The mood was bittersweet for parishioners at Notre Dame de Lourdes in Swarthmore on Saturday. It was supposed to be a celebration of the church's 55 year history. More often than not however it seemed like a night of mourning.
"It's not like we're going to mass," said Bob Lynch, one of the parishioners. "It's kind of like we're going to a funeral."
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Notre Dame is one of 16 local churches that will hold their final mass on Sunday before closing for good on Monday.
Last year, the Archdiocese informed the public that 46 churches in Philadelphia, Bucks, Delaware, and Montgomery counties would undertake a program of self-study, known as the Parish Area Pastoral Planning Initiative, to determine if any of the parishes should merge together.
A committee -- made up of lay persons, priests and Archdiocesan personnel -- presented Archbishop Charles Chaput with three possible recommendations for each parish: to merge, to complete additional evaluations in the future or maintain their current structure and develop a plan for long-term sustainability.
Earlier this month, the Archdiocese announced the 16 parishes that would close.
"The mergers being announced are due to a number of factors including a shift in Catholic population, a high density of parishes in a small area, as well as declines in Mass attendance, Sacramental activity, the availability of priests to staff parishes, and a review of facilities," said Archdiocese spokesman Kenneth Gavin in a released statement. "In each instance of a merger, parishioners will attend daily and Sunday Mass at the church of the newly formed parish. The church(es) of the former parish(es) will become a worship site(es). Worship sites will be utilized for weddings, funerals and feast days, as well as traditional and ethnic devotions. Sunday Mass may also be celebrated at worship sites at the discretion of the pastor and the newly formed pastoral council and depending upon the availability of clergy."
Notre Dame de Lourdes will merge with Our Lady of Peace in Milmont Park.
"It's sad for every person that I know that's still in my parish who grew up here and who stayed here because of the camaraderie and the family-like atmosphere," said Karen Finelli, while on the verge of tears. "It's very sad."
Five of the parishes set to merge, including Notre Dame de Lourdes, filed appeals against the decision. The other parishes that appealed are Our Lady of Mount Carmel, St. John of the Cross, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton and Saint Ann.
The appeals are with Archbishop Chaput who will likely make a decision next month. Some parishioners have said they plan to take the appeal to the Vatican if its declined by Chaput. Since the parish mergers began in 2010, no appeals have ever been overturned.
Here is the full list of churches and the decisions that were made:
|Notre Dame de Lourdes||99 Fairview Road, Swarthmore||Delaware County||Closing; Merging with Our Lady of Peace in Milmont Park|
|Sacred Heart||316 E. Broadway Ave, Clifton Heights||Delaware County||Staying Open|
|St. Eugene||200 S. Oak Ave., Primos||Delaware County||Staying Open|
|St. Joseph||500 Woodlawn Ave, Collingdale||Delaware County||Staying Open|
|Holy Spirit Catholic Church||1028 School St., Sharon Hill||Delaware County||Closing; Merging with St. George|
|St. George||22 E Cooke Ave, Glenolden||Delaware County||Staying Open|
|Our Lady of Perpetual Help||2130 Franklin Ave, Morton||Delaware County||Staying Open|
|Our Lady of Fatima||1 Fatima Drive, Secane||Delaware County||Staying Open|
|St. Gabriel Roman Catholic Church||233 Mohawk Ave., Norwood||Delaware County||Staying Open|
|Our Lady of Peace||501 Belmont Ave., Milmont Park||Delaware County||Staying Open|
|St. Rose of Lima||1901 Chester Pike, Eddystone||Delaware County||Staying Open|
|St. Madeline||105 Park St, Ridley Park||Delaware County||Staying Open|
|St. Margaret Mary Alacoque||500 Wanamaker Ave., Essington||Delaware County||Closing; Merging with St. Gabriel|
|St. Luke the Evangelist||2316 Fairhill Ave, Glenside||Montgomery County||Staying Open|
|Queen of Peace||820 North Hills Ave., Ardsley||Montgomery County||Staying Open|
|St. John of the Cross||2741 Woodland Road, Roslyn||Montgomery County||Closing, Merging With Queen of Peace|
|St. David||316 Easton Road, Willow Grove||Montgomery County||Staying Open|
|Mother of Divine Providence||333 Allendale Road, King of Prussia||Montgomery County||Staying Open|
|Our Lady of Mount Carmel||502 Ford St., Bridgeport||Montgomery County||Closing, Merging With Sacred Heart|
|St. Augustine||464 Ford St., Bridgeport||Montgomery County||Closing, Merging with Sacred Heart|
|Sacred Heart||120 Jefferson St., Swedesburg||Montgomery County||Staying Open|
|St. Gertrude||209 Merion Ave., West Conshohocken||Montgomery County||Closing; Merging with Saint Matthew|
|St. Mary||140 W. Hector St., Conshohocken||Montgomery County||Closing; Merging with Saint Matthew|
|St. Matthew||219 Fayette St., Conshohocken||Montgomery County||Staying Open|
|SS. Cosmas and Damian||209 W. 5th Ave., Conshohocken||Montgomery County||Closing; Merging with Saint Matthew|
|St. Charles Borromeo||1704 Bristol Pike, Bensalem||Bucks County||Staying Open|
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton
|1200 Park Ave., Bensalem||Bucks County||Closing; Merging with St. Thomas Aquinas in Croydon|
|St. Thomas Aquinas||601 Bristol Pike, Croydon||Bucks County||Staying Open|
|Our Lady of Fatima||2913 Street Road, Bensalem||Bucks County||Closing, Merging with St. Charles Borromeo|
|St. Ann||357 Dorrance St., Bristol||Bucks County||Closing; Merging with St. Mark|
|St. Mark||1025 Radcliffe St., Bristol||Bucks County||Staying Open|
|St. Ephrem||5400 Hulmeville Road, Bensalem||Bucks County||Staying Open|
|Immaculate Conception B.V.M.||5201 Emilie Road, Levittown||Bucks County||Closing; Merging with Queen of the Universe|
|St. Michael the Archangel||66 Levittown Parkway, Levittown||Bucks County||Staying Open|
Our Lady of Grace
|225 Bellevue Ave., Penndel||Bucks County||Staying Open|
|Queen of the Universe||2443 Trenton Road, Levittown||Bucks County||Staying Open|
|St. Frances Cabrini||325 S Oxford Valley Road, Fairless Hills||Bucks County||Staying Open|
|St. Joseph the Worker||9172 New Falls Road, Levittown||Bucks County||Closing; Merging with St. Frances Cabrini|
|St Charles Borromeo Parish||902 S. 20th St.||Philadelphia||Staying Open|
|St. Rita of Cascia||1166 S. Broad St.||Philadelphia||Staying Open|
|St. Gabriel||2917 Dickinson St||Philadelphia||Staying Open|
|St. Thomas Aquinas||1719 Morris St.||Philadelphia||Staying Open|
|St Edmond Parish||2130 S. 21st St.||Philadelphia||Closing, Merging with St. Monica|
|St. Monica||2422 S 17th St||Philadelphia||Staying Open|
|St. Richard||3010 S. 18th St||Philadelphia||Staying Open|
|Holy Spirit||1845 Hartranft St.||Philadelphia||Closing, Merging With St. Richard|
After the mergers become effective, there will be 219 parishes in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.