The Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced the official merging of more than two dozen Roman Catholic parishes in Philadelphia and Delaware County.
The affected parishioners learned about the final decisions through letters as well as announcements made during weekend Masses.
The merger is part of the ongoing restructuring of the Archdiocese which began in 2011. The mergers are based on several factors, including demographic shifts in Catholic populations, declining Mass attendance and economic challenges.
The news is disappointing for many parishioners of Saint Laurentius. Their church will now merge with Holy Name of Jesus, another Fishtown congregation. Both parishes are more than 100 years old.
“I repeatedly asked Father Kelly to come see our church, our school…it never happened,” said Tim Breslin.
While their Pre-K through 8th grade school will remain open, parents and students will not be able to go to the church for traditional weekly masses.
“All of my sacraments were here,” said Rachel Booth. “My parents got married here.”
Attendance during weekend mass at the church declined between 2007 and 2011, from 418 to 326. At Holy Name of Jesus mass declined from 407 to 276. For some parishioners the merger is a welcomed opportunity to grow membership.
“We’re really very excited, the church is called to new evangelism, new life for Fishtown,” said Marianne Jablonski, a member of Holy Name of Jesus.
With each merger, parishioners will attend daily and Sunday Mass at the church of the newly formed parish. The Archdiocese also says the church of the former parish will remain open as a worship site.
"All parish property, assets and debts of the former parish will be assumed by the newly created parish, which will also be responsible for the care of all sacramental records," said a spokesperson for the Archdiocese.
The spokesperson also announced that the pastors from the merging parishes will form a "transitional team" composed of leaders from each of the merging parishes.
After all the mergers become effective, there will be 236 parishes in the five-county Philadelphia Archdiocese.
CLICK HERE to see the full list of merged parishes.