The Parish Area Pastoral Planning Initiative began in 2010 with “a pastoral letter from the Fall of 2010 which called on all parishes in the Archdiocese to determine if they possess the resources necessary to accomplish their roles in the mission of Christ while remaining sustainable and vibrant faith communities”. It continued in 2013 with an announcement from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia that 46 parishes would undergo this study. St. Joachim in Frankford was among them. We maintain that this process is severely and systemically flawed because:
- It began with a premise that a certain number of churches had to be closed rather than what could be done to bolster them or at least ask new questions and try new ideas;
- Some pastors involved their parishioners while others felt it was a “secret” process not to be discussed;
- Some of the representatives on the Parish and Finance Councils are handpicked by the pastors because they totally and fully agree with them, thus leaving out all points of view;
- Surveys were only distributed at the pastor’s discretion with no hierarchical oversight to see that it was in fact done;
- Possible conflicts of interest if pastors and deans stood to gain by churches closing;
- There were no meetings with some Parish and Finance Councils as proposed in the process;
- This process did not allow for full participation by each parishioner even to ask them about their ideas or possibilities of willingly merging with other parishes rather than be closed;
- The stated purpose of this planning process was for the “salvation of souls” and it failed as many “souls” are now lost and looking elsewhere for a spiritual home; and
- Some communities (as Frankford) were left without any Catholic church after 160+ years of the faithful being faithful to their God and church.
While Vatican appeals were able to be filed, many do not have the resources to be able to do that. We know that churches had to be closed as for many years we were blessed with an abundance of them geographically close.
But such things cannot be dictated or done expecting that the people will just “accept” these decisions as being final – when they were never involved.
In June, 2013, 24 parishes were closed or merged. More closures are expected this spring. It’s time for Philly Catholics to make their voices heard for the good of our faith.