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Three parishes in South Philadelphia, along with two in Delaware County, will enter a partnership in June. (Graphic by Barbara Hagan)

As announced last weekend, two groups of parishes in South Philadelphia and Delaware County will engage in a “partnership.” The relatively new concept in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s pastoral planning process calls for parishes and their churches not to close but to be managed jointly by one pastor.

Under a plan recommended by leaders of St. Rita of Cascia, Annunciation B.V.M. and St. Nicholas parishes in South Philadelphia and approved by Archbishop Charles Chaput after review by the Archdiocesan Strategic Planning Committee, St. Rita Parish and Annunciation will merge for worship at Annunciation Church and Annunciation will partner with St. Nicholas.

The National Shrine of St. Rita will continue to operate as a separate entity from the parishes.

Key to the partnership arrangement is the Augustinian order of priests, who currently staff both St. Rita’s and St. Nicholas parishes, each with a pastor and three to four Augustinian priests serving as parochial vicars or in residence.

The partnership calls for one pastor, one pastoral council and one parish staff to serve the three churches and parishes, which retain their own finance councils and maintain their own finances.

A total of 3,076 Catholics are registered at all three parishes, with 501 at St. Rita’s, 975 at Annunciation and 1,600 at St. Nicholas, according to the latest figures from 2014.

Because of the presence of many Augustinian priests and the close proximity of the parishes in South Philadelphia — St. Nicholas is located only four-tenths of a mile, or seven blocks, from Annunciation — the pastoral service to parishioners in the partnership is different than that announced for Delaware County.

Sacred Heart Parish in Clifton Heights and St. Charles Borromeo Parish in Drexel Hill will also enter a partnership. Just eight-tenths of a mile’s drive separates St. Charles, on the southern end of Drexel Hill, from Sacred Heart, a Polish and territorial parish located across Baltimore Pike in Clifton Heights.

Each parish currently has a resident pastor. Sacred Heart had 520 registered households in 2014 and St. Charles 2,220, for a total of 2,740 households among the two.

Under the partnership, as in South Philadelphia, one parish administration will serve both parishes and their churches will remain open. The Delaware County parishes’ plans also were reviewed by the Strategic Planning Committee and approved by Archbishop Chaput.

Both partnership plans go into effect in June, according to a statement from the Philadelphia Archdiocese.

A similar plan was announced for five parishes in Philadelphia’s Port Richmond section, the first phase of which will occur this June and the final phase in 2017.