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March 22, 2015

ARCHDIOCESE ANNOUNCES DEMOLITION OF
SAINT LAURENTIUS CHURCH BUILDING



A former worship site of Holy Name of Jesus Parish, Philadelphia, the Saint Laurentius church
building was closed for imminent safety reasons in March 2014

Contextual Background

Saint Laurentius Parish Merges with Holy Name of Jesus Parish (July 2013)

On July 1, 2013, Saint Laurentius Parish merged with Holy Name of Jesus Parish, both located in Philadelphia's Fishtown neighborhood, 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 Holy Name of Jesus Parish. Parishioners at both the former Holy Name of Jesus Parish and the former Saint Laurentius Parish were kept informed throughout the process that led to the merger and given advance notice of the merger itself. Additional information regarding this merger can be found at the following link: http://archphila.org/press releases/pr002178.php.

When the merger took place all real estate holdings, assets, and debts of the former Saint Laurentius Parish were transferred to the newly formed Holy Name of Jesus Parish. These transfers are part of standard procedure in the case of all parish mergers.  As such, the Saint Laurentius Church building became a worship site of the newly formed Holy Name of Jesus Parish and was made available for the occasional celebration of Mass as well as funerals, weddings and baptisms. This practice is customary whenever possible in the case of a parish merger.

Saint Laurentius Church Closed for Safety Reasons (March 2014)

On March 28, 2014, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced that the Saint Laurentius Church worship site would be immediately closed until further notice.  In the months leading up to that decision, and in accordance with requirements set forth by City of Philadelphia’s Façade Ordinance Bill that was enacted in 2010, the building’s exterior was examined by an independent engineering firm, which noted deficiencies.  After follow up inspections, the firm provided a recommendation to close the site based on numerous outstanding maintenance issues including vertical cracks and heavily deteriorated faces in the building’s brownstone masonry. Severe weather conditions during the winter of 2013-2014 accelerated the deterioration process and put portions of the building in danger of collapse. 

This recommendation was accepted by the Archdiocese, which authorized the closure out of concern for the safety of the entire surrounding community and worked with the parish to ensure that protective scaffolding and netting were put in place. Additional information regarding that announcement can be found at http://archphila.org/press releases/pr002344.php. Parishioners of Holy Name of Jesus Parish were informed of the safety related closure by their pastor.

Saint Laurentius Church Relegated to Profane but Not Sordid Use (October 2014)

On October 1, 2014, the Saint Laurentius Church worship site was relegated to profane but not sordid use. This formal, canonical (Church law) designation meant that the building would no longer serve as a worship site and no longer function as a Roman Catholic church. A copy of the canonical decree regarding this relegation can be found at http://archphila.org/conversion/canonical/StLaurentiusRel.pdf.

The formal request to close this worship site originated from the pastor of Holy Name of Jesus Parish, which owns the building, together with his parish pastoral and finance councils. The request was then reviewed by the Archdiocesan Council of Priests and presented to Archbishop Chaput, who made the final decision after a careful review of all supporting factors.

This information was shared with Holy Name of Jesus parishioners prior to the effective date of the relegation by the pastor, who also regularly communicated with parishioners throughout the process of request for the building’s relegation. More information can be found at this link http://archphila.org/press releases/pr002442.php.

Following the relegation, the pastor of Holy Name of Jesus Parish requested assistance from the Archdiocese in the removal of sacred objects from the Saint Laurentius Church building. This request was made out of prudent stewardship and as precaution to avoid a scenario that would lead to any sacred objects being damaged, vandalized, or stolen. Assistance was provided and all sacred objects were transferred to a secure location last November. All of those sacred objects are the property of Holy Name of Jesus Parish.

Today’s Announcement

Saint Laurentius Church Building to be Demolished

The future of the Saint Laurentius church building has been under consideration for the past year.  During that time, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has worked with ecclesial and lay leadership from Holy Name of Jesus Parish, as well as engineering consultants and representatives from the City of Philadelphia to ensure the immediate and long-term safety of the surrounding community. 

The estimated cost to repair and restore the church, including rebuilding the towers is nearly $3.5 million, while the cost to demolish the church is approximately $1 million. As the parish owns the property and given the fact that the Archdiocese is still in the process of restoring its fiscal foundation, the financial burden falls on Holy Name of Jesus Parish.

After much consideration, and with the support of his parish pastoral and finance councils as well as the Archdiocese, the pastor has decided to move forward with demolition of the Saint Laurentius church building. To attempt to repair and restore a second church building at Saint Laurentius would seriously jeopardize the fiscal welfare of the parish as well as its future existence. The decision was not made lightly and was made to provide for the safety of the community as well as the continued presence of a Catholic parish in Fishtown. 

Parishioners were informed of this decision at all Masses over the course of this weekend. In the coming weeks, the Archdiocese will assist the parish with the process of obtaining all needed permits and site surveys will be conducted. The work of the demolition is expected to take place over the course of several months and will be largely financed by the sale of unutilized parish property.

It is important to note that the Saint Laurentius School is not being closed or sold. Appropriate measures will be taken to ensure that school operations can continue safely and on a normal schedule during the process of demolishing the church building.

With today’s announcement, the Archdiocese reaffirms its commitment to assist parishes in becoming and remaining viable and sustainable centers of Christ in communities throughout the Philadelphia region. It will work with Holy Name of Jesus Parish throughout the demolition process and beyond as it seeks to achieve that goal.

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Contact
Kenneth A. Gavin
Director of Communications
215-587-3747

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