March 3, 2019

Archdiocese of Philadelphia Announces Relegation of Former Worship Site in the City of Philadelphia

The Saint Peter Claver Church building, which has not been a parish church since 1985, and has not served as an active worship site since 2014, will no longer be designated as a Roman Catholic church.

Contextual Background on the Saint Peter Claver Church Building (Philadelphia)

When Saint Peter Claver Parish closed in 1985, the former parish church building became home to the Saint Peter Claver Center for Evangelization (SPCCE).

The SPCCE carried on the ministerial outreach of the former parish by serving the spiritual, pastoral, and temporal needs of Black Catholics in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. It did so through the celebration of the Holy Mass, the offering of retreats, and regular community service projects.

The SPCCE was closed on October 31, 2014 and has not been used for any pastoral purpose since that time. The decision to close the SPCCE was made at that time in response to demographic shifts which resulted in effective ministry to Black Catholics taking place at a number of parishes throughout the five-county Archdiocese as opposed to one central location. As the Black Catholic community spread to many areas of the Archdiocese, the SPCCE became utilized by fewer and fewer people over the years.

At the time the SPCCE closed, Mass was being offered on a monthly basis and was attended by fewer than 15 people. Additional information about the 2014 closure of the SPCCE can be found at the following link

Today’s Announcement

Today, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced that Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. has approved the relegation of the Saint Peter Claver Church building to profane but not sordid use effective April 8, 2019. This formal, canonical designation means that the building will close as a Roman Catholic church. A copy of the official canonical decree regarding this matter can be found at:

The formal request to close this former worship site originated with the Archdiocesan Secretariat for Evangelization.  The request was 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.  

Additional Information on the Saint Peter Claver Church Building (Philadelphia)

The Archdiocesan Office for Black Catholics has striven to maintain Saint Peter Claver Church and other buildings associated with that property in good repair. That responsibility falls under the Office for Black Catholics as the church building is not associated with any parish and the SPCCE was under the administrative purview of the Office for Black Catholics until the SPCCE closed in 2014.  The costs associated with such maintenance for unused buildings has placed a strain on that office’s financial stability and its ability to carry out its mission effectively. 

Funds for the necessary maintenance, both immediate and deferred cannot be supplied by the Archdiocesan Secretariat for Evangelization, which oversees the Office for Black Catholics, since such an outlay would jeopardize the stability of all ministerial outreach programs entrusted to its pastoral care. 

In addition to the Saint Peter Claver church building, there is the former parish rectory building on the property that once was the Saint Peter Claver Center for Evangelization as well as the former parish school building, which is used by Catholic Social Services for the Women of Hope program.

It is envisioned that a sale of these properties by the Archdiocese would generate funds dedicated to supporting ongoing ministry to Black Catholics. The Women of Hope Program will transition to a new site over time without interruption of client services.

Moving Forward with Faith

Recognizing the legacy and history of Saint Peter Claver Church, the Office for Black Catholics supervised the movement of many sacred items from the church to active parishes in the Archdiocese where African-American Catholics currently worship. These items include the altar, baptismal font, statues, and sacred vessels.

As the Saint Peter Claver Center for Evangelization served a great need and is now closed, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is pleased to announce a new effort for the evangelization of African-Americans, the Saint Peter Claver Evangelization Fund (SPCEF).

The SPCEF will support parish based programs that spread and strengthen the Catholic faith such as the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) as well as programs for youth and young adults.

The SPCEF will also be available to support programs of evangelization in Independence Mission Schools, Catholic elementary schools, and high schools as well as colleges and universities serving African-American students. Parishes and schools will be able to apply for a grant to support such initiatives.

The SPCEF will be administered and supervised by the Office for Black Catholics along with a board of laity and clergy serving in the African-American community.

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Editor’s Note: For comprehensive information regarding Parish Area Pastoral Planning in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, please visit .


Contact: Kenneth A. Gavin
Chief Communications Officer
215-587-3747 (office)