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Mary Carroll, You Brightened Our Lives!

Photo courtesy of Tina Dambach

Sadly, we learned another of our dear friends was called home to God recently. If you’re a member of St. Joachim or if you live in the area on the corner of Church St. and Griscom St., a very special woman lived in the first floor apartment, Mary Carroll. She knew everybody even if you didn’t know her.

Mary loved God, her Church and everyone else, too. She was a member of the St. Frances de Sales Court #2617 Catholic Daughters of the Americas as well as a member of Keep the Faith in Frankford! When she attended our 8 AM Prayer Services in front of St. Joachim Church, she would always pray for “the animals, the cops, the firemen, all the people, for us and everybody have a good week!” Mary, we pray for you and we also pray for ourselves because Frankford is a little less bright these days without you! Go in peace, sweet friend!

In the Catholic Daughters’ Newsletter, a section called “Members Spotlight” highlighted Mary Carroll in 2015. Regent Tina Dambach wrote the following about Mary:

“Mary Carroll “Call Security!” That’s one of Mary’s catch phrases to ease an awkward or dicey situation or just to bring a little comic relief. Mary recently turned 70. She loves animals, especially her cat, Rocky. She misses her mother who passed away 3 years ago. Before her death, Mary’s mother was living at Chapel Manor Home and Fr. Wetzel and Fr. Large as well as others would take Mary to visit. Mary is a survivor.

It’s anonymous, but Mary has no problem letting you know she has been in A.A. and sober for 35 years as of April 26, 2015. After 5 years of sobriety, Mary came back to the Church after hearing others speak of the peace they had found. Mary joined Catholic Daughter’s because of our own Fr. Wetzel whom she refers to as “the priest” and who helped us find a lot of our members. She likes the people, the parties and helping out. Mary helps as much as she can at all our fundraisers and meetings. She has helped at Matthew 25 on distribution days and on other days she helps pack bags. Mary has also contributed food to Matthew 25. That’s just one example of her generosity.

Mary hopes to hit it big in the lottery one day, but when Mary does hit a number, she is sure to share some with the Church or another person. The thing she shares the most though is her personality. Mary is down to earth, kind, humble and serene. I only saw her get upset once and she immediately let it go. I only saw her cry once and that was the day Father announced that our parish would be merged into Holy Innocents.

She has a great sense of humor too as her, “Call Security”, phrase indicates. Mary has worked at a few different jobs. She worked in a factory until it closed up. She did cleaning at Shriner’s Hospital which used to be on the Boulevard where the kids loved her. Mary also worked for 8 years at McDonald’s before retiring. Her work ethic extended to the Church.

Mary helped at St. Joachim as a greeter and taking the Offertory gifts up and she would help do the readings at daily Mass. Mary is often chosen to take the gifts to the altar at Holy Innocents Church which she finds to be a great honor. Another way Mary shows her faith and evangelizes is by displaying prayer cards, the cross and other religious articles in the windows of her first floor apartment which is directly across from the Church. Mary also has attended prayer services in front of St. Joachim Church every week since the church was closed. She used to attend healing prayer services at St. Anne’s Church.

How lucky we are to have Mary in our court!”

PS. Many thanks to Tammy Hartenstine for providing Rocky with a new home!!

There is a GoFund Me page started by the Court St. Francis de Sales #2617 of the Catholic Daughters of the Americas for the cost of Mary’s funeral, burial and the vet costs for her cat, Rocky! Any amount will help and is most gratefully received! God bless you!



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Post Season Football Continues Sunday; Let’s Get Behind Coach Andy Reid!


We asked Mike Betz, a local Philadelphia Eagles Fan and Sports Analyst, to reflect on this year’s Eagles season.

Kansas City Chiefs’ Andy Reid

Well, the Eagles’ luck has unfortunately run out. The last 2 seasons have given us incredible thrills to last us for as long as we live. We’ll always be indebted to Nick Foles for taking over and ending 57 years of frustration. Finally, that dark cloud was lifted! Nick Foles should never have to pay for a meal in Philadelphia ever again.

Now that the Eagles finally won it, how about we root for the guy who drafted Nick Foles back in 2012? That’s right, I’m talking about Andy Reid. Love him or hate him, Reid is the winningest coach in Eagles’ history. Many Eagles’ fans, myself included, have criticized him for his play calling and time management, or lack thereof. We were all scratching our heads when he’d call a pass play on first down, when he would burn time outs, and especially at the answer he’d give at his post game press conferences. “I gotta do a better job.” “It’s my responsibility to put guys in position to make plays.” 

Andy Reid is indirectly responsible for the Eagles Super Bowl victory. After all, he recommended Doug Pederson to Jeff Lurie after the Chip Kelly debacle. So far, so good! So, let’s root for Andy Reid and the Kansas City Chiefs to win it all! He has a nice young quarterback in Patrick Mahomes, a solid tight end in Travis Kelce, the younger brother of Jason Kelce. Reid finally seemed to have figured it out. Come on Andy, we got our first title. Go out and get yours. Like you always say, “Time’s yours! Go get it!”

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Mastery Charter at Smedley Elementary School Engages Families

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Please note: This story first appeared in the April/May print edition of The Frankford Gazette. I never finished adding the photo gallery – a good lesson about timeliness in all things for this student of life. 

I was very intrigued and interested in learning about Mastery Charter Smedley Elementary after my first email encounter with Danielle Nicoletti, Assistant Principal of Operations and Student Life at Smedley. I had emailed Danielle regarding our Frankford Community Calendar and I received back an enthusiastic response and a willingness to “connect and work within the community”. One of their activities for March was holding a Job Fair for parents after they had offered parents’ workshops in resume writing and job interviewing skills. This is something I have long believed in –  that we are lifelong learners and schools can play a much larger role in the community as a learning resource for all!

We wanted to share with you more about Mastery Charter Smedley Elementary. Franklin D. Smedley Elementary is located at 1790 Bridge Street. Smedley was designed by Irwin T. Catharine, who was the chief architect of the city’s public schools for almost 20 years. Smedley was built in 1927-1928. He had a penchant for the Gothic Revival look but when used for schools, it’s also called Collegiate Gothic. Smedley operated for over 80 years as a traditional Philadelphia public school but was struggling by the time Mastery Charter came on the scene.

Mastery Charter took over Smedley in 2010 and they were up for the challenge of both refurbishing a building in dire need and improving the delivery of instruction to its’ students who were also in need. Mastery Charter Smedley began with an emphasis on inclusion of parents, students and staff to create a culture where everyone feels they belong. During the past 7 years, physical improvements have included painting, repairs, upgrading wiring and the building of an addition which includes a gym, 4 classrooms and handicap access for those in need.  

Cait Murphy has been in an administrative position since day one. She was an assistant principal for the first five years and then principal for the last two years. This year’s 6th grade graduating class is the first one that she has seen “grow up” from Kindergarten to now making the move most likely to the Lenfest Campus, 35 S. 4th Street, for grades 7 through 12.

Frankford is an area where many parents do struggle financially and this makes succeeding in school even more important for our children to open up future possibilities for them. As you enter Smedley, a poster at the top of the steps encourages students to work hard, to go to college, to work and realize their dreams. That’s the purpose of an education. Mastery Charter elementary schools make a commitment to be “neighborhood” schools – they do not engage in city-wide lotteries. There is, of course, a waiting list for upper grades but Principal Murphy told us that for this coming school year 20 seats are still available for Kindergarten. If you are interested, you must live in this catchment area….. but do contact them directly at the school or by downloading and completing an application here –

Principal Murphy exudes pride in her school and her students’ achievements which she attributes to a culture of family, community and a school spirit that drives the learning curriculum. She gives high marks to her teachers and support staff who go the extra mile to make it all happen. The PTA is growing and the School Advisory Committee are also key components of Smedley’s success. She has flexibility in her staffing and budgeting which allows her to do what is best for her students.

Stressing academics, reading is emphasized in the Early Literacy program gives each student, in Kindergarten through Second Grade, one hour of small group instruction which includes phonics and guided instruction. Students are given a strong foundation upon which to build and develop further skills and interests. This continues throughout the grades as they are focused on continuing to improve their PSSA scores. Many children are at grade level or beyond and teachers can individualize within their classrooms to address each student’s needs.

Every Wednesday, students have a half-day for teachers to engage in professional development honing their own skills. Unlike the public schools, there is no union, but their salaries are performance-based, meaning they do well when their students do well. There teachers like teaching here, partly because of the financial opportunity but mostly because of the community that exists. There are three Assistant Principals who help teachers better develop their skills and focus on best practices for academic instruction in a positive way.

But school doesn’t end at the bell! There are after school programs and events for families. Last Thanksgiving, families were invited to participate with the food being cooked and served by Lintons, their food service company. Traditional dance nights are held with more events planned.

During our visit all was calm and everyone was doing what they should. Students traveled to and from quietly, in an orderly fashion. Asking about discipline (there are no police or security guards here), Principal Murphy told us that when something does happen, the students are taken aside and whatever happened is discussed to be understood and to discuss alternative ways of handling matters (conflict resolution).  

We enjoyed our visit and did witness many of the reasons why Principal Murphy is proud of her school family. It really is a family – Principal Murphy’s father sometimes comes to volunteer.

There were a few openings in the spring for a very few grades, but if you are interested, please call the office at (215) 537-2523. Please mention you read about them in The Frankford Gazette

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Giving Hearts!

The Morgan Stanley Foundation is supported by each of the departments within Morgan Stanley. The Foundation has given Keep the Faith in Frankford much needed donations over the past two years.

Those donations go directly to helping us feed those in need through the Northeast Committee on the Homeless’ Dining with Dignity Program that operates at St. Mark’s Church. We have prepared and served over 500 people a hot meal and and have sent them home with dinner bags because of these donations.

There are very good people in our community who don’t need accolades nor do they want them. They genuinely care for others and do the right thing. Morgan Stanley does that, too! They encourage their employees to get involved in their communities and they support their efforts with matching grants and additional monies.

To our unsung hero at Morgan Stanley whose heart is in our Frankford community, thank you for all that you do! We also thank Morgan Stanley for acknowledging your efforts with their generous donations to Keep the Faith in Frankford!



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Eric Stieffenhofer Left Us Smiling!

Eric and Bee dancingEric Stieffenhofer almost made it to his 81st birthday. He liked marking milestones and he had had many in his life. You couldn’t sit in his and his wife, Bernice’s (Bee’s), living room without him pointing out to you his wedding picture proudly hanging over the mantle.

Married for 56 years, he always said it was destiny because you could find the letters of his name, B E R N I C E. A real love story they had. They met at the Fairmount Wallet factory where they both worked. In fact, they were both engaged to someone else. Eric was right about that destiny – they broke off their engagements and the result was five children, Lori, Krae, Beth, Mark and Tara and 12 grandchildren so far.

Initially settling in the Hunting Park area, the family moved to Northwood in 1974. They liked the diversity of the people and had very good neighbors. Beth tells the story of one of the neighbors asking about Eric only to learn that he had really just died. The man stopped and stood in the middle of their street upon hearing this news.

Eric would stop many people walking by as he sat on the front steps. Whether he knew you or not, he soon had you engaged in conversation. You would think you knew him all your life. No matter how he was feeling, Eric always wanted to lift others up. He would do that with a joke. Even the way he told them, you were intently listening until the punch line.

Truly, Eric put the “Pop” in “Pop Pop” as the grandchildren called him. Pop Pop would do the silliest things to keep them entertained. They loved to be with him and his family was most important. He would wrestle with the kids and always showed an interest in whatever they cared about. His granddaughter, Megan, would do puzzles with him on the iPad. His family just loved being with him because he was so much fun. He knew a lot about sports and there’s a lot you can learn from the game shows that he and Bee would watch. Eric was a favorite uncle, too. Eric loved parties and dancing; he knew how to enjoy life.

Eric and Bee were VIP’s, very important parishioners of St. Joachim. I used to see Eric at Mass, and he struggled with health issues that would have stopped anyone else in their tracks, but he was able to keep going.

During one of my visits, he showed me how he kept up with all the Keep the Faith in Frankford news on his iPad as we worked to reopen St. Joachim. I was impressed. Eric took the closing of the church, very, very hard. In fact, his family felt that when his beloved St. Joachim closed in June, 2013, that his health declined further as a result.  He truly believes St. Joachim will reopen. He recounted a vision he had one day and told me he knew the Church would open again. I believe, Eric and we sure are trying!

Eric had special powers. One of them was his sense of humor, a gift he shared freely with all those he came into contact with. His son, Mark, during Eric’s funeral Mass, began a eulogy to his father by telling all gathered a joke. That made us all feel a little better. We all smiled. Eric was still lifting us up and reminding us to smile. We won’t forget to “hear the laughter”, Eric, and we won’t forget you either. You are a part of all of us. There won’t be much resting in peace in heaven as you’ve already had them laughing with a few good jokes!