Deacon Sidney M. Harper, 67, a permanent deacon for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, died June 29.
Born in Philadelphia the son of William and Edna Harper, he attended St. Elizabeth School, Holy Child School and Cardinal Dougherty High School and Cheney University.
“Our parents weren’t Catholic, but we went to Catholic school and were raised Catholic,” said his sister, Beverly Harper. “My parents insisted we go to Mass every Sunday, and every morning, before anyone else was awake, Sidney and my mother would pray together.”
A man with a flair for business, he owned several gasoline stations over the years, including his principal station at Chew Avenue and Washington Lane.
As a child he had considered the priesthood, and later, as a member of St. Athanasius Parish, he entered the permanent deacon program and was ordained on May 29, 1988 by Archbishop Anthony Bevilacqua at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul. He served at St. Athanasius for almost a decade until his retirement for reasons of health.
“He was kind-hearted and gentlemanly,” remembers Msgr. Kenneth McAteer, a former pastor of St. Athanasius. “He was very prayerful and would go into the church even at night when no one was there to pray. He was also dedicated to St. John the Evangelist Church and the National Shrine of the Miraculous Medal.”
He was also a good preacher, Msgr. McAteer recalls, and was especially effective in ministry to the men of the parish. It wasn’t just spiritual — from his own resources he would give to people in the parish who needed help and even supply jobs to them.
“He was always bigger than life, a successful businessman and socially popular,” Beverly Harper said. “He was very generous with his time and money, he gave and gave and gave, but he would never let people know about it. He was quite serious about being a deacon.”
Even after illness robbed him of his ability to serve, “He was always thinking about the Church,” she said. “He suffered so much; I think his death was a blessing. Everything God does is for a reason.”
Deacon Harper’s funeral Mass was celebrated July 8 at St. Athanasius. The principal celebrant was Bishop Daniel E. Thomas; Msgr. McAteer was the homilist. Deacon Fred Poelnitz was Deacon of the Word and Deacon James Mahoney was Deacon of the Eucharist.
In addition to his sister, Deacon Harper is survived by his son Sidney Jr.; his granddaughter Tiphani Clark, and relatives and friends.
Interment was at Chelten Hills Cemetery, Philadelphia.
Lou Baldwin is a freelance writer in Philadelphia.
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103