Aquinas Center

Our Story

Aquinas Center was developed as a collaborative effort with the parishioners of St. Thomas Catholic Community, neighbors in South Philadelphia, and many people of good will from partnering organizations and agencies. The former convent was re-purposed to be a welcoming place that offered mutual support to fostered shared understanding across cultural divides. The building was dedicated January 27th, 2013 at a large multilingual ceremony. In late summer 2013, five individuals were invited to serve as the founding board of directors to guide the formation of the nonprofit corporation. Meet the team here.

Our Mission and Values

Aquinas Center builds unity in diversity, supports learning, and inspires thoughtful action. Hospitality, solidarity, responsiveness, and transformation are the four core values that animate and advance this mission.

We extend hospitality by:

  • Inviting and engaging people
  • Emphasizing inclusiveness
  • Creating a welcoming space
  • Developing opportunities for people to share gifts and talents
We practice responsiveness by:

  • Advocating for the most vulnerable
  • Engaging in dialogue for the purpose of understanding
  • Heeding the call to global solidarity
  • Equipping leaders with training and tools to seek change
  We practice solidarity through:

  • Respect for one another
  • Care for creation
  • Support for local businesses
  • Fair compensation for workers
We experience transformation through:

  • Listening to one another
  • Sharing meals and fellowship
  • Cultivating an awareness of God
  • Exercising creative action for the common good

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Our Activities and Programs

Over 400 people use the center weekly for activities ranging from community organizing to sacramental preparation to leadership training to English classes. Leadership for parish and center programming is shared by different cultural communities including: Indonesian, Vietnamese, Latin American, African American, Filipino, and Anglo-Europeans.

Urban Immersion and Service Learning

Aquinas Center hosted the first group of college students for a social justice weekend in January 2013. In the year that followed, over 600 students and adults have stayed overnight for prayerful retreats, leadership development, and urban immersion experiences that include volunteer projects, policy presentations, and reflection. That number is on track to increase by 50% in fiscal year 2015, which represents a strong base of external supporters who are growing in cooperation and solidarity with our diverse neighborhood in order to achieve a more integrated and mutually understanding society. Recent groups include: Villanova University, Clinton Presbyterian youth group, Merion Mercy High School, Misericordia University, Cornell College, Georgetown University, St. Louis University, and Drexel University. Learn more about these experiences and the accommodations here. Contact Bethany Welch at (267) 928-4048 or e-mail bwelch [at] staquinas.com for current rates.

A six week intensive summer internship program, made possible through a partnership with Liberti Church, seeks to engage college students in a multicultural experience with immigrants in South Philadelphia. During their time here, interns are discipled and mentored, as to help them grow in their faith and discern their gifts and calling. Interns are partnered with different non-profit organizations and given opportunities to learn and grow professionally, all while being involved in a local faith community in a vibrant neighborhood.

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Education, Advocacy, and Supportive Services

Aquinas Center provides space for a wide range of social service programs, meetings, workshops, and other community development type activities. Some of these are ongoing, while others are individual stand alone activities. We have many program partners who utilize the center’s space to offer weekly or monthly services through a formal partnership agreement. Some of these include:

Please contact Bethany for more information or to schedule a tour of the center. Stay connected through our email list. Click here to sign up.