Local Catholics Worry About Future of 46 Parishes

Catholics across the Delaware Valley are finding out this weekend whether the Archidiocese of Philadelphia will close their parish. Bad news is expected for parishioners of nearly 50 local churches.

In September, the Archdiocese informed the public that 46 churches in Philadelphia, Bucks, Delaware, and Montgomery counties would untertake a program of self-study, known as the Parish Area Pastoral Planning Intiative, to determine if any of the parishes should merge together.

The looming announcement is triggering raw emotions in many local Catholics, including Libby Tosti who has attended mass at Saint Ann's in Bristol since she was a baby.

"I was baptized in this church, I made all my sacraments in this church, I was married in this church and I wanted to be buried in this church," said Tosti while choking back tears. "And if they close this church it's not going to happen."

The evaluation, which could affect Our Lady of Fatima in Bensalem, Saint Monica and Saint Thomas Aquinas in Philadelphia, Saint Matthew in Conshohocken, and Saint Eugene in Primos among others, includes a review of each parish's demographics, finances and spiritual activity.

A group of lay persons, priests and Archdiocesan personnel make up a strategic planning committee that is completing the assessments.

The committee presents Archbishop Charles Chaput with three possible recommendations -- to merge, to complete additional evaluations in the future or maintain their current structure and develop a plan for long-term sustainability. 

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