Mailbag 16: St. Bridget Update

Great note from Project reader Michelle Kleschick on Grace Kelly's former Sunday hangout:

I stumbled across your site via a link on and I enjoyed an outsider's view of my home parish of St. Bridget. I am not native to the area, but moved here to attend school at Philadelphia University and loved the neighborhood and city so much that I stayed. The fact that I love our neighborhood church was an added bonus!

Brownstoner strikes again! I would think your neighborhood church should be more of a consideration than "just an added bonus," but whatever.

I wanted to give you an update on your comment about the plainness of the paint scheme. I can't remember exactly when it was (sometime shortly after your visit because I know that I wished they had done it sooner so it would have been done for my April 2007 wedding), but in the past few years the paint scheme has become a little more colorful. There had been problems with water leaking in through an unknown source which seeped into the plaster and ruined what I understand used to be a polychromatic paint scheme and wood paneling on the wall behind the altar. Until they were certain that all of the leaks has been found, a white coat of paint graced the wall. The repairs have been completed and now the wall is a soft pastel (is it horrible that I attend Mass there regularly and can't say for sure that it is yellow?) with a metallic gold design, including St. Bridget crosses, around the arched space. The color makes the white marble altar stand out, and show off, much better than the white. They also fixed the warped wooden floors, repainted the side altars to coordinate, and brightened up the side chapel of St. Joseph and completely renovated the other side so that it is now very colorfully dedicated to St. Peregrine.

Interesting to know. I always thought St. Bridget was a couple of pieces short of being a really, really great church. A revised sanctuary would go a long way toward fulfilling that promise, so we'll need to schedule a revisit at some point.

My husband is the organist at St. Paul Parish in South Philadelphia, and I have enjoyed those two beautiful churches (St. Paul and St. Mary Magdelene de Pazzi, and yes, the organ loft is as harrowing as it looks... he sits with his back about 6 inches from a low railing that then drops off two stories, not for the faint of heart! F.y.i., in the case that you need a new place to visit, they also have a lower church that they use in the summer), as well as all of the others that we have had a chance to visit when he fills in for an organist at other parishes. As for your comment on the organ at St. Thomas Aquinas in South Philly, I'm not sure if it is original, but it certainly puts out as much sound as your would expect an organ of that size to produce... my husband was playing a Christmas Mass and ended with a rather jubilant "Joy to the World" who's opening notes shook a few windows and made quite a bit of the congregation jump!

So, we have verification that St. Mary Magdalen de Pazzi's dual balcony setup is as ridiculous as it looks. The designers of St. Thomas Aquinas live to fight another day--for now.

A reference you might enjoy is "Historic Sacred Places of Philadelphia." It is a beautifully photographed book with information regarding the architecture and history of churches, synagogues and other places of worship in Philadelphia. Also, I don't think the book is at all related to the group, but there is also the Partners for Sacred Places which helps struggling worship sites maintain their spaces.

Heard of the book, heard of the group. Haven't done much with either--yet.

I look forward to taking a peak at your site to get a little foresight on what to expect when visiting other parishes. I'm glad to know that there are other people out there who enjoy visiting these beautiful places in hopes that more can be saved for future generations to enjoy!

That's why we do what we do, aside from giving me a platform to feed my ego with shameless self-congratulatory prose. So put on your pajamas, grab a hot cocoa, and get comfy.