Santa Claus received a police escort from Philly’s finest as he cruised to a children’s Christmas party sponsored by archdiocesan Catholic Social Services (CSS).
Some 30 Philadelphia police officers, along with family members and staff from the Fraternal Order of Police (F.O.P.) Lodge 5, boarded a trolley on Dec. 19 and headed to CSS’s Northeast Family Services Center in Philadelphia. One of seven CSS locations throughout the five-county area, the center serves as a first point of contact for a wide array of resources CSS provides to individuals, families and parishes.
More than 40 children who benefit from the center’s Out of School Time and parenting programs were waiting to greet the man in red, who led the crowd in Christmas carols and handed out presents.
“We’re here to raise a ruckus,” joked Oblate Father Steven Wetzel, who serves as chaplain of the Michael the Archangel Ministry Program at FOP Lodge 5.
The holiday mission was part of the program’s year-round outreach to both law enforcement and community members. Named for the patron of police officers, the ministry — which Father Wetzel describes as “multidenominational, rather than nondenominational” — provides pastoral care, crisis support and spiritual enrichment opportunities.
Services include hospital visits, grief accompaniment, funeral rites and pastoral counseling to some 14,000 active and retired Philadelphia Police Department members, as well as their families.
As part of his ministry, Father Wetzel regularly accompanies officers during “last out,” or the overnight shift.
The children’s Christmas smiles provided a welcome change of pace for officers, whose shifts have seen a dramatic increase in gun violence.
“This is healing for them,” said Father Wetzel. “The environment they work in every day is tense, so this breaks that up.”
After a final rendition of his trademark “ho ho ho,” Santa rallied the group for the next stop on the evening’s beat, Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia, a regular beneficiary of the ministry’s efforts.
“We love to do this,” said Father Wetzel.
In a time of crisis CatholicPhilly.com keeps the information flowing
During the current coronavirus crisis, you can help CatholicPhilly.com deliver the kind of news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live ― every day.
Budgets are tight at this time, and CatholicPhilly's is no different than those of most families. We make sure your donation in any amount will go a long way toward continuing 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.
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103