By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T

PHILADELPHIA – Cardinals John O’Hara, John Krol, Anthony Bevilacqua and Justin Rigali. Four consecutive Archbishops of Philadelphia uphold a joyful tradition that traces back to 1956 when Cardinal O’Hara was not yet a cardinal.

It’s the annual Cardinal’s (some years Archbishop’s) Christmas Party for Children, when children representing the multitude of outreach programs for children conducted by the Archdiocese are treated to a grand party hosted by the Archbishop of Philadelphia complete with food, entertainment and, of course, Santa Claus and gifts.{{more}}

The first such Christmas party was held at the Benjamin Franklin Hotel on Dec. 18, 1956. This year’s Dec. 20 party will be held at the Philadelphia Sheraton Center City Hotel, the venue in recent years. The guests will be 400 children drawn from residential and community-based programs of Catholic Social Services (CSS). These honored guests include, for example, children from regional Family Service Centers, St. Edmond’s Home for Children, Out of School Time programs and children of mothers living in CSS-sponsored shelters.

Working to make the magic happen with Jacqueline Delaney, chair of the Planning Committee, are Deacon John Hunter, executive director of the archdiocesan Office for Development; Amy Stoner, assistant director of Community-based Services for CSS; and other archdiocesan staff.

Absolutely key to the success of the event is the enthusiastic volunteer support from various archdiocesan high schools and private Catholic high schools. Marching bands, choruses and choirs, clowns, popular cartoon figures and even a stilt-walker provide lively entertainment. As a timely reminder that Dec. 25 is not just a generic holiday but a Christ-centered holy day, student actors reverently present a Nativity tableau.

Children with needs are the fundamental reason for the party and the chosen 400 represent the 16,000 children served in various ways annually by Catholic Social Services. From the very beginning another underlying reason for the event has been to underscore their needs and encourage people of good will to donate to this worthy cause. Also present at the party will be a number of the generous donors who make it all happen, not just at Christmastide, but all year round.

One of the primary funding sources for these many programs is the annual Catholic Charities Appeal, but there are other ways those who wish to support these programs for children can help. For example the web site has a brief history of the event and a handy form to make a donation.

For those who are really into 21st-century technology, a donation can be made instantly via a mobile phone text message via XIPWIRE. This innovative service, which can be used for a multiplicity of other services, including charitable donations and even bill-paying, is explained on its web site

“It’s all about a person in need and a person willing to help,” said James B. Senior, development director for CSS. “We are always looking for ways to make it easier for donors and to try new things.”


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