Mailbag 36: St. Bonaventure Restoration

It's been a little while, so why not see what's lurking in the 'ole mailbag?

From Project reader Wallace Richardson:

I saw an article in our paper on Saturday about the Catholic church and their "white elephants".  St. Bonaventure was shown as one which was sold and is now in desperate need of help. 

Somehow, "black sheep" strikes me as a more appropriate animal reference, but sure. If you're referring to the Inquirer piece, we did link to that on our Facebook page.

The article stated that the church was built by German Immagrints(sp.). 

That's correct. For more, see our entry on St. Bonaventure.

My thought all weekend and today has been about this once georgeous building.  I can't seem to get it out of my head. 

Welcome to my world, buddy. I've got churches on the brain. It's amazing I manage to get anything done.

Have you thought about asking the German beer breweries is there are any left to help with the restoration.  What an incredible amount of publicity they would get and also perhaps that one little step would begin to change this Hell Hole. 

There are very few actual breweries within city limits, and to my knowledge none of them are German. That would have been a great plan back in the Philly-as-the-Workshop-of-the-World-days. Now, not so much. I like the innovative thinking, though.

Miracles happen all the time.  Just an idea.  I will pray to St. Anthony for some help. 

I suspect that St. Jude is a much better guess.

The problem is that fixing up Bonaventure is one thing; but with Fairhill the way it is, what's the point? What purpose does a pristine shell of a church serve in that neighborhood?

The churches that get reused are the ones in vibrant areas or areas on the rise. Areas with demand. Like, say, Powelton Village, where the former St. Agatha was turned into apartments. Or Southwest Center City, where the same is about the happen to the former St. Anthony of Padua. Or, say, Callowhill, which is trying desperately to do something, anything with Assumption BVM.

Fairhill? Not so much.

For what it's worth, Historic Fair Hill and Partners for Sacred Places have had some discussions on the future of the place. I'd love to see it get done. But while while the slow crawl of gentrification is making its way up North Broad, it's a long way from 9th & Cambria. And until it does, you're not going to see much traction on this place.

(Even then, that's no guarantee. Again, see Assumption BVM.)

If I had the money I would give it to you without a moments hesitation. 

I'll happily take your money. Should you suddenly come into some, please remember me.

Thank you for letting me vent.  God Bless and give you success.

Don't thank me, thank my email server.


Mailbag 34: Layers of Churches

The Project takes a break from drowning my sorrows to field a very interesting question from reader George Shotzbarger:

My own parish, Saint Helena, which serves Olney, Fern Rock, and Oak Lane, has both upstairs and downstairs venues for Mass. The altars each sit at the east side, one directly atop the other. That mirrors every other parish I've visited with a basement church (nearby Saint William and Saint Martin of Tours, among them). However, my boyhood parish, Saint Bonaventure near 9th & Cambria Streets, featured an oddity that I haven't seen in any other Catholic church.

The altar upstairs was in the western apse, but the one downstairs was on the eastern side, no doubt due to the Hutchinson Street entrance. That is, the arrangement went in opposite directions. So my question is this: does the Project or anyone else know of other Catholic churches where the spaces for worship run -- or ran -- in different directions?

I had wondered about Bonaventure, to tell the truth. I did know that, due to geography, the lower church doors were in “the back”, but I did not know they switched the position of the altar to compensate. Pretty strange and cool, if you ask me.

That’s the only example I’m aware of, though. George’s experience has been my own as well. Every lower church I’ve seen or been in — more than I’ve cared to, mind you — has always had the sanctuary facing the same way as the upper church.

From Visitation BVM to Immaculate Conception to Incarnation of Our Lord to Ascension of Our Lord to St. Martin of Tours to St. Helena to Transfiguration of Our Lord to St. Patrick to St. Francis of Assisi to St. Peter the Apostle to St. William to…well, you get the idea. All the same, each and every one. One church on top of another.

Since you, dear readers, are far smarter and more worldly than I could ever hope to be, I ask you: Have you ever seen or been in a church (here or elsewhere) that has the same unusual upper / lower church configuration?