St. Laurentius celebrates its final wedding

Rose O’Bri­en and An­drew Zi­m­mer­man’s mar­riage marks the end of an era for the par­ish.

  • Rose O’Brien and Andrew Zimmerman kiss to seal their vows. STEVE SILVERS / SILVERIMAGEPHOTOS.COM

  • Rose O’Brien and Andrew Zimmerman marry in a ceremony at St. Laurentius church on Dec. 31, 2013. STEVE SILVERS / SILVERIMAGEPHOTOS.COM

On New Year’s Eve, Rose O’Bri­en and An­drew Zi­m­mer­man were mar­ried at Fishtown’s his­tor­ic St. Lauren­ti­us church. The wed­ding was not only a mo­nu­ment­al day for the happy couple, but it marked the end of an era for the pa­rish­ion­ers of St. Lauren­ti­us.  The wed­ding of O’Bri­en and Zi­m­mer­man may be the last cel­eb­rated in the 130-year-old St. Lauren­ti­us church.

In Ju­ly 2013, the arch­diocese, in an ef­fort to cut costs and con­sol­id­ate re­sources, de­cided to merge the par­ishes of St. Lauren­ti­us and Holy Name in­to the Holy Name of Je­sus Church.

All wed­dings that were sched­uled pri­or to Ju­ly were honored, ac­cord­ing to the Rev. Joseph J. Zingaro, pas­tor of the Holy Name of Je­sus Church.  Any pa­rish­ion­ers re­quest­ing a fu­ture wed­ding at St. Lauren­ti­us would need spe­cial ap­prov­al from the Arch­diocese of Phil­adelphia, Zingaro said.

St. Lauren­ti­us was es­tab­lished in 1882 and is the old­est pre­dom­in­antly Pol­ish Cath­ol­ic church in the arch­diocese.

In the mer­ger, the arch­diocese re-des­ig­nated St. Lauren­ti­us as a wor­ship site, which means it can still be used for one Sunday Mass, fu­ner­als, de­vo­tion­al ser­vices and Mass on holy days, ac­cord­ing to arch­diocese rules.

The mer­ger was based on a num­ber of factors, in­clud­ing de­clin­ing Mass at­tend­ance, a re­duc­tion in the num­ber of priests and clergy, demo­graph­ic shifts in the Cath­ol­ic pop­u­la­tion and di­min­ish­ing fin­an­cial re­sources, ac­cord­ing to the St. Lauren­ti­us Par­ish Face­book page.

St. Lauren­ti­us grade school, loc­ated at 1612 E. Berks St., will re­main open.  The school is thriv­ing un­der Prin­cip­al Elaine McK­night and en­roll­ment num­bers are up, ac­cord­ing to par­ents of stu­dents there.

The O’Bri­en-Zi­m­mer­man wed­ding was a large one by any stand­ards: nine brides­maids, nine grooms­men, three flower girls and three ju­ni­or brides­maids.  

The mat­ron of hon­or was Stephanie House­man and the best man was Dave Zi­m­mer­man. Zingaro cel­eb­rated the Mass.  A former teach­er of the bride, Mr. Duane Rutkowski, played the or­gan and sang at the ce­re­mony.

The bride, who is from Fishtown, said hav­ing her wed­ding at St. Lauren­ti­us was bit­ter­sweet.

“I love St. Lauren­ti­us church,” O’Bri­en said. “It is where I made my sac­ra­ments and it is where I grew up.  I am so grate­ful that I was able to share our beau­ti­ful church on my spe­cial day with the most im­port­ant people in my life.

“However, I am also sad to know that mine will be the last wed­ding held there.”  

O’Bri­en is the daugh­ter of Fishtown Ac­tion Com­mit­tee Pres­id­ent Mag­gie O’Bri­en and the cous­in of the late Mi­chael Strange, a Navy private who was killed in Afgh­anistan in 2011.  Strange’s fath­er, Charlie Strange, at­ten­ded the wed­ding.

“It is a great day for my fam­ily and for my niece, Rose,” Charlie Strange said. “My son Mi­chael did a lot with his cous­in Rose over the years, in­clud­ing spend­ing time at the Jer­sey shore to­geth­er. It’s a very emo­tion­al day for me.”

St. Lauren­ti­us will con­tin­ue to cel­eb­rate a Sunday Mass at 9:30 a.m.

All oth­er Masses are now be­ing cel­eb­rated at the Holy Name of Je­sus Church on 701 E. Gaul St.

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