By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T
We really shouldn’t be writing about Patrick and Mary Ann Purcell. They never did anything that great and there are so many other people we could write about. That’s what they both say, but you be the judge.
The Purcells, both 82, have been the heart and soul of St. Alice Parish in Upper Darby for the past half century.
Both Philadelphia-born, he was raised in Our Mother of Sorrows Parish and graduated from St. Tommy More High School; she was a West Catholic grad out of Our Lady of Victory Parish.
Patrick served with the Army in Germany during the Korean War, and afterwards they met at a dance at the Shanahan, the former Catholic club at Our Mother of Sorrows.
“She had all the qualifications you would ever want – she was a good religious girl,” Patrick said.
“It was love at first sight,” Mary Ann added.
They were married at Our Lady of Victory in 1954 and moved into a house near St. Alice the following year.
From almost the time they arrived, daily Mass was a staple for both of them. It got a bit tricky when little ones started coming along – eventually there would be Dennis, Michael, Patrick, Catherine and Terrence.
But in the beginning this was still the pre-Vatican II era, when daily low Masses in Latin were really short, at least with some priests. Patrick would go to the 7 a.m. Mass, then rush home to baby-sit while Mary Ann hurried over for the 7:30 a.m.
Patrick, who enrolled in St. Joseph’s University night classes, earned an accounting business degree. He worked most of his career in the machine tool field. Mary Ann, who at first was a stay-at-home mom, got an associate’s degree in business from Drexel and began working at St. Alice’s rectory. They both found time for any and all church activities – CYO, parish clothing drive, bloodmobile, Catholic Charities collection, you name it.
In 1998 with the kids grown, they moved out of Upper Darby and into Drexel Hill, but nevertheless kept their membership at St. Alice. “To be perfectly honest, St. Alice needed us more,” Patrick said.
They still attend Sunday Mass there; Patrick is a lector and Mary Ann is an extraordinary minister of Holy Communion.
Daily Masses are at any one of a number of nearby churches.
They work at the St. Alice rectory on Mondays and Fridays, counting the collection among other things, and also find time to volunteer at a couple of other parishes. In addition to daily Mass there is also the daily rosary.
For most of their marriage Patrick attended an annual weekend men’s retreat at Malvern Retreat House, while Mary Ann made hers at the Dominican Retreat House in Elkins Park. But now that the Dominican Retreat House has closed, they attend a couples’ retreat together at Malvern.
To round out their spiritual life there is the weekly novena at the Shrine of the Miraculous Medal in Germantown, and now for the Nov. 16-23 solemn novena leading up to the Feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, they attended daily.
So there you have it. Two people who over a long life have done nothing spectacular. Nothing, except love, honor and serve God to the best of their ability in everything they do.
That’s worth writing about.
Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.
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