By Justin Udo, Matt Rivers
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has announced that 16 parishes will be merged into 13 neighboring parishes in Philadelphia and its suburbs.
Next week marks the 50th anniversary of Holy Spirit Parish in South Philadelphia and this anniversary will be it’s last as a fully functioning parish. They are one of the latest churches to succumb to the mergers and closures.
Frank Battaglia is a life long member of the Parish. He says he understands that with lack of parishioners coming to church these days, changes have to be made:
“It wasn’t unexpected, but you just never like to hear the official word.”
Holy Spirit will merge with Saint Richard Parish located a few blocks away, and will become a worship center that will host weddings, special events and one Sunday mass service a week.
Battaglia says this is a sad time for him, but he knows life goes on:
“I just hope people get over it and just keep going to church, you can’t lose the faith.”
Saint Ann Church in Bristol, Bucks County learned late Friday night they won’t be holding regular services anymore either. The 108-year-old church instead will merge with Saint Marks, another catholic church in the area.
“We might have the opportunity of blending these two parishes together and create a community of believers that will be formed under an attitude of cooperativeness,” says Father Tom Morris.
Emma Lehr-Feld has been a parishioner at Saint Ann Church for 95 years:
“I am very upset,” she tells CBS3 Eyewitness News. “Very, very upset to have to lose my church after all these years.”
She’s devastated, and she’s not alone. Saturday evening’s service struck a somber not, as longtime churchgoers struggled to cope with the news.
“It’s been decided a long time ago,” says parishioner Karin Peltz. “They don’t really care about us little people.”
The Archdiocese has already closed more than 31 parishes since 2010 due to budget cuts.