by: Sabrina Silva and Jared Phillips/PhiladelphiaNeighborhoods.com
Since the closing of St. Joachim’s parish and Mater Dolorosa churches in the region three years ago, its members were given no choice but to merge into the Holy Innocents parish. However, for Keep The Faith In Frankford’s President and Executive Director Pat Smiley, the church’s closing showcased the strength its church members had on the community and its faith.
“This was also the time of Pope Francis, who said that we needed to get more involved in our communities and that we should step out onto the street,” Smiley said. “We were forced out onto the street, but that’s where the Pope wanted us and that’s where we’ve been.”
In light of the closing, Smiley started the Keep The Faith In Frankford organization to continue the presence of the churches in the community. The organization works out of St. Marks Church and holds weekly prayer services in front of the now-closed St. Joachim’s Church.
Before KTFIF, Smiley owned a neighborhood daycare center. Now, with a background of teaching, Smiley has put her energetic personality into bettering a community.
“I’ve always been an active-type person in trying to make things better,” Smiley said. “And in trying to deal with injustice.”
KTFIF has brought Frankford residents and other community members together to improve the neighborhood. Mary Moretz, vice president of the executive board has been with Smiley since day one of the organization.
“She just knows what needs to be done, who we need to reach out to, and she’s very talented and creative. We always just seem to get things done, and anything that we plan always comes together thanks to Pat,” Moretz said.
Various other organizations come together to help Smiley and KTFIF. Organizations such as Frankford Friendlies, Frankford Forward, and The House of W.I.N., work alongside KTFIF to better the community.
“What we are trying to do is connect people to make Frankford a better place to live, and that includes other civic organizations,” Smiley said. “You have a lot of people that are working together with people they wouldn’t have ordinarily met if it wasn’t for us or if it wasn’t for our church closing.”
Former St. Joachim’s parishioner and current KTFIF member Maureen Taylor has been a part of the organization since the closing of the parish. A member of the Parish for over 35 years, she was one of the church members affected by the close. Taylor helps out with feeding the homeless in the community as well as with the history tours of the Frankford neighborhood.
“Our group is trying to keep in touch with former parishioners by doing some of these community activities,” Taylor said. “So we’re just trying to be a home base for them.”
Community activities are highly important to the organization. Smiley believes they are crucial not only for the church members but for the residents of Frankford and its neighboring communities.
When former parishioner of St. Joachim Church and active Keep The Faith In Frankford member Al Stark, Jr. passed away, members of the church organized a “Spirit Day” to honor him. Now in its third year, KTFIF has combined the event with the “Dining with Dignity” effort, which is run by the Northeast Committee.
“We have games for the children,” Taylor said. “We try to get neighborhood groups to set up informational tables so that people coming through are informed of what services are available in the neighborhood.”
Though the event is set up by the KTFIF organization, many leaders from other organizational groups come by to help out.
Caroline Payton, founder and CEO of House of W.I.N., joined the KTFIF organization as a volunteer in preparation for the “Spirit Day.” Payton’s contribution is working with the young children during their basketball game event.
Smiley, alongside the members of KTFIF and other community organizations, have been doing all they can to not only better the Frankford neighborhood, but to bring its residents together for the greater good.
Smiley recognizes the success of KTFIF and other organizations in the neighborhood.
“Sometimes things are a blessing in disguise.”
-Text, images and video by Sabrina Silva and Jared Phillips.