Papal Pilgrims Arriving Soon


In a story featured on WHYY 90.9FM this morning, Sr. Janet Santibañez, MSBT described the difference between a tourist and a pilgrim. “As a tourist, you are going to visit places just to see the beauty,” Santibañez said. “But as a pilgrim, you are going to see not just the beauty but the holy place, [which will] remind you of the faith and the love of God.” The reporter also described the pilgrims that Aquinas Center will be hosting. To learn more about the many places where pilgrims are staying, check out the story here, with audio and print.


**MEDIA ALERT** Contacts for WMOF and Papal Visit

This is the logo for the eighth World Meeting of Families. The international gathering, inaugurated by Blessed John Paul II in 1994, will be held in late September in 2015 in Philadelphia. (CNS/courtesy of Archdiocese of Philadelphia) (Feb. 26, 2013) See FAMILIES-PHILADELPHIA Feb. 26, 2013.

Media outlets looking to contact parish staff or parishioners for interviews relating to the World Meeting of Families, pilgrims at Aquinas Center, Pope Francis’ address on immigration at Independence Hall, and other stories, should use the following information:

For priests and rectory staff: 215-334-2312 or staquinasparish [at]
For information on procession to Independence Hall on Saturday: 215-334-2312 ask for Clara Jerez or bwelch [at]
For Aquinas Center staff hosting pilgrims and corresponding stories, including the Francis Fund project contact: Bethany Welch 267-702-3454 or bwelch [at]

Thank you!

Pope Dedicated to Defending Migrants

The Philadelphia Inquirer did a feature story on immigration that included a visit to Aquinas Center.

On the forthcoming visit of Pope Francis, reporter Michael Matza wrote:

Another group with a keen interest will be patrons and supporters of the Aquinas Center, a South Philadelphia convent-turned-community center that strives to bridge cultural divides.

Filipinos, Thais, Cambodians, Vietnamese, Congolese, Mexicans, Hondurans, and Guatemalans are among the 550 people who use the center weekly, said director Bethany Welch.

The Latinos, she said, have “a profound feeling of connectedness” to Francis as the first pope from Latin America.

During the week leading up to the pontiff’s visit here, the center will provide bunk beds for 45 Mexican immigrant “farmworker pilgrims” from Mobile, Ala., said Welch, and will host hundreds of Vietnamese families for a marriage-enrichment course.
Read more at:

“Live simply, so that others may simply live!”

 When we were growing up my sisters, brother and I often heard the phrase directed to us “Remember your place”. It usually came from one of our parents in an attempt to keep us from claiming MORE attention, privileges, space “rights”, etc. than were warranted. “Remember your place” was not so much to stifle our quest or our desire to grow and expand. Rather the phrase was meant to remind us of OTHER peoples rights, privileges, space, etc. WE were reminded to NOT infringe on others just because we wanted “more”.

This phase seems good to remember as we read the scriptures today and hear of the great power of nature around us AND just who is in “charge” of that nature. Our Holy Father Pope Francis in his newest encyclical, along with many other religious leaders, is calling all of us to recognize the great gift of nature surrounding us—and to respect it! Pope Francis is trying to remind us that God has placed in our care a world and is components that need to be understood and reverenced. We (the present generation) are not the sole users or recipients of this gift of nature. We are called to see our responsibilities in the use of the gifts of nature and the protection of the gifts of nature for future generations.

It is obvious that we, here in the United States—the richest, most-blessed-by-God-Country– have an obligation, despite our desires for greater dividends, profits and advantages to protect, respect and persevere the gifts of nature by avoiding selfish and self-serving decisions as a nation and as individuals. To “remember our place”!

Some of the questions posed by our Pope Francis’ letter center around our consumption habits and the needs of the rest of the world. For us Catholics we, along with everyone else, are asked to examine our habits in our life styles. A bumper sticker popular a few years ago sums it up pretty well. It read “Live simply, so that others may simply live!”

How are you and I doing in “remembering our place “ in God’s world??!

Father Shields


June 23: Mayor’s Office, USDA Kick Off Free Summer Meals at Aquinas Center

More than 1,000 sites expected to operate in the region this summer

WHAT: ­ The Mayor’s Office, the USDA and community partners will announce the start of free summer meals for kids, the yearly effort to ensure no child goes hungry while school is out.

The event will address the need for summer meals in Philadelphia and highlight the ways people can find nearby sites. The press conference will take place as lunch is being served to children and teens at Aquinas Center in South Philadelphia. Philadelphia Eagles Mascot SWOOP will also be in attendance interacting with the kids. Members of the media are invited to attend.

According to the “Hunger Doesn’t Take a Vacation” report issued by the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), Pennsylvania ranked 12th in summer meals participation nationwide in 2014. While that is certainly a high ranking, a closer look reveals four out of five children statewide who receive free lunch during the school year are not participating in summer meals.

To find a nearby site, call the toll-free Philly Summer Meals Hotline at 1-855-252-MEAL (6325) or text “FOOD” to 877877 to find the closest Summer Meals site. A searchable map containing all Summer Meal sites can also be found at

WHO:  Deputy Mayor Richard Negrin, City of Philadelphia
James Harmon, Mid-Atlantic Special Nutrition Programs Director-USDA
Noelle Dames, Community Educator, Coalition Against Hunger
Kathy Fisher, Policy Manager, Coalition Against Hunger
Anne Ayella, Assistant Director, NDS

WHEN: Tuesday, June 23, 2015 – 1:00pm
WHERE:  Aquinas Center
1719 Morris Street, Philadelphia, PA 19145

For more information, visit

“New Life”

A very kind person after looking at the plants (long dead!) in the office that I use in the rectory, was kind enough to repot green, vibrant, very-much-alive plants where I had allowed the former occupants of the pots to die. The transformation from brown, brittle, dried-up to spirit-lifting and beauty was noticeable immediately.

This seems to be the promise that the Lord is making to the Israelite Community (and to us!) in today’s readings. The Lord is promising to not only restore “life” but also to tend and take care of that “life” through the imagery of plants and crops. God is promising to be an active agent in the process of nurturing and growth of much more than plants or crops. The Lord of Life is promising to be with us, especially in those times when WE feel powerless and unsuccessful. God is telling us very clearly that the outcome of things does NOT solely depend on OUR strengths, gifts, capabilities or wisdom. Rather God is very much a part of our daily activities and interactions.

Among other things the readings today are meant to be a consolation and encouragement for us who have not always been successful in growing loving relations, trust in God, doing-the-right-thing –being better.

God, like the kind person who planted “new-life” in the office pots, promises to be with us and invites us to trust more and more in God’s unlimited great love for each one of us. Maybe a good exercise in light of today’s readings, would be to take inventory of areas in our lives where some “re-potting” is needed. And, maybe we can lend the Lord a “hand” in the work needed to bring about new life.

Father Shields


From Broken Windows to Beauty

delaney w muralA Reflection from Delaney McCaffrey, high school senior who designed, coordinated, and installed the Aquinas Center’s newest mural on Fernon Street. The mural will be dedicated on Saturday, May 9th at 12:30PM during our One Table event.

In August 2013 I attended JusticeworX Philadelphia, a weeklong community service summer camp. For that week I stayed at the Aquinas Center and got to know Bethany. As the week went on, I learned about the Broken Window Theory, which explains how city beautification can encourage positive change, such as less vandalism and lower crime rates. Inspired by my experience, I reached out to Bethany later that summer and asked if I could work with her and the Aquinas Center for my Gold Award Project.

For my project I brought together kids from my suburban town and the St. Thomas Aquinas neighborhood, to paint a cultural mural at the center. My favorite part about the Aquinas Center is the spirit of community and inclusion. Everyone is so nice and open-minded and I loved getting to know members of the community over the course of my project.

I worked with artist Delia King, a muralist for the Mural Arts program in Philadelphia that creates murals throughout the city. She taught me about the messages that urban art sends and the technical and material aspects of installing a mural.

The first step was to design the mural. I chose to incorporate cultural textile designs to represent the diverse community. I sketched out a design, which we then projected and traced onto giant pieces of paper called parachute cloth. After choosing colors, we numbered each section of the mural according to which color it would be. The painting was a community event in painting-by-number fashion. This was my favorite part of the process because it allowed the entire community to be involved. When all of the pieces were painted, I installed the mural to the wall on Fernon Street essentially by gluing the pieces to the wall with special mural glue. After applying a sealing coat, the mural was finally complete! What surprised me most was how long and difficult of a process it was to create a mural. I had seen tons of murals all over Philadelphia, but it wasn’t until I made my own that I realized just how much is put into creating public art.

After receiving my Gold Award in November, I applied for the Prudential Spirit of Community Award for this project and I was recognized as an outstanding applicant. This led me to be chosen as one of six Girl Scouts to join Pat Carroll, Chief Executive Officer for Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey, and Anna Chávez, CEO of Girl Scouts USA, to attend the Let Girls Learn initiative hosted by Michelle Obama at the White House. The purpose of this initiative was to encourage girls global to further their educations, and we were the only Girl Scouts invited to this event. I felt immensely grateful and excited to be chosen for this honor.

It was so much fun meeting and getting to know the other girls I was with and the entire thing was so interesting to hear the President and Mrs. Obama speak. I also got to meet New Jersey Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman and Senator Cory Booker. It was so interesting to get to see how the government works from the inside. It’s amazing to think that a mural I created at the Aquinas Center took me all the way to Washington, DC.

delaney senior photo

Delaney has not yet decided which college she will attend, but plans to study engineering and journalism. Come and meet her in person on Saturday, May 9th!

Get a ticket. Win a ticket!

AC_One-Table_frontGet your ticket now for One Table and you could win FOUR more tickets…to a Philadelphia Flyers game!Thanks to a generous donor, everyone who gets their tickets by 5PM on Monday, March 30th will be entered in a raffle to win four prime tickets to the Flyers vs. Senators game on April 11th. The package includes reserved parking and is valued at over $600!

Act now! Only five days left. Go online and get your tickets to One Table, automatically entering you in the Flyers raffle. Or, pick them up in person at the rectory office, 1719 Morris Street, Mon-Sat 8:30AM-4:30PM or at Aquinas Center this Saturday from 10AM-4PM.


Sponsors and ad buys are rolling in. We are also signing up volunteers to help with promotion, decorations, and more. Check out this new page to get involved.

Our Guest of the Week – Mary A. Faustino

Mary A. Faustino

Liturgical Committee



I am proud to be part of St. Thomas Aquinas Church here in South Philadelphia. When my mom, brother and I moved here, we were close to our relatives here. My brother and I were baptized, First Holy Communion and Confirmation at Our Lady of Miraculous Medal, also called the Spanish Chapel (19th and Spring Garden) where a majority of Filipino families attended. Filipino families lived in the Point Breeze section of South Philadelphia.  And usually received all Sacraments at the Spanish Chapel, at 19th and Spring Garden, and also the Filipino parties, dances at St. Peter’s at 5th and Girard Avenue. When Father Taraborelli requested that I be a Communion minister, it was such an honor, I was still an “old fashion” Catholic. Young ladies were not chosen to do minister duties I thank God when I pray, I was chosen.

I am also grateful that our St. Thomas Aquinas Church is so multicultural. What a great place to take part in the Roman Catholic Church, and at the same time get involved with all people that our God has created. The devotion that our parishioners have for our blessed Mother Mary and my favorite saints, in their language helps me understand God loves us no matter who we are. us no matter who we are.

My great grandfather is African American, from Virginia who married the daughter of an American Indian and Irish Captain, and moved here to Philadelphia in the 1980’s where they raised two girls, and three boys. My grandmother who I was named after, married, a Filipino from Luzon who was a merchant marine and had children, my mom Pacita, and my uncles, Antonio and Francisco Lagera. My mother was married to my Filipino father, Jose’ Faustino who gas Tagalog according to an arranged marriage planned by her parents. Jose’ and Pacita had two children, George Alcarez Faustino and Mary Agnes Faustino. Later, my mom would have a daughter, Francene Collins, my step sister.


5th Sunday of Lent – “State of the Parish”

Thoughts from our Pastor

This past week our Archdiocese celebrated the Annual Cultural-Diversity Mass at the Cathedral with Archbishop Chaput. Over twenty seven countries were represented in the opening procession. (St. Thomas Aquinas parish was WELL REPRESENTED in this Liturgy!!!) As each country’s banner was carried in I could not help notice “IRELAND” and the adult carrying that banner accompanied by 5 or 6 children. So few! And then, the next day the St. Patrick’s Day Parade with over 150 groups marching with thousands upon thousands of young and old lining the parade route. As far as Irish heritage representation at the two events it would be fair to say “a noticeable difference!”.

There are many, many reasons and explanations for the difference in “attendance” and each has something to offer to the understanding. But one “question” does seem to surface “Are we (the Irish?… Or Indonesian?… Or Vietnamese?… Or Filipino?…or African American?… Or Italian… or ???) experiencing a separation of “culture” from “faith” that has not been the case in the past. Three to four hundred youth… dressed in green… were gently but firmly dispersed by the police at the parade as they chanted “U.S.A” while the groups marched past. Were the youth saying “We are here (in the U.S.A.) but we are different (from our immigrant ancestors!)??

Perhaps, we as a parish of immigrants, need to examine “who” we are and “who” we are called by God to become. Jeremiah tells us that God “placed my law within them and wrote it in their hearts”. As we move through these final days of Lent toward the Resurrection of Jesus on Easter, it is probably fitting for us to examine just “what” God has written in our hearts. And following the image of Christ’s Resurrection on Easter to ask ourselves just what kind of parish/community we want to become. Is there a “rising again” needed here at St. Thomas Aquinas? Is God challenging us to come up with a better way to respect our faith, our culture, our traditions as we live in this “U.S.A.”? To that end I am going to ask you to reserve on your busy calendars two “State of the Parish” meetings. History would say that we could “rest on our laurels” and as a parish “go gently into that good night”. Or, when others say “we would like to see Jesus” that we be still alive and well to help them meet Jesus here at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish!

Mark your calendars, please Tuesday May 12th 7:00 PM and Tuesday May 19th 7:00 PM Lower Hall “State of the Parish “ meetings. Father Shields