St. Veronica

Status: Active, Roman Catholic

Founded: 1872

6th & Tioga Streets
Philadelphia, PA 19140

Visit its website

Original visit: August 25, 2007

Where Is It?

6th & Tioga, in the Hunting Park section of North Philadelphia.

The Skinny

Do you feel lucky? The Project does, because this week we travel to the most risky territory yet, North Philadelphia’s Hunting Park section. There, a few scant blocks behind Temple Hospital, lies this week’s target, St. Veronica. Hunting Park is not known for being a great area; a mere mention of it chills the blood of even the most stoic Philadelpians. I’m not too concerned, though. This endeavor is too lucrative for me to just twiddle my thumbs in safety.

Wait, I don’t get paid for this? Oh, crap.

St. Veronica is exceptional because it is still a living, breathing, functional North Philadelphia parish. That's right! A rare survivor of the dreaded North Philadelphia Swath of Destruction.

St. Veronica is one of the few that somehow survived intact, along with St. Malachy (11th & Master), Visitation BVM, and St. Michael (2nd & Jefferson). Technically, St. Peter the Apostle (5th & Girard) would qualify, but since that’s home to the Shrine of St. John Neumann, I doubt it was ever in any real danger.

As for Veronica, its uncanny and unlikely survival makes the Project quite happy. Veronica isn’t big, but it’s very, very pretty. A beaten and worn exterior houses a pristine pink and white plaster interior with a variety of neat touches. It’s designed in a columned, faux-cruciform, Italian-Renaissance style, but the columns don’t touch the floor, instead ending in ornate lamps just above your head. The windows, while not gigantic, are really only one of handful of sets that displays true three-dimensional quality, as well as innovative uses of light and dark shades. Hell, they even have a beautiful (and functioning) organ. And have you ever seen a stained-glass skylight?

It doesn’t fit the grandiose definition of the Project, but boy, it has it where it counts. A true treasure lost in a minefield.

How's It Doing?

Hell if I know.

No, seriously. I've never understood this parish's survival, to be honest. Its location at 6th & Tioga, a few blocks behind Temple Hospital, is absolutely atrocious. Their parish population isn't faring much better, seeing some precipitous drops in recent years. And they're still maintaining a parish school, but for how long?

Well, there's a lot of community support, and their sister parish, SS. Simon and Jude in West Chester, also is a big contributor. And with the 2013 absorption of neighboring St. Hugh of Cluny, itself a smaller parish, it looks like the Archdiocese is doubling down at this location.

I hope that's enough, because a parish like this, in an area like this, is skating on the thinnest of ice.

Travel Tidbits

Let me be very clear: Hunting Park is not an area for the faint of heart. I’m not suggesting that going will automatically earn you a death sentence. But this neighborhood is extremely sketchy, and meandering around is not at all recommended. Even walking across the street to take pictures aroused the keen interest of the locals.

If you decide to brave it, confine your visit to daylight hours. Park next to the church and go right in — do not pass go, do not collect $200, do not leave sight of it, do not explore the neighborhood, and for God’s sake, do not hang around after the sun goes down. Areas like this are the reason Philadelphia gets a bad reputation.

Interesting Note

The pastor, Eduardo Coll, discussed an upcoming pledge drive. He mentioned that parishioners could bring items either to this church or to St. William. While the parishes are only 6 miles apart, it’s a good half-hour drive, provided the parishioner has a car. Is that really the closest parish they can think of?

Additional Resources

Flashback: St. Veronica / October 24, 2010

Image Gallery

The Final Word

While by no means a carefree trip, St. Veronica is certainly worth seeing if you can stomach a little risk.