Dear Mr. 44,
Greetings from the Philadelphia Church Project! I recently stumbled across your recent post / excerpt from Joe Queenan's autobiography, and I just want to thank you for making it available. His words are poignant and--since our mission is to chronicle Philadelphia's old parishes--very meaningful to the Project.
Since it's likely of similar interest to the Project's readership, we've called out your post on our News & Notes blog.
A great item from The World According to 44 ;-), a blog dedicated to all things St. Joseph's University, Philadelphia, Catholicism and assorted other sentimental miscellany.
The blog's author, the mysterious "44", recently posted an excerpt from Philadelphia native Joe Queenan's new autibiography, "Closing Time," which recounts his life growing up in an East Falls housing project.I'm not going to repost it here, since you can easily go there and read the whole thing. Go ahead and read it. No, really. I'll wait.
It's a very nice piece of writing by Mr. Queenan, but it also rings incredibly true. The Project has seen firsthand the way that parishes, particularly Roman Catholic ones, integrate themselves into the fabric of their surrounding areas. This endeavor is ostensibly devoted to old architecture. But these churches are not just nice old buildings. They're living history--of a person, of a family, of a neighborhood. That's something Project readers have really responded to. When I get e-mails from ex-parishioners, it's not simply because they miss the soaring Gothic columns or expansive Romanesque arches or intricate stained glass windows. It's because of what the parish meant to them and their formative years. That's a bond that can never be broken. And that's why we go above and beyond a simple architectural survey. There's far more at stake than bricks and mortar, no matter how nice they are.
The Project tips its hat to you, Mr. Queenan. And nice work, Mr. 44. The Project doesn't approve of your love of St. Joseph's, but we wish you well nonetheless.
Thanks for the kind words. I enjoyed visiting your site as well and my uncle John McGarrity (mentioned in a previous post) has been sent your entry about Transfiguration with the following picture. He's 90 now and not much for the internet but as an old West Philly boy he will appreciate the print version. I'll be nice and ignore the bust on my alma mater ;-0
BTW... St. Columba's was definitely in SWAMPOODLE, not Strawberry Mansion. It was my mother's very Irish parish and I believe the neighborhood encompassed Most Precious Blood and St. Mary of the Eternal parishes as well. When my parents were married at St. Columba's by Monsignor Montague people from outside the area thought that St. Columba's was a cathedral. Of course we know it was just your average Philly neighborhood parish. Translation -- beautiful.