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I am from a small town in northern Michigan and I would like to possibly sometime visit Philadelphia. I have a hobby of taking pictures of historic and beautiful Catholic churches and I would like to do this sometime in your city. However, big cities being what they are I would like to know if I would be safe doing this.
My exact itinerary involves ONLY visiting churches. I would stop at no place else in the city nor in the neighborhoods surrounding the churches. I will probably call some of the prettier churches in advance to be sure they are open when I visit them. I would go only be in the city during the day since it makes no sense to be there at night for taking pictures anyway. I literally go to a church, take a picture of the outside, go in and take pictures of the inside and then leave and drive to the next church. I know to keep my car locked, my windows rolled up, my GPS hidden, and my eyes alert. Would I be safe doing this in Philadelphia?
At the end of this post I am listing all of the churches I would like to visit. If any of you have any first-hand experience with these areas and feel they would be unsafe for me to go to, please let me know. In regards to “safe” or “unsafe”, I define “unsafe” as any area where there would be a good possibility of physical harm to myself, my property, or my car. It does not bother me to drive through rundown neighborhoods as long as I will not be in physical danger while simply driving through them.
I recently made 2 trips to Detroit by myself taking pictures of its many beautiful Catholic Churches, so I am familiar with the situation there. Detroit is considered by many to be one of the most dangerous cities in America, but I handled myself just fine and would have no problem going back again. I travelled down side streets and everything there and never felt in danger, but I always kept aware of my surroundings as any prudent person would and I would do the same in Philadelphia. So, if you believe your city to be less dangerous than Detroit then I don’t foresee any problems.
If you could take a look at this list and let me know of any locations that would fit my definition of “unsafe”, I would sincerely appreciate it if you would let me know. Also, if you know of any other Catholic Churches I missed, or any other sites I should see, you could tell me that too if you want. Thank you in advance for your kind attention!
5600 Jackson St
3673 Midvale Ave.
Saint Francis of Assisi
4821 Greene St.
234 Hermitage Street
1020 East Price Street
Incarnation of Our Lord
5105 N. 5th Street
Saint John the Baptist
146 Rector Street
Saint Martin of Tours
5450 Roosevelt Boulevard
1676 Ruan Street
Mother of Divine Grace
East Thompson & Cambria Streets
2000 Shelmire Avenue
3001 Levick Street
Saint Vincent de Paul
109 East Price Street
6200 Rising Sun Avenue
Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter & Paul
18th Street & Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Saint Agatha-Saint James
728 Chestnut Street
Lehigh Avenue and Memphis Street
4th and Vine Street
Saint Francis de Sales
4625 Springfield Avenue
Holy Name of Jesus
701 East Gaul Street
Saint John the Evangelist
21 S. 13th Street
Saint Martin de Porres
2340 West Leigh Avenue
1445 North Second Street
17th and Ritner Streets
Saint Nicholas of Tolentine
1718 S 9th Street
Old Saint Joseph
321 Willings Alley
Old Saint Mary's
252 S. 4th Street
Our Lady of Lourdes
63rd Street & Lancaster Avenue
Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament
345 N. 63rd Street
Our Mother of Sorrows
1030 North 48th Street
808 S. Hutchinson Street
National Shrine of Saint Rita of Cascia
1166 South Broad Street
I can't speak to most of these, but I can tell you that St. Bridget is very accessible and in a safe neighborhood. St. Bridget has a school, so it's open most of the time.
St. John the Baptist on Rector Street also is in an accessible and safe neighborhood. How accessible the church itself is I don't know.
St. Francis of Assisi on Greene Street is also perfectly safe. It's not far from where I work. If it's the same church I'm thinking of, it has some social services programs attached to it, and there are people around there all the time.
Another church you might consider is Our Mother of Consolation on Chestnut Hill Avenue, in the Chestnut Hill section of the city. The interior is stunning.
No it isn't exactly the same. Each post has churches in it from that particular city. I would like to take a trip around to some of these cities this summer/fall to tour the churches in them. I have already done this in Grand Rapids and Detroit. I'll post pictures of them sometime soon so that you can see.
As some of you might have seen I have posted the same question “Is it safe to visit the Catholic Churches of __________” on several other cities’ forum listing churches in each respective city that would be neat to visit. A few posters on various forums have questioned suspiciously why I want to visit churches. It is a fair question and one I might ask too if someone were to pose the question I posed. So, I thought it would be beneficial to explain exactly why I would like to visit these churches.
I am a practicing Catholic and have been all my 22 years of life. For quite nearly 16 years of my life I wanted to be a Catholic Priest, so I have always had a natural interest in sacred things including churches. Back in the Holy Year 2000, when I was in 6th grade, the Bishop of Gaylord, MI (my diocese) decreed that for anyone in the Diocese who could not make the pilgrimage to Rome’s 4 major basilicas he would designate 3 churches in the Diocese that we could go to instead. I was eager to do this for some reason, but then I got the idea to visit all 81 churches of the Diocese of Gaylord instead of just 3. In about 2 years time my parents and I visited 80 of the 81 churches in the Diocese of Gaylord (the only one I have not visited is Holy Cross on Beaver Island). Around that time I also visited several churches in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which is the Diocese of Marquette, and a couple churches in the Diocese of Grand Rapids. After that I didn’t visit new churches for about 9 years.
Last year I had the privilege of making a trip out to Winona, MN to attend the ordinations of 9 Priests at Saint Thomas Aquinas Seminary. A coworker of mine told me that, since I was making the trip all the way out to Minnesota, I really needed to go visit the Cathedral of Saint Paul in Saint Paul, MN because it is a really pretty church. I did this the day before I was to head home, and I was stunned at what a pretty church the Cathedral is. I also visited the Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Lacrosse, WI. If I had done this earlier on my trip I maybe could have visited more churches out there, but I can’t change the past of course.
Getting to visit those 2 churches brought back a desire to visit churches again. So, throughout last fall I went on the websites of every diocese in the states of Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Kentucky looking for churches that were architecturally glorious. I wanted to make a big trip throughout the Midwest last fall to visit a bunch of these cities, but I ended up only going to Grand Rapids, MI.
Then, in late December 2010 I found out about a church tour of some of Detroit’s Catholic churches being sponsored by a parish in Sterling Heights (a suburb of Detroit). Other than just passing through on the freeway I had never been to Detroit before but I had heard plenty about how dangerous it is. But, Detroit also has really nice churches, so I really wanted to go see them but I didn’t want to get murdered in the process. When I saw the possibility of a church tour of Detroit I jumped at the idea. On January 7th I went on the church tour and visited 9 of the nicest Catholic Churches in Detroit, still decked out in their Christmas best because the Church’s Christmas season starts on Christmas Eve and lasts until February 2nd. While on the tour bus going down the streets of Detroit I was able to see it was as overtly dangerous as what I had heard, especially for the activity that I was doing. So, I stayed the night outside of Detroit and the next day visited 10 more churches on my own. Then, because Detroit has way more than 19 pretty churches, I made a second trip 4 weeks ago and visited 34 more. I still haven’t visited them all, but I am more than half done. Hopefully I will get down to Detroit again sometime and finish them up.
I deeply appreciate the architectural beauty of these houses of God. All of the work put into them by the Catholics of 100 years ago or more is a testament to their faith and their devotion to the Catholic Church. As a Catholic attached to the preservation of the unchanged Faith, including the Traditional Latin Mass, I am edified by the architectural beauty of the churches built before the Second Vatican Council, and have a very low opinion of modern Catholic church buildings built after it.
It is also a sad fact that many of these beautiful churches are being closed because of poor attendance and low finances in these parishes. The Archdiocese of Detroit infamously closed over 30 churches in 1988-1990 and has closed more since. Some of these churches (like Saint John Cantius in Detroit) were among the most beautiful in the city. I know the Diocese of Cleveland has also closed many churches, and I’m sure it is a similar story in other Dioceses throughout the United States. This is a true shame, but by photographing these churches we’ll always have a remembrance of what was. That is part of the reason why I do this.
Hopefully this sheds some light on why I have posted these questions.
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