Several Philly-area parishes fight merger plan

Listen

Five Philadelphia-area parishes are appealing the Archdiocese’s plans to close them. They are among the 29 parishes the archdiocese plans to merge July 1.

Cathy Bongiovi, a parishioner at St. Ann parish in Bristol for more than 30 years, said she’s not about to let that change without a fight.

“Our church has been together for more than 100 years,” she said Wednesday. “A lot of our families were the original builders of the church.”

St. Ann’s, which started out as an Italian parish, is a strong and financially stable parish, she said.

Bongiovi said one of the reasons the Archdiocese gave for selecting her Bucks County parish, which is slated to merge with nearby St. Mark parish, is that it lacks a Spanish-speaking priest.

Archdiocese officials considered a number of factors including demographic shifts in Catholic populations, parish finances and the physical condition of church buildings before deciding on the mergers, said spokesman Kenneth Gavin.

“They are certainly going to include the ability to minister to the local community and immigrant community, or communities, where there is a vibrant or growing Hispanic population, Spanish-speaking population,” he said. “Ministry to those Catholics is going to be extremely important.”

Gavin said the goal is to create vibrant and sustainable parishes.

He said Archbishop Charles Chaput has 30 days to respond to the appeals concerning St. Ann’s and the others. After receiving the archbishop’s decision, Gavin said, unsatisfied parishes can appeal to the Vatican.

“We have seen parties that have appealed to the Vatican previously, but, in every instance so far, the decision at the local level has been upheld,” Gavin said. “Nothing was overturned.

When the number of funerals at a parish far exceeds the number of marriages and baptisms, he said the potential for a particular parish’s growth is questionable.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.