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Preserving St. Patrick’s Church for the Future

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NORRISTOWN – Reverend Gus Puleo, pastor of St. Patrick’s Church in Norristown, wants people to know that his church is more than a place of worship for the faithful.

The parish, he said, offers much, much more.

“St. Pat is such an important force in the community,” said Puleo. “We help the community. Our goal is always to help the community. We help people find ways to pay their rent, pay their electricity bills and we refer them to services and advocates. We provide education, health care. We are an important force.

Times Herald File Photo

Rev. Gus Puleo of St. Patrick’s Church in Norristown

This is why, said Puleo, it is essential that he and his parish family begin to move forward on the difficult road that lies before them. The parish priest and his parishioners embark on a journey with one goal in mind – Preserving St. Patrick’s Church for the future.

In early 2021, when a few parish staff were cleaning the church, when on the other side of the church a large part of the ceiling broke and “crashed into the ground.” From there, we closed the church for security reasons, ”Puleo said. The pastor added that all daily and Sunday masses, as well as baptisms and confessions, take place in the parish hall (entrance located on Chestnut Street.)

After several inspections and referrals, it was determined that the work to be done would have a hefty price tag – $ 1.6 million. The reason for the high cost, Puleo said, is that this is specialized work – and only one company in the country could handle the work at hand.

The company is John Tiedemann Inc. – and the company, in conjunction with Historic Plaster Conservation Services Limited (HPCS), specializes in the type of work required in St. Patrick’s. According to the company’s website, most church ceilings (since construction began on St. Patrick’s Day) are made of plaster-covered wooden slats which over time deteriorate and eventually fail in because of “simple laws of gravity”.

“HPCS and JTI invented and developed special tools and methods for the preservation of plaster in historic buildings,” according to the company’s website. “The HPCS Micro-Jack system replaces all kinds of jerry-mounted deadman accessories and other makeshift temporary support systems with one that allows full access to the target surface during treatment.

The specialized work done by the company will strengthen the original plaster in place and preserve the beauty and artistry of St. Patrick, especially the portraits of saints that adorn the ceiling.

“We have to strengthen the columns and we have to (restore) the plaster that comes off the roof and the wood. It’s all over the ceiling. It’s not just an area, ”Puleo said. “The portraits themselves are OK, it’s the plaster surrounding them that needs to be reinforced. Nothing is taken away. “

There you go, the journey begins …

Puleo said parishioners have worked diligently – planning fundraisers, applying for grants, contacting local businesses; selling homemade Mexican food like carnitas and tamales. Also, a group of parishioners formed the Saint-Pat players and are staging a production of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” which will run back-to-back weekends November 4-21 at the Center Theater on DeKalb Street. Tickets are available online.

The various fundraising efforts, Puleo said, have highlighted a unique characteristic of the St. Patrick’s parish family.

One of the campaign’s fundraising events was a fall festival, which took place in the school parking lot in October.

“We are truly a diverse parish, when it comes to cultures,” said Puleo. “But, I think we are very united with a common goal, and the goal is not just for us, but for the future of our children.”

Puleo said he heard parishioners share their heartfelt memories of the church and their willingness to support efforts to keep the church going for the future. He also hears from non-parishioners.

“Today I received a letter from a woman in Massachusetts whose brother comes here and loves the church so much. And she sent me a donation for the ceiling, ”Puleo said.

The fundraising committee also plans to organize events outside of the immediate area, such as quiz nights, silent auctions to reach out to communities outside of Norristown in an effort to get support for the restoration project.

When it comes to helping people in the community, St. Pat’s is part of a charity trio, so to speak. The school building is home to the Patrician Society, a non-profit organization that serves as a pantry and service support system in the community of Norristown. Across Chestnut Street is the Convent (belonging to St. Patrick’s Church) of the Missionaries of Charities, a religious order founded by St. Teresa of Calcutta – known then, at the time of her visit in 1984, as name of Mother Teresa. The sisters provide shelter, food, support and ministry to those in need in the community.

Puleo is confident that the goal will be achieved and that the parish will continue its work in the service of the community. Despite the temporary closure of the church, the parish continues to run its thriving CCD program (nearly 300 children enrolled), monthly health check-ups that also include prenatal tests for pregnant women as well as dental and eye exams. ; Meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous; education courses including English as a second language (35 students enrolled) and SAT preparation courses for high school students. The Adult Religious Education program is attended by 85 parents of CCD children and the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adult (RICA) program is attended by 23 students.

St. Patrick’s Parish offers a variety of educational courses, including SAT preparation courses for students and ESL courses, viewable here.

When you combine all of these ways the community is served by St. Pat’s with the faith and love shown daily by his parishioners, Puleo said he was confident they would be successful in preserving St. Patrick’s for the future.

“We open our doors not only to our parishioners, but to everyone,” said Puleo. “We are a beacon of light in the Norristown area. St. Pat’s is a place where there is hope, a place where there is help and a place where there is a home for everyone.

For more information and how to help, please visit the parish at https://saintpatrick-norristown.net/. To stay up to date on fundraisers, special Mexican food sales, and events, check out the parish’s Facebook page.

  • One of the campaign’s fundraising events was a fall festival, which took place in the school parking lot in October.

  • Photo courtesy of Jean Spera

    Easter beauty is on display at St. Patrick’s Church in this 2019 archive photo.

  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, St. Patrick’s Church offered free vaccination clinics to the community of Norristown.

  • Archdiocese of Philadelphia Historical Research Center, Robert and Theresa Halvey Photograph Collection

    Mother Teresa addresses the congregation at the 1984 opening of the Missionaries of Charity Convent at St. Patrick’s Church in Norristown.

  • St. Patrick’s offers free medical exams on the first Sunday of each month. The event also offers advocacy and legal services for those in need.

  • Every year, the Davis family, led by caterer Johnny Davis, second from right, hosts Soul Food Day, and the proceeds from the sale of the home-cooked meals go directly to St. Patrick’s Day.

  • The celebration of Our Lady of Guadalupe is the favorite of Saint Patrick’s parish.

  • Archdiocese of Philadelphia Historical Research Center, Robert and Theresa Halvey Photograph Collection

    Mother Teresa addresses the congregation at the 1984 opening of the Missionaries of Charity Convent at St. Patrick’s Church in Norristown.

  • Submitted photo

    The “Mariachi Interpretation” celebrates the apparitions of the Blessed Mother to Juan Diego in Mexico City, Mexico, in the 16th century. It was held at 2:30 am Wednesday at St. Patrick’s Church in Norristown.

  • Oscar Gamble – Early Digital Media

    A procession of the Old Order of the Hibernians, Division Notre-Dame, leads parishioners to the shrine of St. Patrick’s Church in Norristown after the Mass of the Golden Rose in honor of Our Lady of Knock, on Sunday 21 August 2016.

  • Portrait of Saint Therese of the Little Flower, on the ceiling of Saint Patrick’s Church.

  • Portrait of Saint Augustine on the ceiling of Saint Patrick’s Church.

  • St. Patrick’s Parish offers a variety of educational courses, including SAT preparation courses for students and ESL courses, viewable here.


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