May 25, 2011
by Paul S.
Tribute Books has asked me to review another book they are publishing, this time it is “Framing Faith” written by Sarah Piccini with photography by Ivana Pavelka and “ARTS Engage!”
To quote from the synopsis:
“Framing Faith tells the story of the faith of immigrants and their descendants, spotlighting ten Catholic churches in the Diocese of Scranton that were closed due to restructuring. The churches … have rich ethnic heritages. They are Polish, Slovak, Italian, German, and Lithuanian parishes with long traditions and deep roots. Each church was founded by immigrant groups who came to the coal fields of the Lackawanna Valley with little more than their faith in God. Their churches served as the center of the community and touchstones of the Old Country. “Framing Faith” traces their histories from small beginnings through baptisms, weddings and funerals to their final celebrations. Throughout the text are images from each church, visual reminders of what was for many an important part of their lives.
I was originally going to post this review on Mother’s Day, as that was my personal tie-in to reviewing the book. I usually only review books that may have something to do with the scope of this blog. However, I was unable to meet the deadline due to some things going on in my “real life” away from blogging and other online activity. Why Mother’s Day? Because my Mom and Dad grew up in the Scranton, Pennsylvania area and although none of the churches I recall them ever mentioning are among those closing, this still hits home a bit.
The Catholic Church in the United States is restructuring. Churches are closing due to declining membership as people move away from the cities and out to other areas. The churches never recognized the need to evangelize the urban populations surrounding them, and as a result, Catholic parishes close and are boarded up, or are turned into non-Catholic churches. Anyway, the nature of the Church changes.
This is important in some manner to this blog as an authentic Catholic identity is critical one’s spiritual development. Membership in a parish is basic to the practice of the Faith, it provides a home and a framework for a person’s relationship to the greater Church as a whole.
The Introduction to “Framing Faith” provides an excellent glimpse into this idea, as it details the history of the Diocese of Scranton and the creation, growth, and development of the immigrant ethnic Catholic parishes. We see how important to the lives of Catholics these parishes were, how they were a means of social support in the decades before government charity. In addition, they were a means of maintaining a cultural identity in the times before “diversity” became an abused ideology.
Which makes it sad that certain parishes are closing. And why “Framing Faith” is an important book documenting by words and pictures the history and architectural styles of these parishes. Architecture is a means of creative expression, and how members of a Catholic parish or Christian denomination build their house of worship gives a very good indication of their concept of God and their own relationship to Him.
Generations of hard, faithful work by people long ago is now passing away. Who knows what will become of these closed churches. This is a shame, and makes us wonder at the survival of our our patrimony. Will our parishes be around 100 years from now. Will they be mourned? Will current parish members learn from the closure of churches and seek to instill an evangelical vitality so that in the event of demographic and geographic change, the parishes will survive and not be forgotten?
We must not fail in learning from the failures of the past. Get a copy of “Framing Faith”, marvel at the beauty of these churches and wonder just how could they be closing?
The book’s website: Framing Faith
Facebook: Framing Faith
To buy it: Shop Tribute Books Online