From Pat Smiley – David Harris, a member of St. Joachim Parish and a Board Member of Keep the Faith in Frankford researched articles relating to events of 1993 where 14 churches and 7 schools were closed – mostly in very low income areas though most of these churches were financially viable. The similarities to our recent PPA Process are remarkable even to the point of concerned parishioners forming “Catholic Coalition to Save Our Faith”. We hope to reconnect with the members of this group. David shares his thoughts with us here.
Hello, most people hear the word anniversary and their minds immediately drift to a joyous occasion of a wedding. Many of us in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia just had an anniversary of three years, two years or one year. Many more have just had their twenty second anniversary of the Demise of their Parish Communities.
Back in 1993, twenty-one Parishes were closed/merged but without today’s technology of being constantly connected, many of the fellow Philadelphia Catholics only saw or read about these communities. They figured it wasn’t affecting my Parish. Some of the members of these Parishes lifted their voices towards their shepherd Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua, but he didn’t listen or chose not to listen. Instead, he decided that the Archdiocesan Shore House in Ventnor, NJ needed to be remodeled and rehabilitated to accommodate more guests. Many of these Parishes were in what many would call “poverty-stricken” areas of Chester, PA and in North Philadelphia but some of them were still self-sufficient and viable. Cardinal Bevilacqua was celebrated for his eagerness to meet with his flock in many of their Parish Communities, but he would not meet with these grief-stricken members of these twenty-one Parish communities. Instead, he used his Archdiocesan spokesman at that time, Jay Devine, to answer the questions posed to him by the press.
This brings me to the present day with our technology of being able to constantly connect to news media outlets and to speak with one another without having to dial a phone number. We mournfully see the anniversaries of the demises of our Parish Communities grow in years. We have cried to our leaders and, much like the voices of those twenty-one Parishes in 1993, those cries have fallen on the deaf ears of our Shepherd who is now the ninth Archbishop of the Archdiocese. Archbishop Charles J. Chaput O.F.M Cap., DD. He does have many financial burdens and he has since sold that Ventnor residence and he has sold the Cardinal’s mansion on City Line Ave.
Many of our fellow Catholics do not look at our Parish Communities as examples of our faith but as a drain on the coffers of the Archdiocese because we are from working-class neighborhoods or towns and yet we gave of our hard earned money to keep these parishes viable and many with a surplus. Archbishop Chaput refuses to meet with us face to face and only uses his Archdiocesan spokesperson, Ken Gavin, when the local print or TV media poses any questions to him about our plight. Archbishop might not have that Ventnor residence to rehabilitate or remodel, but he is still needed to balance the books of earlier fiscal mismanagement, so he agreed along with the Pastoral Planners it is better to close financial solvent parishes with assets like rented schools and other parish buildings to increase the cash flow and bottom line.
We believe that Our Lord is calling out to Archbishop Chaput to help the marginalized of his Archdiocese. They are the ones that He, Himself, cared for during his ministry.
“7 Schools to Close in Phila., Chester The Cardinal Named One More than Expected. Fourteen Parishes Will be Closed, Too, As The Archdiocese Downsizes.“
“Catholics Must Fight the Closings”
“Schools and Churches Close, Angering Catholics”
“Archdiocesan Cuts Draw Call for Boycott Angry Parishioners Marched At Church Headquarters. Their Target: Money Pledged To A Fund-raising Drive.”