Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Status: Active, Roman Catholic

Founded: 1896
Construction: 1922

3rd & Wolf Streets
Philadelphia, PA 19148

Visit its website

Original visit: March 29, 2008

Where Is It?

3rd & Wolf Streets, in the Whitman section of South Philadelphia.

The Skinny

Our Lady of Mount Carmel (OLMC) sadly does nothing to improve my opinion of South Philly parishes. Structurally, it's fine, mirroring the window-flipping design of Incarnation of Our Lord, St. Bridget and St. Matthias. They even flip the script (pun intended) a little and have a stained glass window as a sanctuary backdrop.

Ornamentally, though, that's where things start to fall apart.

The plaster is mostly a tan color, with red and gold outlines. That sounds nifty in theory, but here it comes off looking pretty plain. And it's made worse by sloppy workmanship. The lines are uneven and splotchy. Even the open tan sections aren’t particularly crisp or well-covered.

Just for the sake of comparison, take a look at the immaculate paint job we witnessed at, say, Nativity BVM, and then look at this again. Either the original job was not particularly professional, or it's just been hard hit by age. Either way, it makes the church look at best, gaudy, and at worst, dumpy.

Sorry, South Philly.

How's It Doing?

If the shape of the church is any indication, not particularly well. The attendance numbers have been decent if unspectacular. But the physical shape of the church building is usually a good indicator of a parish’s prosperity. Any parish that lets their building suffer is usually suffering right alone with it.

OLMC wouldn’t look too good even under the best of conditions, but there’s also a good amount of paint damage and chipping. There’s even damage outside, where the tympanium over the front doors is crumbling. And there appear to be missing statues on the front and side steeples; there are statue holders (such as the ones at Martin de Porres), but no actual statues.

I don’t think the parish is imminent danger of closing. The numbers are decent and the building isn’t structurally unsound. It just doesn't look particularly good.

Travel Tidbits

South Philly.

The area is pretty good; you should have no qualms about coming here.

Interesting Note

The church was covered in Easter lilies, forcing the cantor, who had severe allergies, to conduct everything from the choir loft. If you have so many plants that even your singer can’t stand to be there, shouldn’t you really reconsider it?

Image Gallery

The Final Word