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:
|We practice responsiveness by:
| We practice solidarity through:
|We experience transformation through:
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, Villa Joseph Marie High School, Lynchburg 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.
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 currently have four program partners who utilize the center’s space to offer weekly or monthly services through a formal partnership agreement:
- Christian Legal Clinics of Philadelphia – Free legal assistance on areas ranging from immigration to simple wills and estates
- Community Literacies Project with University of Pennsylvania faculty and students who facilitate language and literacy support for immigrant families in the neighborhoods
- La Puerta Abierta - Free bilingual (Spanish/English) mental health counseling
- PA Fight for Driver’s License campaign
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.