Running a parish involves a lot more than celebrating Mass and giving a homily. It also usually means oversight of several large buildings and seeing to it that they are properly maintained. Father Joseph Corley knows all about that, he’s been running Blessed Virgin Mary Parish in Darby for almost 20 years.

He also knows his parishioners have the same challenges in miniature.

The problem is, many of them do not have the necessary expertise to fix their homes. There are elderly widows whose late husbands took care of such matters.


There are also many immigrants, often from countries where houses were basic and with few of the systems Americans or Europeans take for granted.

When something leaks or breaks or shuts off, what should homeowners do? It’s not so much how to fix it themselves, some things are best left to professionals. How does one decide what work is really needed or best done — and incidentally, not get ripped off by a contractor?

Luckily one of Father Corley’s close neighbors and a parishioner, Harold Finigan, is a recognized expert in the field, with a special concentration in energy conservation. He has served at various agencies dealing with such issues and taught at both the Wharton School and Drexel University. He is not a contractor, so this isn’t a ploy to drum up business for himself.

Last fall he gave a series of four Sunday two-hour workshops and Q & A sessions on home maintenance at B.V.M. Parish. This year he is back by popular demand for five two-hour workshops beginning Sunday, Nov. 5 and ending Dec. 6. The workshops, which are held in B.V.M.’s old school hall, run from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. and are totally free and open to anyone who wants to come.

“I’m proud of this, it’s very practical and I hope a lot of people will take advantage of it,” Father Corley said. “It’s an excellent program and it’s free.”

This is not to suggest Finigan promotes the cheapest alternatives in home maintenance, because cheapest may be the most expensive in the long run.

“In general people’s knowledge of this is very poor,” said Finigan, who points to such things as proper insulation that will pay for themselves many times over in reduced energy costs. He also believes building codes in the United States are way behind Europe in addressing such issues.

The five sessions ofMe and My House: Understanding How Buildings Work” are as follows:

November 5 — Plumbing: How Plumbing Systems Work
November 12 — Understanding How Home Electrical Systems Work
November 19 — Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning and Moisture Control
November 26 — The Building Envelope: Walls, Roof and Foundations
December 6 — Weatherization and Getting Ready for Winter

All of the sessions focus on proper construction, maintenance and repair necessary for safe affordable housing.

Again it is totally free and open to all who wish to come. Just bring your questions and Harold Finigan will supply the answers.


To register for “Me and My House: Understanding How Buildings Work” call Blessed Virgin Mary Parish at 610-583-2128. Walk-ins are also welcome.