In this our 20th anniversary year, we publish again an article that appeared on page one of the first edition of the Chapel News in the fall of 1998.
Chapel of St. Philip
By Bill Walsh
Who are we? Where do we come from? What are we up to?
If you’ve been wondering, here’s our story.
About two years ago (1996), the Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville announced that they were closing several parishes in the city, including St. Philip Neri at Floyd and Woodbine streets.
The pastor was reassigned, the buildings were all vacated and the property was put up for sale.
After nearly a century of service to the neighborhood now known as Old Louisville, the four sturdy buildings were left empty. The ornate high altar with its unique canopy, the pipe organ and all the statues were given away to other parishes.
As this was happening, a small group of concerned Catholics were meeting regularly near Fourth and Hill streets discussing what might be done to save the property and to sustain the mission of the church in the neighborhood. Meeting with these people was the late Father Vernon Robertson, a retired pastor with a proven record of making impossible dreams come true.
Father Robertson had a vision and was able to raise enough money to purchase the St. Philip property and begin putting the buildings to good use again.
Within a year, we welcomed a Montessori school and daycare center for children 2-and-a-half to 5 and a Boys and girls Club sponsored by the Salvation Army. The club, located on Magnolia Street, offers programs for school-age children after school and during vacations.
An “intentional community” has occupied the parish house and has begun to welcome neighbors to all sorts of activities.
The former church building, now known as the Chapel of St. Philip, has presented us with an interesting challenge.
We are not, nor do we intend to become, a parish, as St. Philip Neri was for almost 100 years. We are members of various other parishes who feel called to this neighborhood.
We are people of faith who are trying to live the Christian life and we want to be here, in and around the church on Woodbine, maintaining a presence that has been here for so long.
As we are not a parish, we recognize that we have an opportunity to offer ourselves and these buildings in ways that are not typical of parishes. Since Father Robertson’s untimely death in February, we have been even more determined to further his dream, even as we mourn our loss.
We promise to keep the grass cut and the lights on, and to make a positive contribution to life in Old Louisville.