A map shows the Port Richmond neighborhood of Lower Northeast Philadelphia and the locations of the four parishes that will merge into one Nativity B.V.M. Parish worshiping at St. Adalbert Church. All the churches and schools will remain open under the new parish, whose pastor is Father James Olson. (CatholicPhilly.com graphic by Barbara Hagan)

Effective July 1, four parishes in the Port Richmond section of Northeast Philadelphia will merge into one, it was announced on Sunday, May 19.

They are Nativity B.V.M., a territorial parish founded in 1902; St. George, a Lithuanian personal parish founded in the same year; St. Adalbert, a Polish personal parish founded in 1904 and Mother of Divine Grace, an Italian personal parish founded in 1926.

A fifth parish in the immediate area, the German personal parish Our Lady Help of Christians, merged into Nativity B.V.M. in 2016.

A merger has been under consideration for several years through consultation with the parishes involved, along with the Area Pastoral Planning Committee, the Archdiocesan Planning Committee and the Council of Priests, and the final plan was reviewed and approved by Archbishop Charles Chaput.


Father James Olson, the pastor of Nativity B.V.M. and administrator of Mother of Divine Grace and of St. George, will be pastor of the new parish.

What is unusual about the merger is that Nativity parish’s sacraments mostly will be celebrated not at Nativity Church but at the St. Adalbert worship site, and the parish will be officially named “Nativity B.V.M. Parish worshiping at St. Adalbert Church.”

All four of the churches will remain open as worship sites, and the three schools — Mother of Divine Grace School, St. George School and Our Lady of Port Richmond School — will remain open this coming year, Father Olson assured the parishioners in a letter.

Also, according to the just released ministerial assignment list, Father Jan Palkowski, pastor of St. Adalbert, will remain as pastor emeritus and a senior priest.

St. Adalbert Church will be the main worship site of Nativity B.V.M. Parish.

“While I am excited by the promise and opportunities for the Roman Catholic Church in Port Richmond,” Father Olson wrote in a letter to all of his parishioners, “there is no point in pretending that there are not mixed emotions of sadness, disappointment and even anger.

“But one thing that I do not feel today is fear. I am not afraid because I am confident that just like the disciples on the way to Emmaus, you and I are accompanied by Jesus every step of the way on our journey. Even if we don’t recognize him in this journey today, I am certain that one day we will look back on this day and realize that Jesus has been with us all along. As long as we stay close to our Lord and know that he is close to us we have absolutely nothing to fear.

“One thing that makes me happy is knowing that I will be taking this journey with you. Together we will discover what the Lord has in store for us each day and together we will see where the Holy Spirit is leading us.”

In the immediate future there are no plans for very many changes in the parish, Father Olson told his parishioners. All the churches will remain open and there are no plans to change the Mass schedules.

“I am counting on the help of our pastoral council and finance councils to lead the way forward,” he said.

The following presents a snapshot of some vital characteristics that were used in the planning process for Nativity Parish and its worship sites and schools.

St. Adalbert Parish:                                     2013              2017
Baptisms                                                                26                   11
Marriages                                                                4                      2
Funerals                                                                58                   40
Weekend Mass attendance                             750                 607
Masses per weekend                                            4                      4
Registered population                                 2,891               2,356
Registered households                                 1,337               1,086

St. George Parish:                                        2013              2017
Baptisms                                                                26                   21
Marriages                                                                2                      2
Funerals                                                                 21                   18
Weekend Mass attendance                             302                 194
Masses per weekend                                            3                      2
Registered population                                  1,230              1,223
Registered households                                     525                 415

Mother of Divine Grace Parish:           2013             2017
Baptisms                                                                27                   6
Marriages                                                                4                   3
Funerals                                                                 21                30
Weekend Mass attendance                              301              192
Masses per weekend                                             3                   2
Registered population                                  1,639            1,758
Registered households                                    567               595

Nativity B.V.M. Parish:                          2013              2017
Baptisms                                                             36                   32
Marriages                                                            13                     6
Funerals                                                              63                   45
Weekend Mass attendance                          430                 501
Masses per weekend                                         3                      4
Registered population                               3,003             2,936
Registered households                               1,197               1,161

School Enrollment (2017):
St. George School, 202
Our Lady of Port Richmond School, 404
Mother of Divine Grace School, 173

Three of the four parishes along with St. Adalbert merging into one in Philadelphia’s Port Richmond section include, from left, Mother of divine Grace, St. George and Nativity B.V.M. All the churches will remain open as worship sites of the new Nativity Parish.