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Posted in Local Catholic News, Local News, Parish Restructuring, on February 4th, 2013

St. Donato Parish to merge with Our Lady of Lourdes in West Philadelphia

By Matthew Gambino and Lou Baldwin

West Philadelphia’s St. Donato Parish, an Italian personal parish in Pastoral Planning Area 600, will merge with Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, it was announced at weekend Masses Feb. 2-3.

In the merger Our Lady of Lourdes will retain its name and parish status, while St. Donato Church at 65th and Callowhill streets will become a worship site for occasional use, according to a statement by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia released Feb. 4.

St. Donato Parish was established in 1910 during a period when Philadelphia was experiencing a huge influx of Italian immigrants. St. Frances Cabrini, herself an Italian immigrant, visited the following year for the opening liturgy for the parish school, which was staffed by her Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart.

The school itself is now St. Frances Cabrini Regional School, which will not be affected by the parish closing, according to the archdiocesan statement.

The merger of the parishes, whose churches are located only 1.25 miles from each other, becomes effective Feb. 24.

Last month St. Callistus Parish also merged with Our Lady of Lourdes, at 63rd St. and Lancaster Ave., one of other announced mergers in West Philadelphia. They included Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament merging at St. Cyprian and Our Mother of Sorrows merging at St. Ignatius of Loyola.

According to the statement, the mergers “will ultimately strengthen parish communities throughout the Archdiocese, positioning them for future growth and sustainability. It is hoped that the result will be revitalized parishes throughout the Archdiocese that are better equipped to meet the spiritual and pastoral needs of future generations.”

The closure of St. Donato was approved by Archbishop  Charles Chaput at the recommendation of the Archdiocesan Strategic Planning Committee. It studied a number of factors including demographic shifts in Catholic populations, concentrated density of parishes in a limited geographic area, history of declining Mass attendance and sacramental activity, increasing economic challenges that threaten sustainability, a decrease in the availability of clergy to staff parishes, and a review of facilities.

Attendance for the three Masses on a typical weekend at St. Donato’s, based on head counts in the church during Masses in October, was 169 in 2011, down from 241 in 2007. Over the years St. Donato was the site of approximately 14,000 baptisms and approximately 5,100 weddings. While the number of baptisms and marriages remained virtually unchanged over the latest five-year period, they were few in number, with seven baptisms and six marriages in 2011.

In that year Our Lady of Lourdes had 18 baptisms but only five marriages.

But the parish welcomed 819 worshipers for Masses on a typical weekend in 2011, up from 675 in 2007. Part of the reason is that it offers five Masses, including a 8 p.m. Sunday night Mass, and a morning “high Mass” in the extraordinary Latin rite that draws people from across the area.

Without such a merger, the archdiocesan statement said, St. Donato Parish “would not have been self-sustainable in the future.”

St. Donato Church currently hosts two Masses on Sunday morning and one on Saturday evening. It will remain open as a worship site “for the time being” and may be used for weddings, funerals, and feast days, as well as traditional and ethnic devotions for at least one year during the transition, the statement said. Sunday Mass may also be celebrated there at the discretion of the pastor and the newly formed pastoral council.

All parish property, assets and debts of St. Donato Parish will be assumed by the Our Lady of Lourdes, which will also hold all sacramental records. The pastors from the merging parishes – Father Ferdinand Buccafurni of St. Donato’s and Mercedarian Father Michael Rock — will form a transitional team made up of lay leaders from each of the parishes to help build the new parish community.

The Archdiocesan Strategic Planning Committee, made up of lay persons, priests and archdiocesan personnel, is examining all parishes within the Archdiocese to gauge their viability and assess whether they possess the resources to accomplish their role in the mission of the Church and remain sustainable and vibrant faith communities.

Parishes within each pastoral planning area will continue to examine their viability in order to make future recommendations. St. Donato and Our Lady of Lourdes are within Pastoral Planning Area 600.

According to the statement, the goal of the pastoral planning process is to provide pastors, after consulting their parish leadership, with the opportunity to dialogue with members of the Strategic Planning Committee in providing joint recommendations to the Archbishop for growth and sustainability within their respective geographic areas.

Additionally, in the majority of cases, the regional bishop and the dean meet with the pastors as well as their pastoral and finance councils to hear their concerns and receive their recommendations.

The Archdiocesan Strategic Planning Committee shared all final proposals with the Council of Priests and the College of Consultors for their review before final approval by the Archbishop.

Announcements on the decisions regarding parishes in three areas – Northeast Philadelphia, Northwest Philadelphia and a portion of Delaware County– are expected in the spring.

Two other parishes in West Philadelphia’s PPA 600 that remain under study are St. Barbara and St. Rose of Lima.

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6 Responses

  1. How stupid are the people in the Archdiocese?

    2012: Close Our Lady of Lourdes School, Merge St. Donato and Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Schools into one school at St. Donato Parish

    2013: Merge Donato and Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament into different parishes, and leave a school with no parish attached.


    By: Annoyed on February 4, 2013 at 3:59 pm

  2. St. Donato Church has been self-sufficient and has not at any time relied on the Archdiocese in maintaining this beautiful Church. You are now asking that we merge and forward these assets to a Church that is in the red? How many Catholics are in attendance in the High School’s that were saved? These decisions have me questioning my Catholic faith.

    By: Heartbroken Parishoner on February 5, 2013 at 1:08 pm

  3. This reminds me of the old communist block. Things that the leaders wanted done were asked for by the “PEOPLE IN THE STREET” and than the leaders agreed to do what the “PEOPLE ” want. Trust me Our Lady of Lourdes has had an increase in numbers because of the old Mass I know because I drive an hour and 15 minutes to attend. When the Church reformers realize this OLL will be next. I was able to answer the anti spam quiz because I attended catholic school for 16 years and it was free except for College. Perhaps we should strip the bishops and Church lawyers of their perks and reopen the schools for FREE and only allow Catholic Children to attend. !!!!!

    One final comment St Louis yeadon will be closed in the spring. Their bank balance is almost 1 million That’s right 1 mil but they will be closed!!!!
    I know this for a fact because I have seen the books and the parish owes the AD NOTHING much like St. D. The AD build aa spanish parish in Avondale, St. Rocca’s and they have NO MONEY!!!!!!For the future of the Church stand up and stop being sheeps

    By: the true believer on February 6, 2013 at 11:51 am

  4. It’s a disgrace what you did Archbishop Chaput !!! You and the AOP should be ashamed of yourselves.It’s not about attendance it’s about money !!How about this,Matthew 18:20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” I wouldn’t attend church at OLL if it was the last church open !!!

    By: heartbroken on February 8, 2013 at 5:51 pm

  5. Heard from my cousin last evening. Our families were born and raised here. A small Italian neighborhood. We had to have one italian parent to attend. We both had two italian parents so it wasen’t a problem for us. We belonged. As did most families and friends. Didn’t realize the strangeness of this until i was much older.
    In high school,at west catholic girls,people were different nationalities and colors. It started to help me realize the world was much bigger than i thought. A good lesson. Our faith was strong and we were told not to question. I had alot of questions. Better to keep it to myself.
    As i grew older i would come to learn people got divorced. They had children out of wedlock.or maybe someone was gay. Maybe i wanted to control my contraception. Or have sex and not be married. These were not only frowned upon but forbidden. The church would excomunicate these poor souls who probably needed church as much as the next person. There was alot of throwing away of humanity in these days. I began to seriosly question why people I loved weren’t loved by the church. The crime and punishment was too much for me to bear. Why would God do this ?

    Well it turns out God wasen’t doing this. Men would decide and enforce accordingly. It was very disturbing and i fell away. My questions were too many. It didn’t make sense anymore. I would not go to church anymore. Instead of the big welcoming place it started out to be it became a place of exclusion. Inclusion to the worthy. Ok then.

    Well i turned out extremly well. My faith in God is strong. I live a good life. Kindness and empathy guide me daily. I prefer to live my life this way instead of going to church. I’m different and i’m glad to be. God knows me well. He’s not in a building. He’s right here next to me. That’s what my friend told me and I believe her.

    By: MJ on February 13, 2013 at 6:58 am

    • Amen, MJ
      I am a Callistus alum. Tried to save church, people around me weren’t interested. Seems the decision was already made. Have no objections about Lourdes. It’s a beautiful church. I love my faith and spiritual nature that came from catholism. But I agree with you, the church was oddly exclusive.

      By: SA on February 20, 2013 at 5:56 pm

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