"St. Francis de Sales"

The ‘Peace Pilgrim,’ a West Philly fixture, passes away

Posted on 04 March 2013 by Mike Lyons

Sr. Francis (photo from The Religious of the Assumption website).

Sister Francis Joseph was the “peace pilgrim.” Grace Kelly was among her students. She entered the convent at the age of 33 and traveled the world, but is known to many St. Francis de Sales students as the nun who taught peace.

Sr. Francis died last Thursday. She was 93.

Born Rachel Scarpello in Germantown, Sr. Francis served as the first lay principal of the Catholic school Ravenhill Academy in East Falls, which Kelly attended in the 1940s. Sr. Francis taught at Ravenhill for 12 years before she decided to join the order Religious of the Assumption and their convent at 1001 S. 47th St., across the street from St. Francis de Sales.


Sr. Francis on her 90th birthday in 2009.

You may have seen Sr. Francis sitting on the convent porch or you might have helped her across the street as she leaned on her cane.

“I make friends through that cane,” she told a reporter from The Catholic Standard and Times newspaper for an article marking her 90th birthday in 2009.

What you probably didn’t know is that after graduating from Chestnut Hill College she worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. That was before she became a nun. During her long career with the Assumption Sisters, Sr. Francis worked in Paris, Osaka and Manilla, where she was instrumental in building housing for the poor. She was one of the first women to attend Gregorian University in Rome.

In recent years at the St. Francis de Sales School she became known as the “peace pilgrim,” stopping by classes and teaching students about peace through stories. Sr. Francis also had a long relationship with Saint Joseph’s University, where an outreach lecture series she started 30 years ago was named after her in 2011.

Funeral services will be held Tuesday, March 5 at 10 a.m. at St. Francis de Sales (47th and Springfield).

Mike Lyons


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Donate items for St. Francis de Sales Flea Market Fundraiser

Posted on 12 June 2012 by WPL

St. Francis de Sales is holding its Annual Fundraising Flea Market this Saturday, June 16, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and you can donate your items to be sold at the de Sales table. Donations will be accepted all day Friday (9 a.m. – 5 p.m.) in the de Sales School Auditorium (47th & Windsor Ave). You can bring anything except clothing and large furniture.

If you want to be a vendor at this flea market you may rent tables for $25 each. To rent a table, volunteer or get more information, call 215-222-2255.

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Weekend holiday events: Caroling in Clark Park, St. Francis de Sales student concert

Posted on 09 December 2011 by WPL

Two more awesome holiday events are happening in the neighborhood this weekend.

  • This Saturday, Dec. 10 come and see what Stanford Thompson (director of Play On, Philly!) and his student musicians at Saint Francis de Sales have achieved when they present their Holiday Concert. Guest conductor is Rossen Milanov, who has conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Mann. The concert begins at 2 p.m. in the school auditorium (917 S. 47th St., at Windsor Ave.). Admission is free.
  • Are you up for caroling this weekend? If yes, come to Clark Park “B” (45th & Regent) on Sunday, Dec. 11 at 5:00 p.m. for the annual Clark Park Christmas Caroling. Sing traditional Christmas carols around the Community Christmas tree with your neighbors and enjoy some refreshments afterwards. For more information call 215-222-2255.


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St. Francis de Sales dome renovation nearly finished

Posted on 30 November 2011 by WPL

St. Francis de Sales dome

Construction workers began taking the scaffolding off St. Francis de Sales domes on Monday. The dome renovation project, which began in August 2010 and cost $2.5 million is almost over. The scaffolding should be completely removed by Friday. The dome renovation is only the first phase of a multimillion St. Francis de Sales renovation project.

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Pets go to church for the “Blessing of the Animals”

Posted on 02 October 2011 by Mike Lyons


Dogs, cats and even a turtle came to St. Francis De Sales church (47th and Springfield) on Sunday for the “Blessing of the Animals,” a ceremony honoring Saint Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.

A similar ceremony was also held at the Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral (3723 Chestnut St.) earlier in the day.

At St. Francis De Sales, the ceremony included a blessing from Rev. John Hand, the church’s pastor, and of course a shout out to Noah and his ark.

Our favorite line from the “Blessing Prayer for Pets”:

“May we never treat our pets as dumb animals, but rather let us seek to learn their language and to be students of all the secrets that they know.”




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Former West Philly priest among those placed on leave for alleged misconduct

Posted on 10 March 2011 by Mike Lyons

Rev. Zachary Navit (Photo from Our Lady of Guadalupe website)

West Philly News has reported that Rev. Zachary Navit, who recently headed the St. Francis De Sales Parish in West Philly, is one of the 21 priests that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia placed on administrative leave because of allegations of sexual abuse or other inappropriate behavior with minors.

Navit currently serves as a priest and part-time director in the Office for Special Projects & Closures at Our Lady of Guadalupe in Buckingham, PA.

Navit, who was ordained in 1994, served as pastor of St. Francis de Sales (4625 Springfield Ave.) from 2004 until taking the position at Our Lady of Guadalupe. In 2008, he oversaw the merger of St. Francis de Sales with Most Blessed Sacrament Parish in Southwest Philadelphia.

As pastor of Saint Francis de Sales, Navit helped oversee the parish school, which serves 500 students.

The Archdiocese announced on Tuesday that 21 priests had been placed on administrative leave following a Grand Jury issued on Feb. 10, but no names were released.

These have been difficult weeks since the release of the Grand Jury Report: difficult most of all for victims of sexual abuse, but also for all Catholics and for everyone in our community,” Archbishop Cardinal Justin Rigali said in a statement released Tuesday.

The Philadelphia Inquirer yesterday published a list of 21 names that included Navit.


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