Parishioners at St. Joachim file appeal to reopen

It’s not over: Pa­rish­ion­ers at St. Joachim Ro­man Cath­ol­ic Church at­tend its last Mass on June 30. Last week, an ap­peal was form­ally filed to re­open the re­cently closed par­ish. TIMES FILE PHOTO

Former pa­rish­ion­ers at St. Joachim Ro­man Cath­ol­ic Church last week form­ally filed an ap­peal to re­open the re­cently closed par­ish.

The over­view of their case was sent on Ju­ly 3 to the Apostol­ic Nun­ci­ature of the Holy See to the United States, based in Wash­ing­ton, D.C. The ap­peal will be for­war­ded to the Vat­ic­an’s Con­greg­a­tion for the Clergy, and there is no timetable for a fi­nal de­cision.

The former pa­rish­ion­ers have raised $4,805, with an­oth­er $1,000 pledged. That’s about half of what their total leg­al bill is ex­pec­ted to be.

The Arch­diocese of Phil­adelphia closed 15 par­ishes, in­clud­ing Frank­ford’s St. Joachim and Ma­ter Dol­orosa and Ta­cony’s St. Leo the Great, ef­fect­ive Ju­ly 1. It cited drops in week­end Mass at­tend­ance, mar­riages and bap­tisms.

The arch­diocese did not con­sider any ap­peals in the month between the an­nounce­ment and the clos­ings.

The St. Joachim faith­ful are ap­peal­ing be­cause they say their former par­ish was fin­an­cially solvent and brought in rent­al in­come from the former con­vent and school build­ings. Also, since the Ob­lates of St. Fran­cis de Sales sup­plied a pas­tor, the arch­diocese did not have to staff the par­ish.

Ma­ter Dol­orosa did not ap­peal its clos­ing. Its pa­rish­ion­ers, along with those of St. Joachim and Har­rowg­ate’s St. Joan of Arc, were dir­ec­ted to Ju­ni­ata Park’s Holy In­no­cents.

St. Leo was merged in­to its neigh­bor­ing par­ish, Our Lady of Con­sol­a­tion. Much of its ap­peal talk was quieted when the Rev. Joseph Far­rell, its pas­tor, was as­signed to the same post at Our Lady of Con­sol­a­tion.

St. Joachim, foun­ded in 1845, was the old­est Cath­ol­ic church in the North­east. Some former pa­rish­ion­ers gathered out­side the empty build­ing, at 1527 Church St., on Sat­urday and Sunday for pray­er ser­vices at the same time that Masses used to be held.

In ad­di­tion, 45 people gathered on Ju­ly 3 for a meet­ing at St. Mark’s Church, at 4442 Frank­ford Ave.

There, they prayed and dis­cussed the ap­peal and pre­lim­in­ary plans to form a neigh­bor­hood non­profit group. The mis­sion of the non­profit has not been es­tab­lished.

At the meet­ing, there was op­tim­ism about the ap­peal.

Maur­een Taylor re­called former Phil­lies pitch­er Tug Mc­Graw’s fam­ous ral­ly­ing cry of, “Ya Gotta Be­lieve.”

An­oth­er wo­man was hop­ing that the late Pope John Paul II could be cred­ited with a third mir­acle — the re­open­ing of St. Joachim.

Still, there ap­pear to be re­grets that neither of the Frank­ford par­ishes were spared.

“Hig­gins tried,” said ap­peal lead­er Pat Smi­ley, re­fer­ring to the Rev. Tom Hig­gins, pas­tor at Holy In­no­cents.

The former St. Joachim pa­rish­ion­ers be­lieve there was not enough trans­par­ency in the pro­cess that led to the clos­ing of the church. Thus, they say they have no choice but to fight the arch­diocese.

One man ex­pressed his thoughts in a haiku:

Mu­tu­al re­spect

Ne­ces­sary con­di­tion

For obed­i­ence. ••

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