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.
In case you hadn’t noticed, it’s the Project’s birthday. Exactly one year ago today I made my visit to Our Lady of Hope — a seemingly innocuous trip that ended up changing my life forever. (And, I suspect, yours as well.)
What better way to celebrate this momentous occasion by cueing up one of our old favorites…
Church Alley: Ta-Da! The Project returns to Church Alley. This time we tackle the second of this three-piece puzzle, Our Lady Help of Christians (OLHC). You may remember from my initial discussions of Church Alley that OLHC was designated as a German national parish. That, however, is really no longer the case. OLHC is a victim of an ever-changing populace….
Church Project Theorem #19: It’s All Greek To Me!
This theorem describes the unusual plight of parishes that were founded to cater specifically to one ethnic group, only to see that group disappear over time. It’s All Greek To Me! is unique because it means that a parish’s original designation and original mission no longer make sense — for example, an Italian parish that is now in a neighborhood with no Italians. Sometimes these parishes lose their designations as national parishes, or sometimes they just close up shop.
In rare cases, though, they maintain their designation despite now having nothing to do with the founding ethnic group. That’s the case with the German OLHC. 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
A great way for the Project to spend its first birthday. Highly recommended.