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Discovering the ‘Saints of the City’


Dialog reporter


It won’t be hard to get connected to the ‘saints of Wilmington’ during visits to their churches


WILMINGTON – What do Elizabeth, Mary, Hedwig, Joseph, Anthony, Patrick, Paul, Peter and Thomas have in common? All are saints whose names are on churches in the city of Wilmington, and over the next few months, those parishes – along with Christ Our King – will be introducing the “Saints of the City” to anyone who wants to learn about them.

The “Saints of the City” series, which has been in the planning stages since last summer, kicks off March 1 at St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception Church at Sixth and Pine streets. The church will host an Irish tea following the 10:15 a.m. Mass, said Father Leonard Klein, the pastor.

The event will be a chance to show visitors St. Mary’s Irish heritage, Father Klein said. There may also be some history at the other two parishes he administers, St. Patrick’s and St. Peter Cathedral.

“I think it’s probably a good way not only to get to know each other a little bit, but a way to get to know the downtown churches,” he said.


Emily’s idea at St. E’s

The idea for Saints of the City was born last spring when Father Norman Carroll, pastor of St. Elizabeth Church, asked Andy Glover to start an adult catechesis program at the parish. Glover’s committee surveyed parishioners about what they would like to see in such a program. Glover said three topics emerged: Bible study, prayer and the lives of the saints.

“I’d already done some Bible studies, we have some prayer studies. I couldn’t find anything about lives of the saints, anything that was pre-packaged that you could put on with little planning,” Glover said.

Glover was having dinner last summer with his fiancée, Susan Marvel, and her daughter, Emily, who had just graduated from St. Elizabeth Elementary School. Emily suggested Saints of the City, modeled after the Holy Thursday tradition of Wilmington Catholics visiting different city parishes.

Emily, now a freshman at Padua Academy, joined the committee that has worked on the initiative. The committee contacted the city parishes and figured out how the program would work. Each church has wide latitude in deciding what they would like to do, she said. St. Elizabeth, for example, will highlight its namesake saint, as well as St. Benedict, at a meal on April 13 at 6 p.m.

“We wanted to go first, but we didn’t have enough time,” Emily said.

All 10 parishes that will participate have scheduled dates, although the details about their events other than the Irish tea at St. Mary’s are still being worked out.

Christ Our King Church is scheduled to hold its event on April 25, said Oblate Father Joe Brennan, the pastor.

“What we would like to do is invite people to our 4 p.m. Mass and at the end give people a brief history of Christ Our King,” he said.

Father Brennan said even though his church is not named after a saint, the talk will include mention of St. Vincent de Paul, because Christ Our King has an active St. Vincent de Paul Society chapter. There also will be a social in the parish hall, and tours of the old convent and parish archives will be available.

“I think it’s a great idea. The idea that parishes can decide it any way they want. There’s a lot of flexibility,” he said.

Father Klein said the committee at St. Patrick’s has invited people to the Latin Mass, and then there will be talk “about the parish and its present life.”

St. Patrick’s is set for April 26. The Latin Mass is celebrated at 10:30 a.m.

Nearby, St. Joseph’s on French Street will hold a vespers service on May 1, the feast of St. Joseph the worker, said Franciscan Father Paul Williams, the pastor. There will be something on the history of the parish, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary, and refreshments as well.


Historic parishes

Fathers Brennan and Klein said this series is a good way to remind people of the history of these churches, which have played important roles in the diocese through the years.

“In the city we have fine buildings, viable ministries,” Father Klein said. “Each parish has its own set of challenges.”

Emily has experience at a number of the city parishes. She attended St. Hedwig for preschool and was a student at St. Thomas the Apostle School. When that closed, she moved to St. Elizabeth. She said she likes visiting the different churches on Holy Thursday and hopes many others take advantage of Saints of the City to see these buildings and learn about their heritage.


City limits and beyond?

“We’re not sure what to expect,” she said. “If it goes really well, we’ll try to do it again in a couple of years, but maybe try to get churches outside the city limits.”