St. Anne’s Church looks to become ‘neighborhood hub’

“We’ve kind of really launched a whole different vision of what we’re all about here,” said Father Skip Miller. “And really want the whole campus here to become a community center.”

Co-chairs of St Anne’s Church reunion committee, Nellie Hohenstein (left) and Theresa Stahl (right) stand on either side of the church’s pastor, Skip Miller.

In an attempt to cater to a wider community base, St. Anne’s Church has decided to label all of its events as “community events” to help foster more active social community among people of different backgrounds in the River Wards.

“We’ve kind of really launched a whole different vision of what we’re all about here,” said Father Skip Miller, “and really want the whole campus here to become a community center.”

Miller said many of the events the church puts on, including concerts and recitals, are not religious in nature and don’t merely have an appeal to just the church’s parishioners. In many cases, they’re put on for members of the local community who don’t want to travel to Center City for arts, entertainment and culture.

“People get the idea that it’s somehow religiously connected and that’s not what we are,” Miller added. “It may be on our campus, but … we are not looking at it as any kind of a proselytizing tool or anything like that. We’re not trying to change people’s mindsets.”

Miller wants to see the church more of a “neighborhood hub,” and wants to put money raised by events toward improving St. Anne’s ability to reach more of the community. An example, Miller said, was when the church raised $32,000 for a new chairlift to help people reach the upper levels of the church that were previously only accessible by stairs. Many older and disabled community members often couldn’t attend events in the upper part of the church because of this issue.

“We want anyone in this area to feel that they are welcome to participate in anything,” said Miller.

Miller said he’s trying to avoid what happened at St. William’s Church in Lawndale, where he previously served. St. William’s would hold community events and a town watch, but as changes in leadership occured, those events stopped happening and, according to Miller, the surrounding area suffered.

“What ended up happening there is that the neighborhood rapidly declined,” he said. “And then all of the sudden people wanted to move out of the neighborhood and crime increased.”

The next upcoming event St. Anne’s is hosting is its 16th Annual Shore Thing at Keenan’s, a bar in Wildwood, N.J. It lasts from 2–6 p.m. on August 18, and it’s $35 to get in. Because alcohol will be served, it’s only open to those 21 and over. All who attend will get free domestic bottled beer, wine, soda, food and music. For more information, contact Theresa Stahl at 215–425–3219 or Nellie Hohenstein at 215–634–4665.