Conshohocken parish set to host art auction
This summer, members of Conshohocken’s SS. Cosmas and Damian Parish hosted an on-site art tour that highlighted the religious vignettes painted on their church’s pitched ceiling and the luminous stained glass windows along its walls.
Both were created by artists of note — the former, by Lafayette Hill liturgical painter Emmanuel Utti, who has completed sacred art commissions at many other Philadelphia Archdiocesan churches; the latter, by Paula Himmelsbach Balano, who was born in Leipzig, Germany, in 1877, died in Philadelphia in 1967 and is credited with crafting glass panels for a number of area churches.
The men and women whose work will be showcased at the local parish’s Oct. 20 silent art auction aren’t nearly so well-known as Utti and Himmelsbach. But most are connected to SS. Cosmas and Damian in some capacity, and all are donating their work to the auction without reimbursement. The 7 p.m. event is part of the parish’s ongoing 100th anniversary celebration.
Saturday’s auction — also a wine and cheese cocktail party — will take place in the congregation’s church hall at West Fifth Avenue and Maple Street and is open to the public. At press time, bidding on the two to three dozen pieces assembled for the evening was expected to begin at $20, payable by cash or check.
The paintings and drawings up for
grabs — in a mix of media — range from Conshohocken Art League officer Judy Alexy’s colorful rendering of Fayette Street storefronts to a delicate floral composition by the late Sister Lillian Lane (the parish’s former director of religious education). Work contributed by Father John Mc.enzie, a retired sillanova University professor and art devotee who resides at SS. Cosmas and Damian’s rectory, was inspired by his extensive travels.
Other artists represented at the upcoming show include area residents .aren Riedlmeier, Joseph Lipinski, Jennifer Tidd, Terri Berardi, Eliza- beth Ochal and Mia Fabrizio.
“As you can see, there’s a lot of variety in the different paintings, so, hopefully, they’ll inspire people to be generous,” says SS. Cosmas and Damian office staffer Helene Clegg, a volunteer on the parish’s Anniversary Committee.
Several gift baskets will also be raffled at the Oct. 20 event. Their individual themes run the gamut from Pamper Myself to Movie, Theater, Italian, Wine, Beer, Sports, Baby, Pets, Tastefully Simple and 100th Anniversary.
SS. Cosmas and Damian Parish was established by Italian immigrants who arrived in Conshohocken at the turn of the 20th century. These men and women and their families initially attended Sunday Mass in a borough performance venue — Little’s Opera House — then located at First Avenue and Fayette Street.
They also gathered at Conshohocken’s St. Matthew Church and Norristown’s Holy Saviour Church until it became feasible for them to form their own parish — headed by Father Nicola Coscia — in 1912. According to one church history, Philadelphia’s Roman Catholic authorities purchased the tract the parish currently occupies that September. Purchase price: $1,200.
The site subsequently housed a small brick church and, later, a larger “basement church,” designed to become part of an eventual permanent structure. In the fall of 1951, SS. Cosmas and Damian’s members broke ground for the Italian Romanesque edifice that dominates the property today. Construction began the following spring and was completed by year’s end.
The Conshohocken congregants are led by Pastor Gasper A. Genuardi. They kicked off their centennial celebration a year ago at 2011’s annual parish feast and have since hosted numerous anniversary events — among them, several spaghetti dinners, special Masses, a three-day mission, concerts, an allclass reunion for graduates of the former SS. Cosmas and Damian School, a children’s celebration and a community picnic.
Remaining events include a Nov. 11 Mass in honor of the borough’s sFW-Andrew Lannutti Post members and a Dec. 2 closing Mass celebrated by Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, followed by a reception in the church hall.
Additional information about Oct. 20’s art auction is available by calling 610-828-0101.
SS. Cosmas and Damian Anniversary Committee member Helene Clegg and artist Father John McKenzie discuss his work prior to its inclusion in the Oct. 20 art auction.
Father John McKenzie, whose work will be among the Oct. 20 auction items, sits with a couple of the several paintings that decorate the walls of his quarters at SS. Cosmas and Damian rectory.
Helene Clegg, a member of the SS. Cosmas and Damian Anniversary Committee, shows off paintings by Judy Alexy, left, and the late Sister Lilian Lane.