Announcement comes as result of demographic shifts in the black Catholic population; evolving ministerial outreach to meet these changes; and self-sustainability challenges
Contextual Background Regarding Today’s Announcement
Since 1986, the former Saint Peter Claver Parish church building, located at 12th and Lombard Streets in Philadelphia, has been home to the Saint Peter Claver Center for Evangelization. For nearly 30 years, the Center has carried on the ministerial outreach of the former Saint Peter Claver Parish by serving the spiritual, pastoral, and temporal needs of black Catholics from across the Archdiocese through the celebration of the Holy Mass, the offering of retreats, and regular community service projects.
In 2012, it was announced that the ministry of the Saint Peter Claver Center would cease as part of strategic actions being taken by the Archdiocese to address its core operating deficit. That decision was ultimately appealed by the Office for Black Catholics and the ministry continued.
However, and due largely to demographic shifts over the past two decades, the center has been utilized less and less with each passing year. Ministerial outreach to the black Catholic community has evolved to meet these changes over time. As a result, historically black Catholic parishes throughout the Archdiocese, as well as other parishes ministering to recently arrived immigrant African communities, have been providing liturgies and programs at the local level for a number of years. The result has been the under-utilization of the Saint Peter Claver Center. For example, less than 15 faithful currently attend the Mass that is celebrated at the Center on a monthly basis and programs are sparsely attended.
While the Center has been able to financially support its programs via a grant from the Black and Indian Missions in recent years, it does not have the resources to absorb costs associated with necessary deferred maintenance for the buildings. Additionally, the Secretariat for Evangelization, which oversees the Office for Black Catholics, is not able to provide an ongoing subsidy for maintenance issues without jeopardizing the stability of vital ministerial outreach programs to the many communities entrusted to its pastoral care. Furthermore, the Archdiocese, which is still in the process of restoring its fiscal foundation, is not able to guarantee funds for the physical care of the Center.
Given the factors outlined above, the Saint Peter Claver Center for Evangelization will close effective Friday, October 31, 2014. No jobs will be impacted by this announcement. It is envisioned that the property, which is owned by the Archdiocese, will be marketed for sale in the near future. It is important to note, however, that net proceeds from any possible sale will be designated for the sole purpose of supporting ongoing ministry to the black Catholic community.
Future Ministerial Outreach to the Black Catholic Community
Moving forward, the portion of the budget from the Office for Black Catholics that had been designated to support the Saint Peter Claver Center’s programs, along with the grant money from the Black and Indian Missions, will be reallocated to support ministry to black Catholics in various other ways.
The Office for Black Catholics will continue to fulfill its mission by working closely with parishes as they minister locally to black Catholics throughout the region. Additionally, it will continue to support vocations to the Priesthood; collaborate in the work of the Ministry to African-American Catholics Certificate Program as well as the Institute for Black Catholic Studies; oversee the Kujenga retreat program for youth; and maintain relations with the Knights of Saint Peter Claver and the Saint Martin de Porres Foundation.
Kenneth A. Gavin
Director of Communications