The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is expected to announce on May 31 which churches, if any, will merge or close, and parishioners at two Frankford churches are nervously awaiting the verdict.
The Rev. John J. Large, pastor of Mater Dolorosa and St. Joan of Arc parishes, said he’s been told about the announcement date, but not about the fate of any churches.
Nothing official has come from the archdiocese since Feb. 3, when Archbishop Charles Chaput called for further input and broader consultation on the futures of Frankford’s Mater Dolorosa and St. Joachim, Harrowgate’s St. Joan of Arc and Juniata’s Holy Innocents.
Back in 2003, the archdiocese closed the schools at Mater Dolorosa, St. Joachim and St. Joan of Arc, and students were sent to Holy Innocents.
Mater Dolorosa is an Italian parish at 1676 Ruan St. St. Joachim, at 1527 Church St., is the oldest parish in the Northeast, formed in 1845. They are separated only by Frankford Avenue, but parishioners at both churches have not expressed enthusiasm about a merger, since they want either of their parishes to be the one to close.
Earlier speculation had St. Joan of Arc closing, with parishioners invited to register at either Holy Innocents or Port Richmond’s St. George.
The churches’ future is uncertain because of declining Mass attendance, marriages and baptisms, factors that hurt a parish’s financial state.
Other churches that have been part of the archdiocese’s Parish Pastoral Planning Area initiative include Wissinoming’s St. Bartholomew; Tacony’s St. Leo and Our Lady of Consolation; the Mayfair area’s St. Timothy, St. Matthew and St. Bernard; and Bridesburg’s St. John Cantius and All Saints.
St. Matthew has a parish school and is flourishing, so it does not appear to be in danger of closing. St. Timothy is home to a regional school and will likely stay open.
The schools at St. Bartholomew, St. Leo, Our Lady of Consolation, St. Bernard, St. John Cantius and All Saints have all closed. ••