Parish Sees Double, Again Twins Handle Poastoral, Educational Needs At St. Thomas

Posted: June 08, 1995

Arthur and Armand Taraborelli are identical twins.

It's not difficult to tell them apart.

Arthur is the one with the white collar.

Armand is the one with the pens in his shirt pocket.

And that stuff about you can't go home again . . . Forget it.

The twins have.

Home to St. Thomas Aquinas church and school at 18th and Morris streets in South Philadelphia.

Arthur, the one with the collar, is the church's pastor.

Armand, the one with the pens, is the school's principal.

They think they're history.

If there's another spiritual/educational twin duo like it out there somewhere, the Taraborellis don't know about it.

The twins Taraborelli were born, raised, and educated in the parish. And now they're back home, back where it all started 59 years ago.

And it appears the St. Thomas community, a cauldron of colors, creeds, and cultures - "the diversity gives us more of a challenge" - is better for it.

Under the twins' stewardships, St. Thomas has instituted more than a half- dozen academic, recreational, and cultural programs, ranging from English and GED courses for adults, to athletic and latchkey programs for children, to home nursing visits to elderly shut-ins.

The programs are for everyone, not just parishioners.

"My mission is to reach out to everyone," said the Rev. Arthur

Taraborelli. "Serving everyone is the life of the church. That's why it is here, to be a visible presence in the community."

Where Arthur - the oldest by 15 minutes - focuses on St. Thomas' spiritual needs, Armand tends to its educational wants.

"Education is so very important," Armand said. "But before a child can learn, you have to instill confidence, self-esteem. You have to work on attitude. Once you get attitude, knowledge comes right into line."

It's apparently working at St. Thomas Aquinas.

The school recently won a computer in a "Jeopardy" competition against other schools.

Also, since Armand became school principal 1 1/2 years ago, enrollment has increased from 273 to 410 students, some of whom come from single-parent and impoverished households.

"People sacrifice to send their children here," said Armand, noting that the tuition is $1,300 a year.

The youngest of six children of an immigrant milkman, the twins were raised in a three-story row home near 15th and Tasker, three blocks from their elementary alma mater.

Though they did their share of corner lounging and ballplaying, "Our thing was education, books and reading," said Father Taraborelli. "Our father kinda pushed for it. He and my mother had a limited education. Besides us, only one older brother had a high school education."

Throughout elementary school, the twins were always in the same room. But when they got to St. John Neumann High School (then known as South Catholic), they went their separate ways.

After his junior year, Arthur left high school and entered St. Charles

Seminary.

Armand stayed, but after graduating in 1955, he also entered the seminary.

But unlike Arthur, Armand left St. Charles after seven years and began teaching.

During his 31 years in the priesthood, Father Taraborelli served in several parishes in the city and suburbs. He was appointed pastor of St. Thomas Aquinas in 1988.

Armand spent his entire 30-year teaching career in the New Jersey public school system. Three nights a week, however, he taught adult English classes at St. Thomas, a program he helped organize while still teaching in Jersey.

Armand retired in 1993 . . . but not for a long.

In January 1994, he applied for and was hired as principal of St. Thomas Aquinas school.

"I saw a need here," he said. Students' self-confidence was low. "Unless you are very perceptive, you cannot see the talents at-risk students have. I'm very into self-esteem. My major goal is to service the people, the children, of this community.

"We take pride in this neighborhood," Armand added. "We were born and raised here."

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