Status: Active, Roman Catholic
Formerly Known As: St. Carthage
Cobbs Creek Parkway & Cedar Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19143
Original visit: June 17, 2007
Where Is It?
The Cobbs Creek section of West Philadelphia. Cobbs Creek Parkway and Cedar Avenue, to be exact.
West Philadelphia, born and raised! Sorry, cant help myself. Aside from being the birthplace of the fictional Fresh Prince, West Philadelphia has a lot to offer the Project.
Ok, maybe not St. Cyprian itself. Formerly known as St. Carthage, it adopted the new moniker in 2000 when it absorbed neighboring Transfiguration of Our Lord. It also added Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament in 2013 as well, so this is a place that's clearly a very interesting case study in the world of church survival.
That survival has come at a price, however, as St. Cyprian bears all the hallmarks of its checkered, consolidated past. Our first visit showcased a church whose columned, cruciform Italian-Renaissance design had been wiped away and replaced with plain white plaster, and even a few missing windows that had been plastered over as well.
The last few years have been kinder to the church, and after a recent repainting, it's now done up in various cream-colored hues. While I doubt it's even close to what the church was in its prime, it's a huge improvement nonetheless. Combined with the marble work on the pillars, the fine stained glass, and the fixtures in the sanctuary, along with the inspired grey stone and red tile exterior, there's a lot to like here.
I will always weep for the churches that died instead of this one, but at least the parish is trying. I give them that.
How's It Doing?
If you play by the numbers, meh. The attendance is somewhat middling, and there are only two Sunday masses.
That said, somebody up there really likes this parish, because it outlasted the epic Transfiguration and bested the far prettier Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament. With both parishes fully absorbed, and some money recently sunk into the aforementioned renovation, Cyprian looks to be firmly entrenched in Cobbs Creek for the foreseeable future.
The Outsider's Edge: Cobbs Creek is a predominantly Black section, so those of the Caucasian persuasion tend to stand out quite starkly. One of the ushers, a very nice older lady, noticed us as soon as we entered and spent much of the pre-mass time discussing the parish and their various renovation efforts.
Aside from that, Cyprian luckily spared us much of the personal attention, but did insist on a generic “All visitors please stand!” Despite the presence of a few other visitors, also Black, we tried our best not to stand…until a nearby parishioner prodded us with a “Come on and stand! We know you a [sic] visitor!”
Ok, so it’s in West Philly, which will immediately discount it in the minds of some people. There seems to be adequate street parking around the church, so I don’t think you’ll get mugged going to and fro. Would I wander around after dark? No, but that’s just me. Feel free to follow your own muse.
Yay, a present! No, we didn’t get goodie bags, but we did get special “St. Cyprian” travel mugs. You know, for when you need some holiness on the go. I’m still trying to decide which gift I like better…
Transfiguration of Our Lord: Live / April 27, 2009
The Final Word
Not perfect, but it's the only game left in that part of town.