Additional parish mergers to come in Northwest Philly

One year after a series of parish mergers and closures altered the way Northwest Philadelphia Catholics worship, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced on Sunday that additional mergers are coming in West Oak Lane and Mt. Airy.

Saint Athanasius Parish in West Oak Lane and Saint Benedict Parish in Belfield will merge at the location and keep the name of Saint Athanasius Parishes, according to a release from the Archdiocese. The Saint Benedict church building will be maintained as a “worship site,” available for weddings and funerals, for an unspecified period of time.


As a result of the merger, the newly formed parish is projected to have over 1,700 registered parishioners and approximately 500 regular attendees at Sunday Mass, up from averages in the 200s for each parish, according to Archdiocese statistics from 2011.

Holy Cross Parish and Saint Therese of the Child Jesus Parish, both in East Mt. Airy, will merge with Saint Madeleine Sophie in West Mt. Airy.

The resultant parish will retain the name and be based at Holy Cross Parish. The church buildings of Saint Madeleine Sophie and Saint Therese of the Child Jesus will be maintained as worship sites as well.

As a result of the merger, the newly formed parish in Mt. Airy is projected to have over 2,400 registered parishioners and approximately 460 regular attendees at Sunday Mass, up from a 2011 average of 222 for Holy Cross, 157 for St. Therese, and 88 for St. Madeleine.

Not affected in these mergers is St. Vincent de Paul in East Germantown, which the Archdiocese said is expected to remain a “free standing parish.”

Going forward

Last year, Germantown parishes St. Francis of Assisi and Immaculate Conception merged with St. Vincent de Paul as part of the Archdiocesan-wide Parish Pastoral Planning Initiative, an effort begun in 2011 aimed at addressing various structural issues, including budgetary concerns, demographic shifts, density of parishes, declining Mass attendance and the decrease in the availability of clergy to staff parishes.

In April 2012, the Archdiocese announced that the parishes of Holy Cross, St Benedict, Saint Madeleine Sophie, and Saint Therese of the Child Jesus would undergo examination by the Pastoral Planning Initiative.

Parishioners at all the affected parishes learned of the final decisions through letters mailed to all registered parishioners as well as announcements made at all Masses this weekend.

When the mergers become effective there will be 236 parishes in the five-county Archdiocese of Philadelphia, down from 267 in April of last year. The Archdiocese said that additional parishes will be reviewed come fall 2013.

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