Parishioners pray for the survival of their parish

Neighbors all across Roxborough and Manayunk are abuzz with speculation that three local Catholic churches may be closing by 2012.

According to representatives of two local funeral homes, the parishes on the chopping block may include St. Josaphat, St. Mary of the Assumption and St. Lucy’s. All are within two blocks of each other in Manayunk.

“I have heard that between 65 to 70 percent of churches in the archdiocese, including the city and suburbs, are running at a deficit and the diocese can no longer subsidize these parishes,” said Paul Karcsh, of Karcsh Funeral Home. 

St. Josaphat officials declined to comment. According to Kenneth Gavin, a spokesman for the Archidiocese of Philadelphia, pastoral planning is taking place throughout the entire archdiocese right now and has been for several months. He says no formal announcements regarding the results of this initiative have been made at this point. 

Chatter about these possible closures has been spreading rapidly across Facebook, prompting some former St. Josaphat grade school alumni to create an event called ‘Last Ever Saint Josephat’s Church Bazaar’.

Host Mark Boady stated in his invitation: “The current rumor is that the Saint Josephat Church is scheduled for closure on ash wed of next year. I have heard it from a fair number of sources, so it is at least likely to happen. That means, this year’s Christmas bazaar has the potential to be the last ever. I think we should drop by for old times’ sake.”

In many churches in this area of the city, both Catholic and Protestant, attendance has declined in recent years. This decline has also threatened to end the annual Fourth of July Parade of Churches and Sunday Schools, an event that has been in place for almost 200 years.

“Young people are not replacing the older generation who are dying off,” said Karcsh. “There may one day no longer be Catholic education. Sadly, that is just the way things are.”

If the rumors prove true, the only two Catholic churches in Manayunk that would remain would be St. John the Baptist and Holy Family. Holy Family’s school building is the home of Holy Child Catholic School, the neighborhood regional Catholic elementary school. If St. Josaphat Church does close, Polish Catholics would lose the only church in the area that celebrates Mass in the Polish language.

“Where would these people go? Lansdale? I doubt that,” said Michael Fitzpatrick, of Fitzpatrick Funeral Home.

According to the funeral homes, the churches would still be used for funerals and special permitted events such as weddings. Karcsh said that the closures would not affect his business.

“If it did, I would just find another church,” said Karcsh.

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