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Allan Hart Jahsmann

By Margaret A. Krych


ALLAN HART JAHSMANN (1916-2016) has spent a lifetime dedicated to the ministry of children's education. He served as a teacher, pastor, Christian educator, writer, and editor, first in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and later in the Lutheran Church in America and its successor body, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. His love for education, theology, and psychology coalesced in his formal education, service to the church, and writing. His many books for children and educators have been read widely and several have been best sellers. As an editor of church school materials he produced hundreds of courses for teachers to use in Lutheran Sunday schools and other church settings before his retirement in 1984.

Biographical details of the life of Jahsmann have been supplied by Dr. Jahsmann and his wife Lois, and also supported with material from Gale (2004).


Allan Hart Jahsmann was born on November 3, 1916 in Wausau, Wisconsin. The son of Fred W. (a cattle buyer) and Helen Jahsmann, Allan was baptized and confirmed at Trinity Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, in Wausau, and attended Concordia High School in River Forest, Illinois. Jahsmann married his first wife, Lois Herbert, a mental health center director, on January 29, 1945. They had three children -Lucia Marie, Hila Ann, and Alicia Jean. Lois subsequently died and Jahsmann later married Lois Snyder.

Throughout his life, Jahsmann's three passions have been education, theology, and psychology, all of which he pursued avidly. He trained first as a teacher, receiving his diploma from Concordia Teachers College, River Forest, Illinois in 1937. In conversation, Jahsmann stated that the major influence throughout his life came from his teachers at River Forest. However, studies at Concordia were only the beginning. There followed the earning of a Bachelor of Science degree in 1939 from St. Louis University, and various graduate studies at Northwestern University, Iowa State University (where he studied with Robert Frost, the poet), Washington State University (Seattle), and Washington University (St. Louis). Jahsmann taught in Lutheran schools in Saint Louis, MO, and, from 1937-42, taught 4th and 5th grades at Christ Lutheran School in Chicago, IL.

In 1942 Jahsmann entered Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, MO. He graduated with his Master of Divinity degree in 1945. During the seminary years, he conceived and produced the radio program, "Uncle Allan's Kindergarten," a weekly 30-minute slot of stories, conversation, and singing with five and six year olds on station KFUO in St. Louis. Also, during the seminary years, he served as organist at Grace Lutheran Church in St. Louis.

Jahsmann was ordained in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in 1945, and served as pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, Warren, Ohio from 1945-8. As pastor of Trinity church he established a school in which he himself taught kindergarten.

In 1948, he joined the staff of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod as assistant editor of Sunday school literature from which he was promoted to associate editor in 1956. He helped develop the "Life in Christ Series" of Sunday school materials. In 1959 he became the first General Secretary of Sunday Schools of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and from 1968-73 served as executive editor of educational publications for the Missouri Synod board of education. From 1968 to 1973 he served as director of a large curriculum project called the Mission: Life program. Almost every weekend he spoke to congregations in many places throughout the nation, and was called "Mr. Sunday School" by his peers.

While on the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod staff, Jahsmann pursued further education. From St. Louis University he earned a Master of Arts in 1952 and a Ph.D. in education and psychology in 1956. From the Menninger School of Psychiatry he received the postdoctoral diploma in religion and psychology in 1962. He also spent a year in 1967-8 as a senior research scholar at Oxford University in England and during this period preached in a number of Anglican churches, years before Lutherans and Episcopalians had the agreements they now do. A D.Litt. was granted him from Concordia Teachers College, River Forest, IL, in 1971. Jahsmann was a visiting professor of education at Concordia Teachers College, River Forest, IL in 1958, and a visiting professor at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO, in 1954, 1957, 1964 and 1973.

In 1973, Jahsmann took early retirement from the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. He then joined the rostered ministry of the Lutheran Church in America (LCA), which later joined with two other Lutheran bodies in 1988 to become the current Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). From 1974 to 1981 Jahsmann served as senior editor of children's program resources in the Division for Parish Services of the Lutheran Church in America; in that capacity he both designed and edited curricular resources and supervised the various age-level editors who worked under his leadership. In 1981 he became senior editor for leadership resources, a position he held until his retirement in 1984. After retirement he served as interim pastor at the following five churches in the Philadelphia area: St. John's in Phoenixville, St. Michael's in Sellersville, St. Paul's in Sassemansville, St. John's in Ridge Valley, and Christ Lutheran Church in Niantic.

Jahsmann held membership in a variety of organizations, including the Association of Supervision and Curriculum development, the Religious Education Association, the Lutheran Education Association, the Lutheran Society for Worship, Music and the Arts, and the Academy for Scholarship.

Throughout his years of ministry, Jahsmann exhibited a passion for children's education, a passion for the church, and a passion for schools that was reflected not only in an extraordinary number of work hours but also in the publication of ten children's books and ten books for adults on education, among other works. He also established a foundation from the proceeds of his books that funded various church educational projects, including regular meetings of American Lutheran Church and Lutheran Church in America seminary Christian education faculty members together with American Lutheran Church and Lutheran Church in America national staff members, which encouraged cooperation and understanding between the two church bodies. Generous throughout his life, Jahsmann gave liberally to the church and also established an annual lectureship at Concordia University, River Forest, IL., and at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, MO.

Jahsmann served on the Inter-Lutheran Committee for translating Luther's Small Catechism in 1961. He also served on a committee to articulate a Lutheran philosophy of education and his contribution was published by Concordia Publishing House as What's Lutheran in Education. In the community, Jahsmann served as a member of the Collegeville-Trappe Municipal Authority and was president of Circle Lodge Board (a residential facility for transition from the state mental hospital to community living.) He also served on the Eagleville Hospital Board for drug and alcohol abuse from 1996-2003.

Thomson Gale's biography of Jahsmann includes the following autobiographical quotation from Jahsmann himself:

The need for artful writing for children is especially evident in areas of religious subjects and life. Because adult Christians tend to assume a responsibility to transmit their biblical heritage and faith by direct didactic means and methods, Christian religious writings for children too often are adult, inappropriate for children, unimaginative, and dull. This is one of the reasons I have devoted much of my life to communicating with children in reference to the Christian faith. My purpose has been the nurturing of that faith in them through the involvement of their interest.

A second concern of mine, and the reason for much of my writing for adults has been the need that Christian parents and teachers have of knowing the faith they hope to foster in their children. Equally important is knowing ways of nurturing children in the Christian faith and way of life. This is why most of my writing for adults has been in the service of Christian education through both the home and the local church.

My rich, long, wonderful life, I have no doubt, has been a gift of God. I had a mother who cared about me and also about my Christian faith and religious life; a father who liked me and related to me through a mutual love of animals, particularly horses. Of almost equal importance to my life was the company of great teachers I have had from kindergarten to the present day. The list is almost entirely four-star generals - from Robert Frost and Karl Menninger all the way down to teachers in Lutheran elementary grades.

I learned to know and love children first as a teacher in Lutheran elementary schools in St. Louis and Chicago. As a pastor of a church in Warren, Ohio, I taught the kindergarten. I'll never forget the snowpants and rubber boots that had to be put on at the end of a snowy day. To keep in touch with children while developing and editing Sunday church-school materials, I produced and conducted a weekly radio program on KFUO in St. Louis. It involved a group of five-year-olds in a variety of learning activities and was called 'Uncle Allan's Kindergarten.'

I think I'm primarily an educator. I am the only person I know who has taught an experimental nursery school, a kindergarten, all elementary grades, all high school grades, college courses, graduate school classes, seminary classes, and non-professional adult groups of all ages, including retirees. (Gale, 2004)

In the early 21st century, Jahsmann resided in a retirement community in Los Angeles, California where he organized regular informational sharing groups for other residents.  He passed away December 13, 2016, at the age of 100.


The above autobiographical quotation indicates the encyclopedic scope of Jahsmann's interests in children's education. He has been teacher, pastor, psychologist, editor of curriculum materials, author of books for children and adults, editor of magazines for church school workers and young people, administrator, and editor of books by others who also served the church. In all of these capacities, he served the cause of Christian education, especially that of children. His interest in ecumenism and Christian education led to a deep appreciation of the work of the Religious Education Association, and he attended both local chapter meetings as well as annual national meetings of the association.

The lasting influence of Allan Hart Jahsmann lies in the publications he wrote and edited. Jahsmann's writings can be grouped in eight categories:

1. Books for Children

Jahsmann's books for children reveal his passion for the child's relationship with God and with family.

Jahsmann co-authored with Martin P. Simon Little Visits With God: Devotions for Families With Small Children (1956), and More Little Visits With God: Devotions for Families With Young Children (1961). The well-known illustrator Frances Hook illustrated both books. Although the subtitles note "with young children", in fact the Authors' Note (Little Visits, p. vii) and the Foreword (More Little Visits) suggests that older children could and did read the books personally. Both books have several month's worth of one-to-two-page devotional readings that begin with a Bible verse followed by a related story about a child or a biblical character. Discussion questions follow, with a recommended Bible reading for older children and adults, and a family prayer. Jahsmann's Lutheran roots are clearly reflected in the emphasis on God's love, forgiveness, comfort, and trustworthiness. Language is geared to children, and theological terms are translated into everyday language of the child. Daily titles are child-friendly ("The Perfect Glue", "The Moths That Got Burned", "How Grown-Up Are You?", "A Very Brave Person", "God's Gifts are Free"). Both books were best-sellers in their day. Little Visits with God was published in 18 different languages and sold over a million copies. More Little Visits With God was revised and published as Little Visits for Families, illustrated by Hal Lund, in 1995.

Also illustrated by Frances Hook were Words of Joy: A Collection of Christmas Poems and Recitations, compiled by Jahsmann in 1958 and Little Folded Hands, a collection of prayers for children revised by Jahsmann in 1959. The latter includes prayers for morning, evening, mealtime, in sickness, for school and church, birthdays, and missions, as well as a collection of general prayers.

Jahsmann co-authored with Arthur W. Gross Little Children Sing to God, in 1960. And then, with Martin P. Simon, produced My Favorite Bible Stories, selected by Lillian Brune, in 1967.

In 1975 Jahsmann wrote It's All About Jesus: A Book of Devotional Readings, illustrated by Art Kirchhoff. The book has 56 stories about events in Jesus' life, written for elementary age children but for use also with younger children and families. Each story has questions for children to think about and suggestions to help children pray.

The Holy Bible for Children: A Simplified Version of the Old and New Testaments is Jahsmann's simplified and abridged version of the Bible for children, illustrated by Don Kueker, and published in 1977.

I Wonder . . . Answers to Religious Questions Children Ask was published in 1980. In this book Jahsmann deals with questions about God, Jesus, sin and forgiveness, the Christian life, churches, worship, the Bible, prayer, angels, devils, heaven and hell. The book is written in language readily understood by children in the elementary grades and deals seriously with theological issues that concern children ("If I do something very bad, will God punish me?", "How can I be sure to get into heaven?") as well as practical ones ("Can children be baptized without their parents' permission?","Is it wrong to laugh in church?")

In 1998, Jahsmann wrote Let's Talk About It: Sharing Values with Your Kids, NavPress (Colorado Springs, CO). This book of family devotions includes stories, questions and activities that are designed to spark conversations and help family members deal with values.

2. Books for Volunteer Teachers and Administrators

As a trained teacher himself, Jahsmann held as high priority the educating of persons to teach children, especially volunteer Sunday school teachers. Books that focus on educating volunteer teachers and administrators include Teaching Little Amalee Jane: How the Small Child Learns the Way (1954) and the revised edition published as The Church Teaching Her Young (1967); How You Too Can Teach: Reading Text of a Basic Training Course for Church School Teachers (1963); Teaching Grade 5: A Handbook (1976) (with Margaret Krych and Sophie Damme); and Teaching Grade 6: A Handbook, (1977) (with Margaret Krych and other contributors). A solid theological basis forms the groundwork for all of these books, and teaching is set within the mission of the church as a whole. In addition, children's development and teaching methods are presented in ways that volunteers can grasp and use. These books were widely used in Lutheran congregations and served to provide much needed local training for those who had little other opportunity to prepare for the teaching tasks to which their congregations assigned them.

Also concerned to educate those with administrative responsibilities for church education, Jahsmann wrote Ministering Through Administering: A Guide for Workers in the Church School (1965); Your Sunday School: A Basic Handbook (1982); and Education in the Congregation: A Handbook for Parish Education Leaders (1985). Each is a gem of information in readily accessible form for use in congregations. All were widely used in Lutheran churches.

3. Books on Education

Jahsmann also wrote a more advanced book on education intended for church leadership course credit titled What We'd All Better Do (or Do Better) to Help Others Learn the Word and Ways of God (1972), (Concordia Leadership Training Series). The book begins with theological principles (always a critical factor for Jahsmann) and the roles teachers play in communicating the word of God, and especially the importance of loving concern for students. Then follow chapters on the way to learn that emphasizes the inquiring process and the active involvement of the learner; the importance of communication, and the role of inquiry and dialog in teaching. Jahsmann encourages teachers to use visuals since "the visual arts and their media are particularly suited to conveying ideas, beliefs, a message and a spirit. They also lend themselves readily to teaching and learning the Word of God" (Jahsmann, 1972, p. 53). He further develops the value of learning through music and drama and concludes with the importance of creative expressions and actions in learning.

For Lutheran pastors and professional educators, in 1960 Jahsmann authored What's Lutheran in Education? The book was Jahsmann's contribution when serving on the committee to articulate a Lutheran philosophy of education. Decrying all forms of legalism, Jahsmann argues that the theological principles that underlie Lutheran education are God the Trinity, the Bible as the norm of religious knowledge, a law-gospel hermeneutic in interpreting the scriptures, creation, humanity created in the image of God, sin and judgment, redemption through Jesus Christ, the centrality of the gospel, Christ as incarnate word of God, justification by grace through faith, faith in Christ as the means of appropriating salvation through Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit through the word to call forth faith, sharing in the life of Christ through the work of the Spirit, the simultaneity of sin as well as salvation in the life of the believer, eschatology, and the current reality of the church. These theological themes are to be reflected in the objectives for Lutheran education. Following Luther's understanding of the two kingdoms of which God is Lord, Jahsmann argues that the responsible agents of Lutheran education are the individual, parents, the church, and the state. He spells out implications of theology for the means and methods of teaching. Jahsmann develops a theology of relationships in terms of church, Spirit and the Word of God, with educational applications for group work. A chapter is devoted to the educational role played by families, Lutheran preschools, elementary schools, secondary education, colleges, Sunday schools, catechetical (confirmation) instruction, and state schools (Jahsmann, 1960, pp. 101-129). The final chapter deals with problems in church-state relations.

For the ecumenical audience in religious education, Jahsmann wrote Power Beyond Words: Communication Systems of the Spirit and Ways of Teaching Religion (1969). The book continues the Lutheran theological themes, but presented in a way that engages the ecumenical theological and educational conversation. It is "a study of various systems of communication by which God speaks or could teach through human agents, who are far from being divine … the hope is that it will lead the serious witness and teacher of Christ to some new and exciting possibilities" (Jahsmann, 1969, p. 15). The book focuses on God as Spirit, revealed in Jesus Christ, and the Word of God as revelation. Jahsmann argues that, "To know Christ by His Spirit in our personal existence, we must relate the Scriptures as the Word of Christ to ourselves, our actual living and our contemporary life" (Jahsmann, 1969, p. 42.) Faith is essential to grasp God's revelation (Jahsmann, 1969, p. 51), and the "powerful language that opens up and illuminates faith and life is largely symbolic… it communicates its message indirectly, only partially, and through personal connotations as well as through objective truth" (Jahsmann, 1969, p. 58). Such passionate language speaks from the Scriptures and illuminates our personal and concrete existence. But such illumination comes through communications that are appropriate to the developmental level of the learner (Jahsmann, 1969, p. 63). The language that God speaks is the language of love and the Spirit uses nonverbal communication as well as dialog in leading people into the truth (Jahsmann, 1969, pp. 71-88). Teachers bear witness, testify to what they believe in a "mutual sharing-of-faith process" (Jahsmann, 1969, p. 99). Jahsmann's interest in psychology is reflected in his emphasis that real teaching includes the importance of relationships with students that are genuine, warm, accepting, and show empathetic understanding (Jahsmann, 1969, pp. 103-4). The encouraging teacher is the one who relates the gospel to the lives of students, helps students say what they want and mean to say, and fosters students' participation and interaction (Jahsmann, 1969, pp. 105-6). Ultimately, Jahsmann attributes learning by an experience of revelation directly to the action of the Spirit of God upon the learner's spirit. Teachers are only helpers (or hindrances) in this process. It is the learner who receives the gifts of God's Spirit through the Word and the sacraments (Jahsmann, 1969, pp. 157-175).

At the time of publication, leading Christian educators who commended Power Beyond Words: Communication Systems of the Spirit and Ways of Teaching Religion included Randolph Crump Miller of Yale University, Kendig Brubaker Cully of New York Theological Seminary, W. Th. Janzow of Concordia Teachers College and Harry DeWire of United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio. The dust jacket includes the following comments: "… A remarkable summary in simple terms of some of the best thinking in the theory and practice in Christian education … the author has a remarkable grasp of many aspects of a significant subject and … is saying the right things at the right time" (Miller). "This book will stimulate the thinking of all who desire a vital communication of the gospel in contemporary styles" (Cully). "It reflects sophisticated comprehension of the intricacies of the communication process (Janzow). "Power Beyond Words is a fresh and penetrating insight into the dynamic spiritual factors necessary to communicate the gospel." (DeWire).

4. Other Books

Ever the churchman, Jahsmann broadened beyond education to give guidance to the administrative leadership in the local congregation, and in 1982 wrote Member of the Council: A Church Council Guidebook.

Finally, in 2005, at the age of 89, Jahsmann produced a book of 150 essays on life titled Happy Living. It deals with social, psychological and moral issues in daily living in America.

5. Article

Jahsmann linked education with psychology as in his article, "Religious Education Methods with Adolescent Delinquents", J. Pastoral Care, Vol. VII, Spring 1963, 17-26.

6. Magazines

In addition to books, Jahsmann edited magazines for teachers and youth. He was editor of Interaction, a magazine for church school workers, from 1956 to 1966, and was editor of My Devotions, a magazine of devotions for young people, from 1956 to 1968.

7. Books edited by Jahsmann and written by other authors

Jahsmann not only wrote his own books, but also generously gave of his time to edit those of others. Some samples are:

Thomas A. Droege (1983). Faith Passages and Patterns. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Ronald Johnson and Russell Long (1983). Social Ministry: A Congregational Manual, Philadelphia: Parish Life Press.

Martin E. Marty (1984). Being Good and Doing Good. Philadelphia: Fortress Press.

Robert N. Bacher and Judith L. McWilliams (1983). Congregational Conflict: A Guide to Reconciliation. Philadelphia: Parish Life Press.

8. Curriculum Materials

For many years from 1948 until his retirement Jahsmann edited curricular materials for the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, the Lutheran Church in America, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Countless numbers of Christian education courses were designed and edited for use in congregations, especially for classes of children. These have had incalculable influence on generations of students.

Works Cited

  • Gale, T. (2004, January). Contemporary authors (Biography: Biography—Jahsmann, Allan Hart (1916-). Digital document,
  • Jahsmann, A. H. (1960). What's Lutheran in education? Exploration into principles and practices. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
  • Jahsmann, A. H. (1969). Power beyond words: Communication systems of the Spirit and ways of teaching religion. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
  • Jahsmann, A. H. (1972). What we'd all better do (or do better) to help others learn the word and ways of God. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.



  • Jahsmann, A. H. (1954). Teaching Little Amalee Jane: How the small child learns the way, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House. Revised edition (1967) published as The church teaching her young, St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
  • Jahsmann, A. H. &; Simon, M. P. (1956). Little visits with God: Devotions for families with small children. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House. Reprinted by Concordia Publishing House in 1995.
  • Jahsmann, A. H. (1958). Words of joy: A collection of Christmas poems and recitations. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
  • Jahsmann, A. H. (1959). Little folded hands. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
  • Jahsmann, A. H. (1960a). What's Lutheran in education? Exploration into principles and practices. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
  • Jahsmann, A. H. &; Gross, A. W. (1960b). Little children sing to God. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
  • Jahsmann, A. H. &; Simon, M. P. (1961). More little visits with God: Devotions for families with young children. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House. Revised and published as Little visits for families. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1995.
  • (1963a). How You Too Can Teach: Reading Text of a Basic Training Course for Church School Teachers. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House. (Concordia Leadership Training Series)
  • Jahsmann, A. H. (1963b, Spring). Religious education methods with adolescent delinquents. J. Pastoral Care, 17, 17-26.
  • Jahsmann, A. H. (1965). Ministering through administering: A guide for workers in the church school. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
  • Jahsmann, A. H. &; Simon, M. P. (1967) My favorite Bible stories (selected by Lillian Brune). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
  • Jahsmann, A. H. (1969). Power beyond words: Communication systems of the Spirit and ways of teaching religion. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
  • Jahsmann, A. H. (1972). What we'd all better do (or do better) to help others learn the word and ways of God. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
  • Jahsmann, A. H. (1975). It's all about Jesus: A book of devotional readings. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
  • Jahsmann, A. H. (1976). Teaching grade 5: A handbook. Philadelphia: Parish Life Press.
  • Jahsmann, A. H. (1977a). Teaching grade 6: A handbook. Philadelphia: Parish Life Press.
  • Jahsmann, A. H. (1977b). The holy Bible for children: A simplified version of the old and new testaments. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
  • Jahsmann, A. H. (1980). I wonder . . . Answers to religious questions children ask. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
  • Jahsmann, A. H. (1982a). Your Sunday school: A basic handbook. Philadelphia: Parish Life Press
  • Jahsmann, A. H. (1982b). Member of the council: A church council guidebook. Philadelphia: Parish Life Press
  • Jahsmann, A. H. (1985). Education in the congregation: A handbook for parish education leaders. Philadelphia: Parish Life Press.
  • Jahsmann, A. H. (1998). Let's talk about it: Sharing values with your kids. Colorado Springs: NavPress.
  • Jahsmann, A. H. (2005). Happy living. Baltimore: PublishAmerica.

Reviews of Jahnmann's Books

  • Esbjornson, R. (1964). [Review of What's Lutheran in education? Exploration into principles and practices]. Lutheran Quarterly, 16, 368-9.
  • McShane, P. A. (1983). [Review of I wonder . . . Answers to religious questions children ask]. Eglise et Theologie, 14, 371.

  • Jahsmann, A. H. (1960a). What's Lutheran in education? Exploration into principles and practices. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
  • Jahsmann, A. H. (1969). Power beyond words: Communication systems of the Spirit and ways of teaching religion. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
  • Jahsmann, A. H. (1972). What we'd all better do (or do better) to help others learn the word and ways of God. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
  • Jahsmann, A. H. & Simon, M. P. (1956). Little visits with God: Devotions for families with small children. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House. Reprinted by Concordia Publishing House in 1995.
  • Jahsmann, A, H. (1975). It's all about Jesus: A book of devotional readings. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.

Author Information

Margaret A. Krych

PhD, Princeton Theological Seminary. Associate Dean of Graduate Education and Charles F. Norton Professor of Christian Education and Theology, Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. From 1973 -1977, the author served as an editor of children's educational resources under Allan Jahsmann, Lutheran Church in America Division for Parish Services, Philadelphia, PA.