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February 20, 2006


The Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Redemptorists of the Baltimore Province announce that after long, serious and prayerful deliberation, Saint Boniface Parish (Diamond and Hancock Streets in Philadelphia) will close and unite with Visitation B.V.M. Parish (Lehigh Avenue and B Street in Philadelphia) effective June 30, 2006. The current territories of the two parishes border one another, and the Archdiocese wished to find a way to allow the Redemptorists to continue their pastoral care to the community. The Archdiocese invited the Redemptorists to accept the care of Visitation B.V.M. parish, and they agreed. At the Redemptorists' recommendation, Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, has appointed the present pastor of Saint Boniface Parish, Reverend Bruce Lewandowski, C.Ss.R., as the pastor of Visitation B.V.M. Parish, effective March 15, 2006. Father Lewandowski will serve as pastor of both parishes until the end of June when Saint Boniface Parish is closed.

Saint Boniface Parish Elementary School will also close at the end of the current school year. The Archdiocese and the parish will work closely with all St. Boniface School parents to identify available Catholic educational opportunities for their children in parish schools close to where their families live. Visitation B.V.M. Parish School can accommodate a considerable number of students, as can Saint Peter the Apostle Parish School at Fifth Street and Girard Avenue. The Archdiocese Office of Catholic Education will also help the current teachers at Saint Boniface School to find new positions at Catholic schools.

In a joint letter distributed at Masses this past weekend, Most Reverend Joseph Cistone, Auxiliary Bishop of Philadelphia, who is the Regional Bishop for this area of the Archdiocese, and Reverend Patrick Woods, C.Ss.R., who is the Provincial Superior of the Redemptorists, told parishioners that Saint Boniface, despite their financial generosity, can no longer sustain itself due to the declining population, the enormous financial challenges and the deteriorating buildings. For many years, Saint Boniface Parish has received significant financial support from the Archdiocese and the Redemptorists.

In their letter Bishop Cistone and Father Woods said, "This parish community continues to offer a powerful witness to the faith and face of Catholic Christianity 2,000 years after Jesus Christ. Unfortunately, the physical structures that form St. Boniface parish are not as resilient. Your most prominent symbol, the parish's beautiful church, is structurally deteriorating daily, as demonstrated by the protective scaffolding now encircling the building. Its primary construction material, brownstone, has a serviceable life of 100 years. The church, built in the late 1880s, is now over 120 years old.

The Redemptorists, who own the parish buildings and property, recently commissioned a physical assessment of all the parish structures. They would need to invest close to $7 million to make the buildings safe for future parish and school use. This estimate does not include any renovations beyond the immediate and basic safety and maintenance repairs. A true renovation requires significantly greater funds and would only provide a short-term solution as the brownstone structure would continue to decline; this is not wise stewardship."
The Redemptorists have ministered to the community in this section of Philadelphia for over a century and remain deeply committed to serving the people of Saint Boniface Parish and the surrounding neighborhood. Together, the Redemptorists and the Archdiocese worked to find a solution to the major problems facing the parish and a way to continue the service of the Redemptorists to the people of the area. It was mutually decided that Saint Boniface will unite with Visitation B.V.M. Parish and that Visitation Parish will be entrusted to the Redemptorists. Rev. Gary Kramer, current Parochial Administrator of Visitation B.V.M. Parish, will be reassigned at the time Father Lewandowski assumes his appointment as Pastor of Visitation B.V.M. Parish.

Saint Boniface Parish Elementary School, which has a current enrollment of 213 students, has also been facing significant financial challenges. It has been unable to meet the rising cost of salaries, benefits and operational expenses through tuition and the amount of parish contributions. In addition, it was determined that with Saint Boniface Parish closing, it would not be feasible or recommended for Visitation B.V.M. Parish to operate two school campuses. For these reasons, combined with Saint Boniface's deteriorating parish facilities, Saint Boniface School will close in June 2006.

In their letter, Bishop Cistone and Father Woods said, "Although saddened by these very difficult decisions, the Redemptorists of the Baltimore Province are happy that they found a way to continue to minister to the Saint Boniface family, while growing its community life through its inclusion with Visitation B.V.M. Parish. The Archdiocese and the Redemptorists hope that you understand that these decisions were reached after a challenging and painful process. They seek your prayers and ask for your cooperation as this new vision of parish becomes a reality for Saint Boniface and Visitation B.V.M. families."


Donna Farrell
Director of Communications

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