NORRISTOWN – “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Timothy 4:7), is a line from the Bible, the best-selling book of all-time.
The January death of owner Bill Peffley and the declining health of his wife Mary, has caused the family to decide to close. Their children are unable to continue the business since Francis is a priest in Virginia at St. Mary of Sorrows Church, Natia also lives in Virginia, and Edel is a math professor at Villanova.
“If she was in good health, she would be here every day,” Rev. Francis Peffley said of Mary.
He admitted the closing is sad after 59 years but he feels the store has done its purpose spreading goodness, holiness and love of God and others in the area.
The building has been for sale for the past year but there is currently no offer.
Bill and Mary Peffley, who met through the “Legion of Mary,” a lay catholic organization whose members give service to the Church on a voluntary basis, opened the Catholic Shop in 1958 when they returned from their honeymoon. September 8th would have been they’re wedding anniversary. During their honeymoon, which included the priest who performed their wedding, they went to Dublin and Lourdes to learn about the “Legion of Mary.”
“There are very few couples who take the priest with them on their honeymoon,” Rev. Francis Peffley admitted. He said he’s done over 1,000 weddings and has never been invited.
The Catholic Shop’s first location was on Penn Street and then moved to 201 East Main Street in 1976. The store features Bibles, religious literature, rosaries, statues, nativity scenes, advent calendars, First Communion, Confirmation, baptism and wedding items.
“A lot of work revolves around the faith of the sacraments,” said Rev. Francis Peffley.
Steve Lukens visited the Catholic Shop in 1995 and Mary asked him if he wanted to go to a meeting of the “Legion of Mary.” He had a commitment that day so she mentioned her daughter, Edel, who had a meeting the next day.
It was there he met his now-wife of seventeen years.
Bill was a matchmaker for Natia. Her husband Greg, learned of Bill’s mens social club through a flier at church. When he went on a retreat with them he met Natia. Greg and Natia live in Northern Virginia where they ran a Catholic Shop for twenty years. The Catholic Shop also had locations in Reading, Willow Grove and Pottstown.
Customers of the Catholic Shop in Norristown are familiar with the warm smile and familiar face of Mary Peffley. She worked at the store five days a week until the age of 92. She is currently retired, living in the area at 95-years-old.
“She is really the hero of the Catholic Shop,” said her son. “She loved helping people. She felt this store was a ministry and not just a business. It was a way to help people get closer to God. That has been their whole life – their love of Jesus, the faith, the church, the Blessed Mother.”
Mary knew many of the customers by name and eventually their children and grandchildren. Some told her about the problems they were facing and she always had time for those who trusted to confide in her.
“A lot of people found it as a refuge. I think that’s what she enjoyed most – spreading goodness, holiness and virtue. Being God’s instrument to bring people closer to Him,” said Rev. Francis Peffley.
Bill Peffley passed in January 2017 at 87-years-old. He also worked at the Catholic Shop “upstairs” in a behind-the-sciences capacity. Rev. Francis Peffley says his father called Mary, “the heart and soul” of the Catholic Shop.
Customers of the Catholic Shop, would surely say “amen” to that and the end of a good fight.