A Bishop of the People

The Rev. Michael Saltarelli can look back on 12 years of accomplishment—not that retirement will break his stride.



All those who have come to know and admire Bishop Michael Saltarelli—and they are legion—should pause a moment to remember Father Sylvester Livolsi.
“A hound of heaven,” is how Saltarelli lovingly characterizes Livolsi, a parish priest in the bishop’s native Jersey City, New Jersey, who died in February. “He insisted that I had a vocation [as a priest],” Saltarelli says.
So he saw potential?
Saltarelli smiles and says, “Well, I don’t know about that. He just insisted, and I said no, but he just kept insisting. He literally pushed me, kicking and screaming, into the seminary when I was 19.”
Saltarelli bears a resemblance to actor Alan Arkin, except for the near-constant smile, a smile that underscores the joy he derives from that calling he so vigorously resisted back in 1952. Now, after 48 years of priesthood—the past 12 as bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington—he has reached the mandatory retirement age of 75.
For Saltarelli, overseeing the diocese (all of Delaware and the nine counties of Maryland’s Eastern Shore) has been challenging and rewarding, almost in equal measure. Church membership has increased by more than 40 percent to 233,000, he has ordained 23 new priests, and three new schools and several churches have been built. On the downside, five schools closed, including Claymont’s 45-year-old Holy Rosary in April and Saint Thomas the Apostle in Wilmington in May.
But the overarching issue of the past decade is the priest sexual-abuse scandals that have rocked many dioceses—and the Roman Catholic church itself—to their foundations. The scandals and the resulting lawsuits are the reasons why Saltarelli answers with an unequivocal “no” when asked if the priesthood has been everything he thought it would be.
“No, I didn’t think we’d be in some of the quagmires we find ourselves in from time to time,” he says. “I didn’t think we would be dealing with the crisis the church is currently experiencing, sadly, because when I was young, our priests were fantastic and wonderful. There was no hint, ever, of anything untoward. And we just presumed that that’s the way it was going to be.”
Michael Saltarelli entered the seminary in 1952. Photo courtesy of the Archdiocese of Newark.Saltarelli does not shrink from the consequences of the scandals. “We condemn what happened. There are no excuses for what happened,” he says. “And we thank God that we’re in a position to right the wrongs as best we can, to reach out to those who have been victimized and offer comfort and healing.”
Most of that comfort and healing has come in the form of court-ordered financial awards to those who were abused. The bishop admits that, “Sadly, the church will be dealing with this for some time to come.”
Monsignor John Barres, chancellor for the diocese, says Saltarelli has handled the scandals “consultively, collaboratively” through a 10-member Diocesan Review Board that was established to oversee implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which was developed by the U.S. Bishops of the United States in 2002. Says Barres, “He really relied on that kind of pooled expertise, which I think expanded the bishop’s vision in handling these very sensitive issues.”
Saltarelli and the diocese even get kudos from a plaintiffs’ attorney. Thomas S. Neuberger, a Wilmington lawyer who has represented many of the plaintiffs, has contrasted Saltarelli’s approach to “most of the dioceses across the country, where they proceed with a scorched-earth policy when victims seek redress.”
Neuberger has said there will be 20 more sex-abuse suits. Though Saltarelli hopes they can be settled through mediation, the Wilmington Diocese has taken steps to see that the problems don’t recur.
“We have what is probably the best screening [of applicants for the priesthood] in the country,” says Father Joseph Cocucci, diocesan director for the Office of Priestly and Religious Vocation.
It starts with applicants completing a 20-page questionnaire “with very, very intimate questions,” Cocucci says. “In light of the sexual abuse scandal, we put in very direct questions about that: ‘Have you ever been involved in the sexual abuse of a minor, either as a victim or a perpetrator?’ We know now that frequently someone who is a victim of sexual abuse will grow up into an abuser.”
The candidate then provides a dozen references, which must include parents, present and past employers, a teacher, a priest and a couple of peers. Each of them fills out three pages of questions about the applicant’s character and behavior. Then the applicant undergoes a two-day psycho-diagnostic evaluation, which covers, among other things, intelligence, behavior, relationship patterns, self-awareness and sexual identity. Finally, the applicant appears before the Diocesan Vocation Board, five priests who grill the candidate for an hour or two.
“What I need to know when I’m presenting a guy to the bishop,” says Cocucci, “is that, one, I’m giving him somebody who we really believe has the vocation, and, two, has the emotional maturity and all of the other capacities to live out the vocation.”
Barres says Saltarelli “is touched by the young men who consider the priesthood. He holds them in awe.”  
The decision was much easier in his day, Saltarelli says. “When I said my ‘yes’ to the seminary, the whole world around me applauded and affirmed that goal. Today a young man who gives an indication that he wants to respond to the call that he feels from the Lord, he is looked upon with question. The world does not applaud that. They wonder what’s wrong with him.”
Sometimes the opposition comes from family. “I was one of seven children,” Saltarelli says. “Today families are limited, smaller in number, and you always hear a mother say, ‘I want grandchildren.’ And that’s legitimate and understandable and part of the difficulties we face in trying to help people.
“I tell the men that they are the heroes of today. They know the crisis, they know the difficulties that those before them have experienced, and yet they’re willing to say yes. And what I see coming from the seminaries these days are good, solid, dedicated young priests—and some not so young.”
Those who enter the seminary might do well to use Saltarelli as a role model. He has been called “the people’s priest.” Saltarelli himself says, “My strength is that I love being with people.”  
Says Richelle Vible, executive director of Catholic Charities, “What struck me about him right away is his ability to relate to his audience, whether it’s kids or adults.”
Eleven-year-old Dana Carmack remembers the bishop’s visit to her fifth grade class at St. John’s Elementary School. “He was really funny,” Carmack says. “And he knew who Hannah Montana is.”
The bishop’s give-and-take sense of humor was evident as soon as he arrived in Wilmington. “I liked him from the moment I met him,” says Michael Kelly, a Wilmington attorney.
Like his father, the late John D. Kelly III, a former New Castle County sheriff and long-time owner of Kelly’s Logan House in Wilmington, Kelly’s wit makes him a popular speaker and master of ceremonies. Though a devout Catholic, he is not above gently ribbing members of the church hierarchy, including bishops. To one unsuspecting audience, Kelly introduced Saltarelli as “a devil worshipper.” (Kelly broke the ensuing shocked silence by explaining the bishop’s passion for the NHL’s New Jersey Devils.) He also has described a couple of the bishop’s innovations: bingo in Latin “so Protestants and Jews can’t win,” and express lines for confession, “eight sins or fewer.”
“He can take a joke,” says Kelly, “and when he follows me at the podium, he usually outdoes me.”
Saltarelli appeared at Kelly’s 50th birthday party at the Logan House. “He absolutely roasted me—off the top of his head,” Kelly says. “He made some cracks about my age, that I looked a lot older than 50, and he said he felt sorry for my mother and father, who had to endure me all those years, and why couldn’t I be more like my twin [John D. Kelly IV, an orthopedic surgeon at Temple University Hospital].”
But Saltarelli sees little humor in certain issues. He has let it be known that he is unhappy with the pro-choice stances of U.S. Senator Joseph Biden and U.S. Representative Michael Castle, both Catholics. In 2005 he led several dozen Catholics in praying the Rosary outside the Delaware State House while lawmakers inside debated the merits of the Delaware Regenerative Medicine Act, which involved stem cell research. The bill was finally defeated last year, primarily through the efforts of A Rose and A Prayer, a Delaware group opposed to such legislation.
“Some people don’t like his black-and-white style,” Kelly says. Another friend, Brother Ronald Giannone, executive director of Wilmington’s Ministry of Caring, puts it this way: “You don’t have to guess what he’s thinking.”
Saltarelli makes no apologies. “I vote the issues, not parties,” he says. “I’m an Independent from my early voting days. I felt it good not to have to conform to the dictates of a party, but to be able to be free to vote my conscience.”
Trim and energetic, Saltarelli is a spiritual Zelig, appearing at christenings, schools and funerals, and conducting masses throughout the 5,000-square-mile diocese. He drives himself, putting about 25,000 miles a year on his car (currently a 2007 Mercury Marquis), which he trades in every three years.
The product of a melting pot neighborhood in Jersey City, Saltarelli has been especially attentive to the Hispanic population of about 100,000 on the Delmarva Peninsula. He conducts services for them in Spanish, and though he says he reads it well, he’s not yet comfortable conversing in the language. “I have to continue to grow in that, and I will,” he says, “even after I retire.”
His will not be a leisurely retirement. “I’ll be able to assist the new bishop, if he wants, with ceremonies, confirmations, anything,” Saltarelli says. “This diocese is growing, thanks be to God. When I came here 12 years ago, the census indicated we had 156,000 Catholics. I think we’re listing now 233,000 and growing. And so however the bishop wants to use me, I’m there. I’m not a rocking chair person.”
After his successor is named by Pope Benedict XVI, Saltarelli has two months to move out of the bishop’s residence on Bancroft Parkway. He has had offers to live in several rectories, or he could choose to live in the retirement house for priests at St. John the Beloved on Milltown Road.
Few leaders in the secular or religious worlds have earned the legacy of nearly universal affection and respect that Saltarelli has.
“He reaches out to people of all faiths,” says Harvey Rubenstein, a Wilmington lawyer who is one of the non-Catholic members of the Diocesan Review Board. “He’s a wonderful and very warm person.”
“He is a priest who became a bishop,” says Dan Barr of Greenville, who serves on the National Advisory Council for the U.S. Conference of Bishops. “I think he would have been very happy and very content to have spent his priestly life working parish settings. Our diocese has truly benefited from his leadership. He’ll be missed.”
 

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January 2017

January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
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Telephone: 302-654-8638
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Sports Card & Collectible Show at Aetna Fire Hall on Jan. 22—sign up now! -Sports Cards McFarlane Figures Comic Books Non-Sports cards Wrestling Items Vintage Starting...

Cost: $2

Where:
Aetna Fire Hall
400 Ogletown Road
Newark, DE  19711
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Sponsor: A2Z Promotions
Telephone: 302-983-2636
Contact Name: Bob Harper
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The Rehoboth Beach Film Society announces the next play in the exciting series of National Theatre Live screenings. National Theatre Live is a groundbreaking project that presents the best of...

Cost: $18-$20

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE  19958
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Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
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Belly Dance Classes with Zahra Beginner & intermediate classes open to teens and adults Sundays in January starting Jan 8th Beginner: 2:30-3:30 p.m. Intermediate: 1 - 2 p.m (must get...

Cost: $15-$42

Where:
Take the Lead Studio
320 Lantana Drive
Hockessin , DE  19711
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Sponsor: Take the Lead
Contact Name: Zahra
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The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
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Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
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Ah, typecasting—the baritone is always the bad guy! In Devils, Drunks & Dastardly Dudes, we’ll go on an operatic journey of men behaving badly. We’ll add a tenor to the mix, too… but we...

Cost: $29-$59

Where:
OperaDelaware Studio
4 South Poplar St.
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Sponsor: OperaDelaware
Telephone: 302-442-7809
Contact Name: Mary Wilcosky
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Come give curling a try! At this 2-hour intro-to-curling event we'll provide a basic lesson then coach you through a mini-game.  Whether you just want to cross #curling off your bucket list or...

Cost: $35

Where:
The Pond Ice Arena
101 John Campbell Rd
Newark, DE  19711
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Sponsor: Diamond State Curling Club
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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

The Rehoboth Beach Film Society announces the next play in the exciting series of National Theatre Live screenings. National Theatre Live is a groundbreaking project that presents the best of...

Cost: $18-$20

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

Notbybreadalone Ministries presents Feeding the Hungry Outreach. All are welcome to come and partake of food, fun and fellowship. Those who desire a better way of life through Jesus Christ are...

Cost: Free

Where:
2nd and 3rd Streets
Wilmington, DE  19801


Sponsor: Notbybreadalone Outreach Ministries
Telephone: 442-0440
Contact Name: Ministers Wayne and Stephanie Dumpson
Website »

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Guest speakers Patty Dailey-Lewis, executive director of the Beau Biden Foundation, and Delaware Family Court commissioner Loretta Young will discuss how participation in social media can too...

Cost: Free

Where:
Wilmington University - Dover
Building A Auditorium
3282 N DuPont Highway
Dover, DE  19901
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Sponsor: Wilmington University College of Social & Behavioral Sciences
Telephone: 302-295-1164
Contact Name: Dr. Johanna Bishop
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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30AM-12:00PM Fall session: Thursday, Dec 1st thru Thursday, December 15th Winter session: Tuesday, January 17th thru Thursday, March 30th   Drop in on Nature is...

Cost: see description

Where:
The Annex
501 Chandler Mill Rd
Kennett Square, PA  19348
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Sponsor: The Land Conservancy
Telephone: 610-347-0347 ext.104
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East Coast Garden Center Indoor Farmers Market Nov 8, 2016 - April 11, 2017  11 am- 2 pm 25 vendors Location:  East Coast Garden Center 30366 Cordrey Rd Millsboro, DE 19966 302-945-3489

Cost: frr

Where:
East Coast Garden Center
30366 Cordrey Rd
Millsboro, DE  19966
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Sponsor: East Coast Garden Center
Telephone: 302-945-3489
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East Coast Garden Center Indoor Farmer's Marke 25 vendors

Cost: Free

Where:
East Coast Garden Center
30366 Cordrey Rd
Millsboro, DE  19966
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Telephone: 302-945-3489
Website »

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The Rehoboth Beach Film Society announces the next play in the exciting series of National Theatre Live screenings. National Theatre Live is a groundbreaking project that presents the best of...

Cost: $18-$20

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

A four-week series of ballroom dancing classes taught by teachers from the BlueBallroom. Tuesdays starting Jan. 10. Classes are $30 a lesson for Non-Members. Non-Member slots are limited. For...

Cost: $30

Where:
University and Whist Club
805 N Broom St
Wilmington, DE  19806
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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

The Rehoboth Beach Film Society announces the next play in the exciting series of National Theatre Live screenings. National Theatre Live is a groundbreaking project that presents the best of...

Cost: $18-$20

Where:
Cinema Art Theater
17701 Dartmouth Drive, #2
Lewes, DE  19958
View map »


Sponsor: Rehoboth Beach Film Society
Telephone: 302-645-9095
Contact Name: Jeri Kaplan
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30AM-12:00PM Fall session: Thursday, Dec 1st thru Thursday, December 15th Winter session: Tuesday, January 17th thru Thursday, March 30th   Drop in on Nature is...

Cost: see description

Where:
The Annex
501 Chandler Mill Rd
Kennett Square, PA  19348
View map »


Sponsor: The Land Conservancy
Telephone: 610-347-0347 ext.104
Website »

More information

Thursdays from 4:00PM-5:30PM Fall session: December 1st, 8th and 15th Winter session: Starts January 19th, every other Thursday until March 30th This program is based entirely outdoors and is...

Cost: Cost: $30 for TLC members / $40 for non-members

Where:
Bucktoe Creek Preserve
432 Sharp Rd
Avondale, PA  19311
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Sponsor: The Land Conservancy
Telephone: 610-347-0347 ext.104
Website »

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MARC BROUSSARD In 2004, Marc Broussard, then a precocious 22-year-old singer/songwriter, released his major-label debut; he called it Carencro, after the Louisiana town where he was born and...

Cost: $22 SRO- $32 SEATED

Where:
World Cafe Live Wilmington
500 N Market St
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 215-222-1400
Contact Name: MP Intern
Website »

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The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

Tutto Fresco has live entertainment every Friday night from 6:30–9:30 p.m. Call for details. http://tuttofrescode.com/

Where:
Tutto Fresco
514 Philadelphia Pike
Wilmington, DE  19809
View map »

More information

The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
Website »

More information

Meeting every Friday, Bayhealth Kent General Hospital, 640 s. State Street, Dover, 7:30 pm., Private Dining Room #3 in the basement. For those who have, or think they may have a gambling problem....

Cost: 0.00

Where:
Bayhealth Kent General Hospital
640 S. State Street
Private Dining Room #3
Dover, DE  19901
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Telephone: 800-855-2CALLGA
Website »

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Cost: $12-$20

Where:
Wilmington Drama League
10 West Lea Blvd.
Wilmington, DE  19802
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Sponsor: Wilmington Drama League
Telephone: 302-764-3396
Contact Name: Kathy Buterbaugh
Website »

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January 3 - 28  “Winter Group Show” Rotating Group Show features a variety of art in different styles and media. Custom Framing & Gift Certificates are always available. Gallery Hours:...

Cost: free

Where:
The Station Gallery
3922 Kennett Pike
Greenville, DE  19807
View map »


Telephone: 302-654-8638
Website »

More information

January 28 – Saturday – 1 to 4 p.m. Science Saturday – Truss Me, You Won’t Fall! Become an engineer for the day. Design a bridge to hold as much weight as possible....

Cost: Activities are included in regular admission and free for members.

Where:
Hagley Museum
201 Hagley Creek Road
Wilmington, DE  19807
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Sponsor: Hagley Museum
Telephone: (302) 65802400 x 238
Contact Name: Jessica Eisenbrey
Website »

More information

The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
Website »

More information

GRILLED CHEESE AND CRAFT BEER TASTING We have taken two of the best things on earth and paired them together – Grilled Cheese and Craft Beer – and paired them together in unexpected and...

Cost: $40

Where:
World Cafe Live Wilmington
500 N Market St
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 215-222-1400
Contact Name: MP Intern
Website »

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Saturday, January 28, 2017 at  7:30 pm at St. David’s Episcopal Church, 763 Valley Forge Rd, Wayne, PA 19087 Sunday, January 29, 2017 at 3 pm at Church of the Holy Trinity, Rittenhouse Square...

Cost: Tickets are $25 online, and $30 at the door. Student tickets $10 at the door.

Where:
Church of the Holy Trinity
1904 Walnut St.
Philadelphia, PA  19103
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Sponsor: Lyric Fest
Telephone: 215-438-1702
Contact Name: Jessica Nelson
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Fan favorite, Dick Smith, returns to the Dickinson Theatre Organ Society concert stage on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2017 for a show that is sure to bring the house down! Dick Smith has been a...

Cost: $15 Adults; $10 Students

Where:
John Dickinson High School Auditorium
1801 Milltown Road
Wilmington, DE  19808
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Sponsor: Dickinson Theatre Organ Society
Telephone: 302-995-2603
Contact Name: Bob Dilworth
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The Dickinson Theatre Organ Society presents Dick Smith. For tickets, click here: http://www.dtoskimball.org/events-tickets/ticket-information/ For further information, please call us at...

Where:
, DE

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The Resident Ensemble Players, Delaware’s professional acting company performing at the University of Delaware, presents The Bells by Theresa Rebeck. During the great Yukon gold rush of the...

Cost: $15 - $30

Where:
Thompson Theatre, Roselle Center for the Arts
110 Orchard Rd.
Newark, DE  19716
View map »


Sponsor: Resident Ensemble Players
Telephone: (302) 831-2204
Website »

More information

Cost: $12-$20

Where:
Wilmington Drama League
10 West Lea Blvd.
Wilmington, DE  19802
View map »


Sponsor: Wilmington Drama League
Telephone: 302-764-3396
Contact Name: Kathy Buterbaugh
Website »

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MOTHERSHIP Mothership is the area's premier Led Zeppelin Tribute show. Composed of seasoned, professional musicians Mario Padovani - vocals, keyboards, Frank Ginocchio - drums, Chris Julian -...

Cost: 15

Where:
World Cafe Live Wilmington
500 N Market St
Wilmington, DE  19801
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Telephone: 215-222-1400
Website »

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