Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Closer Comes to Germantown

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has announced a new round of parish mergers, targeting Coatesville, Manayunk and Germantown.

Among other changes, Immaculate Conception, St. Francis of Assisi and St. Vincent de Paul will form a new parish, situated in St. Vincent's building. In Manayunk, St. Lucy will merge with Holy Family (at Holy Family), while St. Mary of the Assumption, St. Josaphat and St. John the Baptist will merge at St. John the Baptist.

All changes are effective July 1. See this press release for more information.

The Project: Well, this isn't the worst news I've heard lately, but it's close. The big news is the hatchet being taken to Germantown, which I've long held up as the current epicenter of Philadelphia church excellence. Manayunk is less of an issue, since all of the closing churches will still remain open as worship sites. But in a few short months it's lights out for Immaculate Conception and St. Francis of Assisi, who are the next victims to stripped and sold.

A couple of points on the Germantown closure:

This is devastating news, personally and professionally. This is a big blow to Philadelphia's church stock, which in two months will lose two of its finest specimens. And personally, well, it's no secret I'm a huge fan of Immaculate, and I've spent years hoping they can hold on long enough until their neighborhood starts to improve.

I'll talk more about both of them in the coming weeks, but for now, hearing this does not put the Project in a good mood.

They're saving the worst possible building. No offense to St. Vincent de Paul, but that building is garbage compared to the other two. The fact we're losing those and keeping this one is pretty disgusting.

I don't buy--and neither should you--the Archdiocese's explanation that "Both churches require serious physical improvements for which the parishes have no funds."

Bull@%#$. St. Francis maybe, since they had one corner of the church cordoned off back when we visited a few years ago. But Immaculate? I just don't buy it. That place looked great when we were there, and unless it's completely fallen off a cliff in the past 5 years, this is really just an excuse to get rid of it.

Remember, these are the people who rationalized the St. Boniface closing by saying brownstone has a useable life of only 100 years, while ignoring the fact that their own brownstone Basilica is far older than that and doing just fine.

What will this do to DePaul Catholic School? Formerly St. Martin de Porres Interparochial School, it's located at St. Francis of Assisi. What does the closing of the parish mean for the school? This may be the only case, by the way, of a parish closing before a school.

Speaking of schools, what about Immaculate Conception - St. Athanasius School? The mystery in this is Immaculate's closest neighbor, St. Athanasius, which is surviving intact for now. I don't get why Immaculate would be involved in a merger with a parish other than the one it's sharing a school with. Their communities are already probably pretty integrated, so merging with someone else has to be confusing for parishioners. Heck, I'm already confused.

And with no more Immaculate, will the school keep its name? Or just go by St. Athanasius now?

What does this mean for the Francis Triangle? Alright, alright, just kidding with that one. But you never know...


  1. IC was the parish of my youth. I still went back often, for homecomings, reunions, meetings, etc. We knew the closing was coming. The parish was down to 250 families, and that was projected to continue to drop. The church is the 2nd largest in the city. I have many a memory of that church packed for Mass. But, with the change in demographics, they just did not have the numbers anymore. I don't agree at all with the archdiocesan claim that the building was deteriorating and in poor condition. I guess they are trying to find some reason, any reason, to further justify the closing. What a beautiful church it is. It's hard accepting that IC will be no more. It's sad that it won't be used as a worship site. As for the IC-St. A's School, it will probably just become St. A's again, but don't know for sure. Last I heard, only 5 students attending were actually from IC anyway. And, I imagine DePaul School will continue onward as it is, now associated with St. Vincent's. It's a newer building. Again, I don't know for sure. Sad chapter of the Catholic Church in Germantown.... June 24 will be Closing Sunday for IC. It will be packed, just like it was back in the day. But, this time around, it will be for a different reason, to say goodbye to an old friend.

  2. Merging the parishes at St. Vincent makes sense geographically since it is centrally located. Does the Historical Society of Philadelphia know about the closings? There has to be a way to keep a church as grand as IC open as a worship site.