Germantown pastor: ‘We’ve known that there had to be restructuring’

During Catholic masses this weekend, parishioners learned that Archbishop Charles J. Chaput had pinpointed 12 parishes that would merge into five by early summer.

In Germantown, the news meant that Immaculate Conception and Saint Francis of Assisi would merge into St. Vincent de Paul’s parish.

Neither church building will be maintained as worship sites because of “serious physical improvements for which the parishes have no funds,” according to a press release from the Archdiocese.

The release also stated that both parishes utilized Archdiocesan subsidies to stay open and that all parish assets, debts, buildings and sacramental records will be transferred to the newly formed parish.

St. Vincent’s pastor senses sadness

Rev. Richard Rock, pastor of St. Vincent’s, said he received a letter from the Archdiocese in late December which prompted the three parish counsels to discuss merging.

Those discussions determined that St. Vincent’s would be the home of the merger because the Vincentian Fathers already oversaw all three locations, which are located just over a mile from each other.

“We’ve known that there had to be restructuring,” said Rev. Rock. “The Archdiocese looked at statistics and buildings and finances. They looked at the total picture.”

Parish evaluations are based on shifts in Catholic populations, history of declining Mass attendance and sacramental activity, increasing economic challenges, a decrease in the availability of clergy to staff parishes and a review of facilities.

St. Vincent’s Parish, located at 109 E. Price St., currently serves 700 families, but it remains unclear by how much that number will grow after the July 1 merger.

“I have been a pastor of all three parishes, and there is sadness here,” said Rev. Rock. “There’s so much history. But once we get through that, we want to welcome everyone and make St. Vincent’s a new entity.”

All 267 parishes in the Archdiocese will continue to be examined with more announcements expected in the fall of 2012 and the spring of 2013 and 2014.

Historical perspective

Both merging parishes have a long history in the Germantown community.

Immaculate Conception, located at 1020 East Price St., was built in 1875 while Saint Francis of Assisi, located at 4821 Greene St., was founded in 1899.

East Oak Lane resident Patrick Hildebrandt created PhillyChurchProject.com to monitor unique religious properties before they face closure.

“Both of these churches closing is devastating,” said Hildebrant. “They are historic. They’re a part of the fabric of Germantown.”

Hildebrant noted that when these properties close, not much can be done with them because they’re owned by the Archdiocese.

“After a parish closes, all the ornaments are taken out. The place is stripped from the altars to the organ,” said Hildebrant. “With structural damage these buildings are not easy to maintain and that impacts who can buy them and keep them alive.”

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