St. Bridget

Status: Active, Catholic

Founded: 1853

Construction: 1870

3673 Midvale Avenue

Philadelphia, PA 19129

Visit its website

Original visit: December 21, 2007

Subsequent visits: December 24, 2009

Where Is It?

On the fringe of the city — Midvale Avenue in East Falls.

The Skinny

The Project goes star watching this week, as we liven things up with a little bit of Hollywood. No, they’re not making a movie about us. At least not yet. (Damn studios.)

You see, St. Bridget is not only a cool old parish wholly deserving of our attention. Once upon a time, it was also the childhood parish of one Grace Kelly, arguably the biggest star to ever come out of Philadelphia. (Unless you count Bill Cosby and Will Smith, which…err, I don’t.) She was also princess of Monaco. Pretty heady stuff.

Don’t worry, that’s where the celebrity fascination ends. I’m much less concerned with who attends a parish than I am with the parish itself. If God Himself attended an ugly parish, I wouldn’t give a damn.

Thus, we judge St. Bridget on its own merits. And those merits rank it as one of the nicer churches the Project has seen so far. Its most prominent feature is an enormous, spiky dome that acts as the centerpiece of the construction. A while back I commented that Fishtown’s Holy Name seemed to be essentially a dome with a church constructed around it. Bridget’s dome is so largely prominent that you could offer a similar critique here, especially since on the surface they look very much alike.

In this case, though, the designers didn’t consider the rest of the church an afterthought. Its Gothic cruciform interior is much larger and higher, and it’s graced with large windows, and pink- and blue-accented plaster.

For all its assets, though, the paint tends to be a little on the plainer side, especially near the altar area, which is not particularly impressive. Still, the Project can’t help but like this church. It’s sort of like our experience at St. Michael. Despite some elements that are usually dealbreakers, this church just feels right somehow. It’s got the “X” factor.

I should also point out that its status is accentuated by its position on an elevated plain off of a steep East Falls hill. It gives it an almost regal bearing, not unlike its former royal parishioner, and that boosts its image considerably. It wouldn’t have the same effect crammed onto a filthy street corner.

Look for it: Grace Kelly was kind enough to send an autographed picture of herself and the royal family, dedicated to the sisters of the parish. It’s prominently displayed, along with a couple of other artifacts, in one of the side alcoves.

How's It Doing?

The attendance is holding fairly steady in the 500s, which is ok if not particularly great. The bigger issue is that the parish recently lost its parochial school, which may hurt it when it comes to attracting the kind of younger families parishes need to build around.

I don't think there's imminent danger here, especially because there aren't any other Catholic churches in the immediate vicinity, but this is one to keep an eye on.

Travel Tidbits

Much like neighboring Manayunk, East Falls is full of big hills, tiny streets and perilous parking. Bridget, however, has a lot, so the parking problems are alleviated somewhat.

It’s also happens to be a great area, so traverse it without fear.

Interesting Note

The mass was actually celebrated by a visiting priest from St. Joseph’s University. While dismissing the children catechists, he remarked, to some laughter, that they were a little smaller than the students he’s accustomed to teaching.

Without missing the beat, the Official Mother of the Philadelphia Church Project, along for the ride, remarked, “But just as smart!”

Image Gallery

The Final Word

A great experience.