By Lou Baldwin

Special to The CS&T

DREXEL HILL – Approximately 45 people showed up on the lawn of Marty and Susan Farrell of the 1000 block of Edmonds Avenue in Drexel Hill on the evening of May 12, just to pray. They didn’t mind; they were all neighbors and the Farrells had invited them.

It was all part of “Block Blessing” in St. Bernadette Parish, which has the pastor, Father John J. Kelly, his deacons and key staff fanning out through the various streets to conduct a brief service and get to better know the residents.

“We solicited people to offer hospitality and we have five or six teams go out,” explained Father John J. Kelly, St. Bernadette’s recently installed pastor.

Under the plan, he hopes 20 streets will be visited before summer sets in and another 20 in the fall.

“It’s a little bit like the old block collection but no money changes hands,” Father Kelly said. “It’s just a prayerful encounter and a chance for the people to meet each other, and it seems to be catching on. We’ve had people come who are Jewish and people who are Protestant. One man said he’d been away from the Church for years and this could be a stepping stone for coming back. It is gaining momentum.”

It wasn’t a long program – a few hymns were sung, there were short Scripture readings and opportunity for prayers, and Father Kelly offered a few words – then everyone enjoyed refreshments provided by the Farrells and some of the neighbors.

“It does a couple of things. It builds community and it gives a chance for all of us to meet Father Kelly who has only been here for five months,” said Marty Farrell, whose day job is development director at Devon Preparatory School.

Carolyn Kilroy, one of the attendees, agreed. “I think it’s a great community builder in a spiritual way and everybody can use that,” she said.

Another neighbor, Joe Lunardi, vice president for communications and development at St. Joseph’s University, put down a paint brush to join the crowd. “People driving by wonder, ‘What are they doing?'” he said. “I think public displays of faith are in short supply and it is a good thing we are doing something about it.”

“This is a wonderful idea,” said Cathy Angelo, another participant. “Doing this once a year would be very, very nice. It’s so good to see so many neighbors show up.”

Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.