It's Ascension of Our Lord week, courtesy a pair of e-mails bemoaning its sorry state and hoping for a better future. From Project readers Lisa McKinney and Colleen Moran, respectively:
I went to Ascension School and spent every Sunday in the upstairs church, it is magnificent, most pale in comparison. I hope the project is able to visit inside one day and pray it will be renovated. My youth was wonderful in this neighborhood during the 60’s—I graduated Ascension in 71/72 moved from Philly in 1978. However, the cost of maintenance during its prime was a burden on the parish, keep in mind that Kensington was a blue collar Catholic area, the church was always on families to sell for fundraisers and give give, give. The lengths they went are illegal now.
I would like to hear more about these alleged lengths they went to. Legality has clearly never been one of the church's main concerns. But anyway...
I just stumbled upon your website while looking into ideas about how to celebrate my parents' upcoming 50th anniversary. Both of them have always described Ascension as being a magnificent church. Despite the black-and-white photography of the day -- and remember this was still Kensington -- so only limited professional expertise was employed in the photography department -- I can tell it was nothing short of fantastic. The round, squat, plebeian churches of my suburban upbringing can't hold a candle to magnificence of such a lovely and inspired structure. My parents have only taken me to "the old neighborhood" once, due to the unpredictable violence that has reigned for so many years. Is there any hope that Ascension can be saved?
Look, the Project is as deliriously optimistic as the next guy, but that place isn't getting renovated, it's not getting saved, and soon it'll be another rotting husk or empty lot. The cost of fixing it is just too high. If Our Lady of Hope commanded $7 million for a church they can still use, I can't even fathom what it'll cost for a church that can't even be used. Far, far more than the nickels Kensington can scrape together these days.
You want hope? Go round up every alumnus who ever went there. E-mail, phone, go knock on doors. Whatever it takes. Track them down and use every guilt-trip you can think of to get donations. Who knows, you may make enough of a dent to get something going. I doubt it, but hey, wackier things can happen.
Just don't dally, though, because the longer the place swings in the breeze, the quicker the Archiodcese's hatchet men will be back, and this time they won't just be taking the children.
Oh, and also, SEND ME YOUR INTERIOR PICTURES OF ASCENSION. Lisa has promised to look for some, and while I'm not doubting you, sweetheart, let's just say I've heard that line before. So I ask the rest of you. If you have them, SEND THEM. NOW. I have no idea what the inside of this place looks like, or looked like, and I'd like to find out before it meets The End.