Life and influence of Mother Lewis celebrated

ATLANTIC CITY — A dinner to honor the memory of Emma Lewis, founder of St. Monica’s Mission, was held Oct. 15. Four parishioners, who exemplified the spirit of Emma Lewis, were also honored.

The honorees were:

— Sarah Brown, Spirit of Mother Lewis

— Carolyn Chrisp, Lifelong Service to St. Monica

— Sister Patty Prendergast, Community Service

— Norman Williams, Outreach and Dedication

Father Paul C. Wise, former administrator of the parish, said the four individuals are “outstanding examples of the spirit of the foundress of St. Monica’s.”

“Each in their unique way emulate Mother Lewis’ spirit of faith, perseverance and determination,” he said.

The dinner was a major fund-raiser for St. Monica Parish for improvements to the church. Blanche Toole, coordinator of religious education classes for St. Monica’s, was in charge of the dinner.

“These people work diligently for the church,” said Toole. “Carolyn Chrisp, for example, is an Atlantic City native. She has been a member of the church for most of her life and taught CCD for several generations.”

Another honoree was Sarah Brown, 17, a student a Richard Stockton College of New Jersey “who gets up at 8 a.m. every Sunday to be an altar server,” said Toole. She has been an altar server for seven years.

Sister Patty Prendergast, an Atlantic City native, has served as director of Single Women’s Ministry at the Atlantic City Rescue Mission and involved with Covenant House in Atlantic City.

She was the founder and executive director of Adelaide’s Place in Atlantic City, which was once housed at St. Monica and in 2007 moved to Arctic Avenue.

Toole noted, “She’s dedicated to helping homeless women in the city and helping the youth.”

The fourth person honored was Norman Williams, a lifelong member of St. Monica’s. “He and his wife, Sylvia, taught religion education classes for years,” said Toole, “and both were involved in various aspects of the parish. Norman is active in the Atlantic City school district as well.”

Father Yvans Jazon, administrator, said, “It is a blessing for me to know that there are so many people who have devoted their lives to follow Mother Lewis’ spirit.”

The guest speaker for the evening was Dr. Patreece Thompson, president of Treece Consulting and a choir director at two parishes in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Emma Lewis, born in Ohio in 1868 of Baptist parents, arrived in Pittsburgh in 1905 after her marriage broke up, and put her daughter in a Catholic school.

Sometime later she came to North Philadelphia, got involved with religious work, and started a Sunday school for neighborhood kids and, later, adults. That’s when she came to be known as Mother Lewis.

Because of her work in the cause of African-Americans in North Philly, Archbishop Ryan of Philadelphia gave her a large crucifix that he had brought from Rome as a gift from Pope Pius X. The archbishop later sought her aid to work with Father Emerich, a Jesuit. Together, they worked with the African-American Catholic Community of Germantown.

Mother Lewis received financial support from Mother Katharine Drexel to establish “Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Mission,” which later developed into a church but she was limited to what she could do so she transferred everything to a small house on Delaware Avenue in Atlantic City and named her mission, St. Monica, mother of St. Augustine of Hippo in North Africa.

The mission was established in 1917 and was administered by the Augustinian Fathers at St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church.

In 1929 Bishop Eustace raised St. Monica from a mission to a church. The current building was erected in 1949.

A memorial park was built on the grounds of St. Monica which includes a bust of Mother Lewis. She is buried in Pleasantville where she lies with an Irish Cross with the inscription “Foundress of Saint Monica’s Mission.” She died in 1921.

Categories: Latest News

About Author