St. Laurentius Church at Memphis and East Berks Streets in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood. (Photo by Sarah Webb)

St. Callistus Church and St. Laurentius Church in Philadelphia officially will close Wednesday, Oct. 1, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced Sept. 28.

Both churches had been designated worship sites since July 2013 with limited use for liturgies as a result of the pastoral planning process in the archdiocese.

St. Callistus, located at 6700 Lancaster Avenue in Overbrook, West Philadelphia, merged with nearby Our Lady of Lourdes Parish last year. A statement by the archdiocese indicated no Masses had been celebrated there for the past 10 months, and there had been no requests for weddings or funerals at the church. St. Laurentius was a Polish ethnic parish located at Memphis and East Berks Streets in Fishtown, North Philadelphia, until it merged last year with nearby Holy Name of Jesus Parish.

Members of both parishes learned the news at Masses last weekend.

The archdiocesan statement said the pastors of both parishes together with their pastoral and finance councils recommended closing the churches. After study, the archdiocesan Council of Priests presented the recommendations to Archbishop Charles Chaput, who approved them after his review.


Serious problems with both buildings appeared to prevent them from being used for worship recently and would seem to present obstacles for their reuse.

St. Callistus Church “faces a dangerous mold problem,” needs repairs to its roof and waterproofing of its foundation. The cost of the work will run at least to $260,000, above the costs for routine maintenance and utilities, according to the archdiocesan statement.

Leaders at Our Lady of Lourdes said the parish could not afford the costs with jeopardizing “the stability of vital ministerial programs and parish finances,” the statement said.

Across the city in Fishtown, “serious structural problems” of St. Laurentius Church were revealed in an independent engineering study last March that led to the immediate closure of the church out of safety concerns. It was said to be in imminent danger of collapse, and scaffolding and netting were installed to protect passersby from falling stone.

“The cost to repair and restore the church, including rebuilding the towers, would cost nearly $3.5 million, while the cost to demolish the church is approximately $1 million,” the statement said.

The decision whether to repair or demolish the church rests with the pastor of Holy Name of Jesus Parish along with the parish councils and must be made “in a manner consistent with providing for continued parish viability and sustainability.”

Since both churches were effectively inactive this year, this week’s announcement simply relates to their designation as churches in canon law. Now that they are closed they may be relegated to common (“profane”) usage but not used for “sordid” purposes, for example a nightclub.

If the properties are to be sold, the proceeds would go to their respective parishes.

Standard procedure for parishes merging in the archdiocese is for all real estate holdings, assets and debts of the former parish to be transferred to the newly formed parish at the time of the merger.