane was from Ashland, PA, and the occasion being celebrated was certainly one of thanksgiving.

The beverage accompanying the entree was “Punch A L’Évêque,” or “Bishop’s Punch.” Was it alcoholic? Unclear! The French name made the punch sound elegant and affords a cloak of ambiguity during Prohibition. Online recipes suggest it could have been a mixture of orange juice, lemon juice, and port. Bishop Crane was not a teetotaler, but Cardinal Dougherty, who publicly advocated against alcohol, is listed as a toastmaster at the event.

 “Filet Mignon Saint Michel” (St. Michael’s steak) was the entree at Bishop Michael Crane’s feast, and the reference seems self-explanatory, though the cut could, in theory, refer to beef (American) or Pork (French)!

Russian dressing” on the salad was trendy in 1921.The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink describes it as “a salad dressing made from mayonnaise, pimiento, chile sauce, green pepper, and chives. It is so called possibly because the mixture was thought to resemble those found in Russian salads, but it is American in origin, first found in print in 19

Meringue Glacée” (Meringues with ice cream) is Swiss; “Petit Fours” cakes are French. Was this a nod to our Patron Saint Francis de Sales, who came from French Savoy and became Bishop of Geneva, Switzerland?

It’s easy to read too much into the menu today, but its long-ago planners also had reason to over-think! It is clear, in any case, that the spread was carefully devised with genuine affection for the new bishop. Speculation about its details recalls that energy and coaxes dusty history back to life.

First SFDS Ordination: Philip Hasson

Marist Mission Band ca. 1930s-1940s. Hasson third frm left in back.

Rev. Philip Hasson, who grew up at 4931 Pentridge Street, was the first boy from our parish school to enter the priesthood – ordained as a Marist (Society of Mary) in 1919.

Hasson’s father was an Irish immigrant stonecutter. We have no information about where he may have worked; it’s even possible that he was one of the labourers who built our church, which would open the way to all sorts of reflections on Biblical cornerstones and builders!

Born in 1893, as the eldest of seven children, young Philip attended SFDS Parish School with his sisters. He was admitted to the Marist Seminary, a prep school for boys training for the priesthood, in 1908, at age 15 (That would have been just as our church was being built). He entered the Marist College associated with Catholic University in Washington DC when he was 20; spent his Canonical Novitiate year at St. Mary’s Manor in Langhorne, PA, in 1914; then returned to Marist College to finish his studies. Hasson was ordained by the Rector of Catholic University, Bishop Thomas Shahan, on June 19, 1919.

When I contacted the Marist archivist, looking for information on Hasson, she mentioned that he had been a member of their Mission Band. Since I had recently researched Captain James Cousart and the SFDS Boys Battalion marching band, my mind naturally went to music, and I asked “Do you know what instrument he played?”

I guess the correct answer would be “hearts”!  It turns out the Mission Band (shown in the photo) were traveling missionaries. For fifteen years, from 1927 to 1941, Hasson crisscrossed the country and “preached Missions, Retreats, conducted Triduums, and preached at Forty Hour Devotions.” It was said he “endeared himself to all.”

Before he became a missionary, Hasson spent the first few years of his career teaching, then as an Assistant Pastor in Georgia. After his missionary years, he was appointed pastor of St. Francis Xavier Church and the Missions of SE Georgia “and was Superior of the Marist Fathers who served with and under his direction.” Later, he assisted at several other parishes in different states.

Hasson returned to Pennsylvania in ill health and died of esophageal cancer at age 65 in 1958. He was buried on the grounds of St. Mary’s Manor, Penndel, where he made his novitiate.

Hasson’s obituary notes that “he was the first of many pupils of St. Francis de Sale Parochial School to be ordained priests. This was a thing of much joy to his devoted and saintly Pastor, the late beloved Bishop Michael J. Crane as well as to his beloved parents and sisters.”

Marist Seminary. Hasson third from left (tallest) in back.