Our Mother of Good Counsel
Status: Active, Roman Catholic
31 Pennswood Road
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
Original visit: March 1, 2008
Where Is It?
31 Pennswood Road, in hoity-toity Bryn Maaawwwrrr.
Ther Project leaves the ragged confines of the city to visit the Main Line's Our Mother of Good Counsel. Suburban location aside, this building struck me as a perfect Project candidate.
Until, that is, I walked inside.
The St. Cyprian Effect: Sigh. From the outside, OMGC boasts a mildly creepy, coolly twisted and funky gothic look, highlighted by pointed arches on the windows and the doors, and a sizeable front window. The interior is where things fall apart, and at least a good chunk of that is the parish's own fault. Pimp My Church? Oh my, yes.
How far has OMGC fallen?
Like St. Vincent de Paul, among others, OMGC removed a good chunk of seating and extended the sanctuary out into the nave. Hell, even the side altars are gone. But believe it or not, that's not even the most egregious thing here.
The entire decor is white. Plain, stark white.
Yeah, I get that Tabula Rasa happens. But why on God's green earth would you paint everything the plainest shade of white possible? It may not be possible to do the type of detail seen above, but why not at least try? Put some color in there at least? Main Line neighbor St. Thomas of Villanova did the same thing, and man, that is just not a good look.
We're left with the main altar, the decent windows and a few surviving murals. But mostly....yuck.
How's It Doing?
Well, they've clearly been through all manner of physical renovations, so that's a black mark. And the 600-700 average attendance isn't spectacular.
Yet, the place offers four masses and is located on the Main Line, home to the ritziest sections in the Philadelphia area. That means their clientele is, shall we say, much better endowed than most. That should make up for any attendance deficiencies.
In fact, OMGC is so awash in its own magnificence that they're pretty much the epitome of the Insider's Edge. We found time to speak to Father Dennis McGowan after the mass, where I explained why I was there and I talked about the Project. The good Father, though, seemed like he couldn’t have cared less — and he made almost no attempt to hide his desire to get away from me. I have never, ever encountered such hostility.
Of course, that attitude is indicative of the parish as a whole. The mass was a representation of Main Line life; bland and safe, totally bereft of heart and passion. They don’t possess even a fraction of the dedication and fire of some of our poorer parishes, like Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament or St. Martin de Porres. That is what church should be. This is a milquetoast nightmare.
Financially, this parish is fine. Its spiritual health is another matter.
It’s sad to see so little from those who have so much.
OMGC isn’t hard to find, but it means navigating the often perilous traffic on Lancaster Avenue. If you’re familiar with the area you can try the back roads; they might make it somewhat easier.
As far as safety...come on. The Main Line is the most inoffensive place to go to church. This makes Jenkintown look like a slum. You really have nothing to worry about — that is, unless you’re a minority, in which case you’ll probably be profiled.
I don't think so.
The Final Word
Not quite worth the price of admission.