Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Church in West Philadelphia closed permanently as a Catholic place of worship on Friday, Aug. 1, due primarily to its high cost of upkeep.
The church was built in 1887 and had been the home of Our Lady of the Rosary Parish in the neighborhood around its location at 63rd and Callowhill Streets. That parish was merged with the former Our Lady of Victory Parish in 2005 and renamed Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament.
The arrangement lasted until January 2013 when the parish merged with St. Cyprian Parish and became a worship site for occasional liturgies. At that time the parish became responsible for maintaining Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament.
In a statement from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia released Aug. 3, St. Cyprian reported it spent $35,000 in the past year to keep up with “the deteriorated condition of the building” and projected the costs “to rise prohibitively over the course of time.”
Problems needing expensive repairs include $3,500 spent to repair water damage to a broken pipe, according the official decree approving the church’s closure.
The costs were compounded by St. Cyprian’s “lack of parish funding to maintain the OLBS church building,” according to the statement.
The ongoing expenditures “would have forced staffing cuts at St. Cyprian Parish and jeopardized the stability of vital ministerial programs such as outreach to the poor.”
While Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament at the time of its merger served fewer than 296 worshipers for typical Sunday Masses (based on the 2011 “October count” census of Mass-goers) in its large, costly church, St. Cyprian Parish hosted 690 for Sunday Masses last year. But its parishioners also worship in a large church building built in 1915, which also must be maintained.
The St. Cyprian pastoral and finance councils, together with the pastor, Msgr. Federico Britto, requested that the archdiocese close Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament. The archdiocesan Council of Priests and Archbishop Chaput reviewed the proposal to close the church and the archbishop made the final decision last month.
The archdiocese’s statement did not indicate when or whether Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Church would be sold. When it merged with St. Cyprian, the buildings, assets and debts of OLBS transferred to St. Cyprian, so the parish leaders and pastor would decide on its future in a way that would benefit “continued parish viability and sustainability” of St. Cyprian’s.
Judging from photographs of the church’s interior courtesy the Philadelphia Church Project website, Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament would be a beautiful church for any religious congregation, but also an expensive one to maintain.
A buyer could use it for a nonreligious purpose as long as it was not a “sordid” usage, according to the official canonical decree issued by the archdiocese at the time of closure.
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I have been involved, in attempting to save, a church, Our Lady of Loreto, in Brooklyn, NY, now for several years from being taken down. These churches are treasures. Yees, it is true that the church is where the People of God are, but churches are congregating points and are ever important, especially as beacons of light in many a community.
On a recent trip to Endicott, NY, where the Church of St. Casimir closed, what with the help of the local community and some concentrated thinking and hard work, the church is to reopen as a Hospice Center, and being fixed so that it provides comfort for the dying and their families. How clever was that! As I looked at the photos of the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Phily, what hope…what a place to keep faces bright.
Another thought, what with all of the resident ARTISTS in a City such as Phily, is there not a way to have those artists work on such a site and help restore it, and strengthen it structurally? Where are the unions? Could they not contribute some volunteer work. yes, with some concentrated thinkng and planning, that Church of teh BS could be saved.