OPINION: Nelson Pérez helped St. William church evolve. Up next: the whole Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

The Inquirer

January 27, 2020

By Kathleen McDonough

I identify myself as a “lifer” from St. William parish in the Lawndale/Lawncrest community. For over 62 years, St. William parish has been my home — from attending St. William School as a student, to coming home to attend Mass as an adult, and the icing on the cake: teaching there for over 20 years until its 2012 closure.

During my youth in Lawncrest and neighboring Lawndale, most residents were white, blue-collar civil servants. Households were typically ones in which dad worked and mom stayed home. Children went to their neighborhood school, and you were identified as being a “Catholic” or “public.”

As the years marched on, Lawncrest and St. William changed. For 22 years, St. William’s pastor, Msgr. James E. Mortimer, embraced the changing demographics, calling the church “a welcoming community,” and establishing an after-school program, a day-care center, and a learning disabilities program. He helped the parishioners welcome priests from the Indian and Pakistani communities, as well as members and clergy from the Hispanic community.

In 2002, a new pastor, Nelson J. Pérez, arrived, just as the community was undergoing even more change.

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