Montgomery Co. parish starts library, lends 1,400 books, resources

By Marimah Branch
Special to The CS&T

SCHWENKSVILLE – For two members of St. Mary Parish in Schwenksville, faith is more than words on a printed page. Still, that’s not a bad place to start.

Linda Nichols and Maggie Bickel started a Catholic lending library at their church – only one of a handful of such efforts in the Archdiocese – Corpus Christi and St. Stanislaus parishes in Lansdale are two others.

“The idea was to keep it simple,” Nichols said. “You can’t go to the local library to find Catholic books. We wanted to put those resources in (parishioners’) hands.”

The mission of the library, according to Nichols, is to help adults, teens and children develop a deeper understanding of their Catholic faith so they can grow closer to Jesus Christ. {{more}}

The idea started with the parish evangelization group brainstorming new ways to enhance spirituality at the church.

“I think the key reason why we went forward with it was that there were two of us, so we took it on together,” Nichols said. “And, of course, the Holy Spirit was very much a part of it.

“We gained the support of the pastor, Father (Charles) McElroy,” Nichols added, “and he offered us the old office in the back of the church. He allowed us to speak after all the Masses one weekend to communicate to parishioners what the plan was and what we hoped to accomplish.”

One question on the mind of the parishioners was money – how was this library to be funded?

“We run on a small budget but everything else is donated,” Nichols said, “funded by the parishioners themselves. We said that if every family donated one book, then that would be over 2,000 books.”

What started small in 2008 began to grow – with the overwhelming support of the parish community. The lending library is open before and after all the Sunday Masses, and items can be checked out for a three week period. The current holdings stand at about 1,400, and the donations keep coming.

“Every week that I go in, there is almost always another box of books that someone has donated,” she said. “We also get donations from the Catholic Shop and from parishioners from other churches in the Archdiocese.

“We have every book that we asked for.”

The library also runs a few specials during the year. For instance, for Mother’s Day the parishioners were invited to sponsor or dedicate a book to a special mother. The response was tremendous.

Early in the process, Nichols and Bickel met with Angela McClellan, the director of adult faith formation at Corpus Christi Parish, who had set up the library at her church.

“Angela was incredibly helpful,” Nichols said. “She showed us examples of flyers that she had used, resources, and contacts. She was fantastic and very encouraging.”

Now, Nichols says they’re paying it forward.

“We would be happy to help do the same for other churches that are looking to start a library of their own,” she said.

For more information about the library call St. Mary’s rectory at 610-287-8156 or visit

Marimah Branch is a freelance writer and parishioner of St. Rose of Lima in North Wales.