Earlier today I toured St. Malachy’s in North Philadelphia. It’s one of the Independence Mission Schools, a ~5 year old organization that has taken over management of 15 of Philadelphia’s Catholic elementary schools.

St. Malachy’s is located near Temple University in a struggling neighborhood. During the tour one person told me, “It’s still not so uncommon that I’ll be walking to work and pick up bullet casings from the sidewalk.” But amidst the struggle, St. Malachy’s represents what’s possible with a positive vision. What’s today St. Malachy’s is actually a former city public elementary, one that Independence Mission Schools bought and spent more than a year renovating. (The old St. Malachy’s is located about a block north; built in the 1880s, it had become too small to stick with.) St. Malachy’s has almost 300 kids today, with a goal of enrolling 500 in the next few years.

The mural on the back of the school (which Pope Francis saw and signed when he visited two years ago) is a symbol for the transformation St. Malachy’s hopes to have at least in its immediate surroundings: peace, prosperity, and prayer for a better life.