Our Lady Help of Christians
Status: Active, Roman Catholic
E. Allegheny Avenue and Gaul Street
Philadelphia, PA 19134
Original visit: February 3, 2008
Where Is It?
Gaul Street and Allegheny Avenue, in Port Richmond.
Ta-Da! The Project returns to Church Alley. This time we tackle another part of the three-piece puzzle, Our Lady Help of Christians (OLHC). OLHC is one of the quintessential It's All Greek to Me! churches: A German national parish which, for all intents and purposes, is no longer really German.
I’m sure there are probably people of German descent in and around Port Richmond, but this parish no longer offers any masses or services in that language. It’s pretty well Americanized, and the only clues to its past are the German stations of the cross.
Semantics aside, OLHC is a very lovely parish. It’s not particularly big, but it’s decked out in a white, black and tan gingerbread exterior that is quite possibly the prettiest we have seen. Inside, we get a pastel-flavored Gothic experience, with mulicolored ribbed vaults and pointed arches. The décor is further fleshed out with colored statues and an elaborate wood-carved balcony. Oh, and true to Gothic design, OLHC has huge and beautiful stained glass windows.
The smaller size lessens the impact, and the design hampered by the questionable addition of blue wall-to-wall carpet on the floor, but all in all this is really nice.
How's It Doing?
The parish was twinned in 2009 with Church Alley neighbor Nativity BVM. And being a Dead Parish Walking does not bode well for its future. It's already the smallest and most damaged of the three.
When the Archdiocese decides to close at least of these parishes — and they will, sooner than you think — this will be the one they choose.
I really, really love Church Alley. It’s easy to get to, interesting to explore, and there are no real hassles of any kind. Port Richmond, at least on the eastern side of Aramingo Avenue, is one of the better areas north of the city.
If only it was all so easy.
There was music, thankfully, and it was actually pretty good. They used their organ for most of it, but then for a couple of pieces in the middle of mass — the responsorial psalm and the like — the vocalist / keyboardist came down to the front and used the piano.
Errr, why? If the organ is good enough for everything else, why would you switch to a dinky piano?
The Final Word