Seven parishes in Northwest Philadelphia and four parishes in Coatesville, Chester County, submitted written recommendations for Archbishop Charles Chaput’s consideration regarding merging, consolidating or closing some of the parishes in those Pastoral Planning Areas (PPAs).
The proposals were due Feb. 15, and will be discussed among the parish pastors and a Strategic Planning Committee comprised of archdiocesan experts in several aspects of Church life.
PPA 540 includes nine parishes located in the Germantown, Mount Airy and Oak Lane sections of Philadelphia and a detailed study of seven of those parishes began last October.
The parishes affected are St. Vincent de Paul, founded in 1851; St. Francis of Assisi, founded in 1899; Immaculate Conception, founded in 1902; St. Benedict, founded in 1922; St. Therese of the Child Jesus, founded in 1925; St. Athanasius, founded in 1928; and St. Raymond of Penafort, founded in 1941.
The process of in-depth evaluations at these parishes was originally to have extended into May. However, a Jan. 30 letter from Msgr. Arthur E. Rodgers, coordinator of archdiocesan planning initiatives, to the pastors of the parishes indicated that the area required a more aggressive timetable for implementing a plan for them.
Auxiliary Bishop Daniel E. Thomas and Msgr. Stephen P. McHenry are the bishop and dean respectively with responsibility for the area. They held a meeting Jan. 11 with the pastors of the parishes to clarify the process. Most of the involved pastors decided pastoral planning should go forward as originally proposed.
Several plans calling for the closure or consolidation of some parishes were considered by the pastoral and finance councils of the parishes prior to the Feb. 15 deadline. Bishop Thomas and Msgr. McHenry met with those councils to discuss their comments.
“The goal is to have a final plan for the parishes that agrees upon procedures for implementation and the complexities of the mergers,” said Msgr. Rodgers in the letter.
In Chester County, the four parishes in Coatesville are engaged in a similar process within the same timeframe. The parishes include St. Cecilia, established in 1869; St. Stanislaus Kostka (Polish), established in 1907; Our Lady of the Rosary (Italian), established in 1917; and St. Joseph (Slovak), established in 1924. Auxiliary Bishop John J. McIntyre and Msgr. Daniel J. Kutys are the bishop and dean respectively who are responsible for the area. Coatesville is home to a growing Hispanic population, a fact that the pastors and councils considered when forming their proposals for parish consolidations or closures. Although there is the possibility of one church building being used as a mission chapel for Spanish-speaking parishioners, the desired outcome is for one parish that will serve all the diverse ethnic groups in Coatesville.
These parishes, along with five parishes in the Manayunk section of Philadelphia and three parishes in Phoenixville, Chester County, have all been examined, based on the needs of their respective areas.
In all four regions, 19 parishes will experience some form of merger or closure this year. They are staffed by 17 resident pastors with two pairs of twinned parishes served by the same pastors.
“The next step for the pastors of the involved parishes in all four PPAs is to meet the Strategic Planning Committee with presentations for their communities,” Msgr. Rodgers said. Each of the four PPAs will have a separate meeting with the committee to present their proposals.
The final plans will be submitted to Archbishop Chaput and his top advisory boards for consideration at a March 23 meeting. Shortly thereafter, the Archbishop will announce his final decisions, either accepting the plans as submitted, or with modifications.
The process of merging and/or closing parishes will then commence, and is expected to be completed by July 1.
George Gregory is a parishioner of St. Cecilia Parish in Coatesville.
Timeframe for 19 parishes in Northwest Philadelphia, Manayunk, Coatesville and Phoenixville:
• Pastors meet with Strategic Planning Committee to present proposals
• Final plans submitted to Archbishop Chaput by March 23
• Final decisions on the parishes expected soon after
• Merging or closing of parishes expected to be complete by July 1