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.