December 11, 2016

Archdiocese of Philadelphia Announces Closure of Worship Sites in the City of Philadelphia as well as Chester and Montgomery Counties

Saint Augustine Church, Bridgeport (Montgomery County), will no longer serve as a worship site of Sacred Heart Parish, Bridgeport (Montgomery County), and will close as a Roman Catholic church.

Saint Therese of the Child Jesus Church (Philadelphia), and Saint Madeleine Sophie Church (Philadelphia) will no longer serve as worship sites of Holy Cross Parish (Philadelphia), respectively, and will close as Roman Catholic churches.

The original Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church (West Grove) will no longer serve as a worship site of the new parish church of the same name and will close as a Roman Catholic Church.

 

Contextual Background

Saint Augustine Parish Merges with Sacred Heart Parish (July 2014)

In July 2014, Saint Augustine Parish, Bridgeport (Montgomery County), merged with Sacred Heart Parish, Bridgeport (Montgomery County), as part of the Parish Area Pastoral Planning Initiative that has been ongoing in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. Both parishes merged at the location and retained the name of Sacred Heart Parish.

At that time, the Saint Augustine Church building became a worship site of the newly formed Sacred Heart Parish and was available for the occasional celebration of Mass as well as funerals and weddings as is customary whenever possible in the case of a parish merger.

Additional information regarding that merger can be found at the following link: 

http://archphila.org/archdiocese-announces-parish-mergers-in-philadelphia-as-well-as-delaware-montgomery-and-bucks-counties-resulting-from-pastoral-planning-initiative/?version=mobile

Saint Therese of the Child Jesus Parish and Saint Madeleine Sophie Parish Merge with Holy Cross Parish (July 2013)

In July 2013, Saint Therese of the Child Jesus Parish (Mount Airy) and Saint Madeleine Sophie Parish (Mount Airy) merged with Holy Cross Parish (Mount Airy) as part of the Parish Area Pastoral Planning Initiative that has been ongoing in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. All parishes merged at the location and retained the name of Holy Cross Parish.

At that time, the Saint Therese of the Child Jesus Church building and the Saint Madeleine Sophie Church building became worship sites of the newly formed Holy Cross Parish and was made available for the occasional celebration of Mass as well as funerals and weddings as is customary whenever possible in the case of a parish merger.

Additional information regarding that merger can be found at the following link: http://archphila.org/press%20releases/pr002178.php

A New Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish Church Opens (July 2001)

The original Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary church, West Grove, (Chester County) was built in 1873.  It was replaced in 2001 by a new parish church with the same name to accommodate the growing parish.

At that time, the original Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary church building became a worship site of the newly constructed parish church.  The original church, commonly referred to as “Saint Mary’s Chapel”, was made available for the occasional celebration of Mass as well as funerals and weddings, and other liturgical celebrations.

Today’s Announcements

Today, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced that Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. has approved the relegation of the Saint Augustine Church building, the Saint Therese of the Child Jesus Church building, the Saint Madeleine Sophie Church building and the original Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church building to profane but not sordid use effective January 11, 2017. This formal, canonical designation means that these buildings will no longer serve as worship sites of their respective parishes and will close as Roman Catholic churches.

This information was shared with Sacred Heart, Holy Cross and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary parishioners at Masses during the course of this weekend. A copy of the official canonical decrees regarding this matter can be found at: http://archphila.org/features/parish-planning-initiatives/.

Further Information Regarding Today’s Announcements

In each instance, the formal request to close a worship site originated from the pastors of the parish, together with his parish pastoral and finance councils. The individual requests were then reviewed by the Archdiocesan Council of Priests and presented to Archbishop Chaput, who, after a careful review of all supporting factors, made the final decision. 

Saint Augustine Church, Bridgeport (Montgomery County)

Necessary annual and deferred maintenance costs to properly maintain the Saint Augustine Church building range in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.  While the recently merged Sacred Heart Parish, the owner of the building, has some financial reserves, it experienced an operating deficit of almost $300,000 in its first fiscal year of existence. While that deficit shrank to just under $200,000 in its second fiscal year the parish is still working to establish a firm financial foundation.

The parish has no additional revenue stream outside of ordinary income to care for its properties and it is not able to continue to maintain the Saint Augustine Church building without jeopardizing its fiscal stability.

In addition, mold issues were discovered in the Saint Augustine Church building last year that prevented the use of the building in any capacity. In December 2015 all forms of divine worship were discontinued in the interest of the health and safety of members of the Sacred Heart Parish community.

When Saint Augustine and Sacred Heart Parishes merged, all real estate holdings, assets and debts of the former Saint Augustine Parish were transferred to the newly formed Sacred Heart Parish. These transfers are standard procedure in the case of all parish mergers. 

As such, the former Saint Augustine Church building is the property of Sacred Heart Parish. The future disposition of this building will be determined by the pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in consultation with his parish pastoral and finance councils in a manner consistent with providing for continued parish viability and sustainability.

Saint Therese of the Child Jesus, Mount Airy (Philadelphia)

The annual cost of maintaining the Saint Therese of the Child Jesus Church property is approximately $25,000.  Immediate repair and renovation needs are estimated at approximately $33,000, and deferred maintenance needs for the church parking lot within the next five years are projected to cost an additional $40,000.  Holy Cross Parish experienced an operating deficit of approximately $39,000 during the 2014-2015 fiscal year while carrying an approximate debt of $1,600,000.  Saint Therese of the Child Jesus Church is physically attached to a presently unoccupied school building, and both buildings share the same mechanical systems, which would need upgrades in the near future.

Since the July 2013 merger, a handful of funeral Masses have been celebrated at Saint Therese of the Child Jesus Church and no weddings have been celebrated there. Experience has shown that Holy Cross Church is able to accommodate the sacramental needs of its parishioners on its own.  

When Saint Therese of the Child Jesus and Holy Cross Parishes merged, all real estate holdings, assets and debts of the former Saint Therese of the Child Jesus Parish were transferred to the newly formed Holy Cross Parish. These transfers are standard procedure in the case of all parish mergers.

As such, the former Saint Therese of the Child Jesus Church building is the property of Holy Cross Parish. The future disposition of this building will be determined by the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in consultation with his parish pastoral and finance councils in a manner consistent with providing for continued parish viability and sustainability.

Saint Madeleine Sophie, Mount Airy (Philadelphia)

The financial cost incurred by Holy Cross Parish for maintaining Saint Madeleine Sophie Church during the 2014-2015 fiscal year was approximately $60,000. During that same period Holy Cross Parish experienced an operating deficit of approximately $39,000 while carrying an approximate debt of $1,600,000. In addition, it is reasonably foreseen that the heating and plumbing systems for Saint Madeleine Sophie Church and its attached unoccupied school building would need to be replaced in the next five years, which would cause a further significant strain on the financial condition of Holy Cross Parish.

Holy Cross Parish is not able to continue to maintain Saint Madeleine Sophie Church without significantly impacting its financial viability. Saint Madeleine Sophie Church is physically attached to a presently unoccupied school building, and both buildings share the same mechanical systems, which would need upgrades in the near future.

Since July 2013, less than 15 funeral Masses have been celebrated at Saint Madeleine Sophie Church, and only two weddings have been celebrated there. Experience has shown that Holy Cross Church is able to accommodate the sacramental needs of its parishioners on its own.  

When Saint Madeleine Sophie and Holy Cross Parishes merged, all real estate holdings, assets and debts of the former Saint Madeleine Sophie Parish were transferred to the newly formed Holy Cross Parish. These transfers are standard procedure in the case of all parish mergers.

As such, the former Saint Madeleine Sophie Church building is the property of Holy Cross Parish. The future disposition of this building will be determined by the pastor of Holy Cross Parish in consultation with his parish pastoral and finance councils in a manner consistent with providing for continued parish viability and sustainability.

Original Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, West Grove (Chester County)

The cost of maintaining the original parish church and the attached former convent exceeded $15,000 in the last fiscal year, and the estimated costs for necessary deferred maintenance to the building complex is approximately $120,000. Additionally, the parish is currently working to abate a debt of approximately $2,300,000.

The original parish church has been in use as a worship site since the opening of the new parish church building in 2001. It was closed in the winter of 2014 for safety related reasons and has not been used for divine worship since that time.

The original Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church building is the property of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary Parish. The future disposition of this building will be determined by the pastor in consultation with his parish pastoral and finance councils in a manner consistent with providing for continued parish viability and sustainability.

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Editor’s Note: For additional information on the Parish Area Pastoral Planning Initiative in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, please visit http://archphila.org/features/parish-planning-initiatives/.

 

 

 


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