Con­shohocken parish set to host art auc­tion

The Colonial - - FRONT PAGE - By M. English

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.

Photo by M. ENGLISH

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.

Pho­tos by M. ENGLISH

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.

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