A leader of the St. Charles Borromeo Church now has a street named after him in the Graduate Hospital neighborhood.
The 2000 block of Christian Street was ceremoniously renamed Father John Van de Paer Way on Saturday as elected officials and community members honored the late pastor’s legacy during an afternoon community fair.
The street renaming resolution was sponsored by 2nd District City Councilmember Kenyatta Johnson and was approved in October.
Van de Paer, a Belgian native, served St. Charles Borromeo from 1952 through 1995 as parochial vicar and pastor. Prior to arriving in South Philadelphia, he served as a parochial vicar at Saint Cyprian Church in Columbus, Ohio before his transfer to Saint Charles Borromeo Church which has been a largely African American parish for decades.
Van de Paer sought to build the church into a social hub for the neighborhood and stood as a father figure to many children who lacked one. It’s said that he often went to court hearings for young men in the neighborhood. He also fought against school expulsions of young black students in an effort to keep them from a life of crime.
Van de Paer worked to provide opportunities to all children in the neighborhood regardless of whether they were part of his parish. He would take children on bus rides to distant places such as Florida, Nova Scotia, and the 1967 World’s Fair in Montreal.
Van De Paer raised money for the church by operating a roller-skating rink, a fleet of church buses, and spearheading various parish fundraisers, which helped fund youth programs and the grade school,
Following his official retirement, Van de Paer went back to work serving as parochial vicar at Our Lady of Consolation Church in Parkesburg, Chester County until 2014. He died on February 9, 2021, at age 100.