"We have concerns" about the school's site in Manayunk, said protest organizer Sean Stevens, whose son attends pre-K. He said that the site is on a narrow street and that St. Bridget's has superior facilities.
St. Bridget's two buildings are connected, but students at Holy Family have to walk outside to get between buildings and must cross the street to attend gym class, which is held at a city recreation center.
"We're not going to go quietly into the night without answers," said Stevens, who added that the archdiocese had not responded to information he and other parents provided showing that St. Bridget's serves a growing Catholic community.
An e-mail from archdiocesan Superintendent Mary Rochford that The Inquirer obtained said, "significant money was put into the current Hermitage Street location."
She wrote, "this was the deciding factor for the site selection."
Archdiocesan spokeswoman Donna Farrell declined to comment on any private communications between church officials but said the passion parents were showing for their children's schools was "not only understandable - it's wonderful."
Passion also played out before the 6:30 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul, where more than 100 members of two schools - Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Sacred Heart of Jesus, both in South Philadelphia - braved cold, windy weather to make their voices heard.
Mount Carmel business manager Joseph Nelson said the parish had appealed the planned closing. He said the school had no debt and parishioners were just asking for two years to prove they could run in the black and increase enrollment.
Nelson said that $55,000 was raised in less than 48 hours to keep the school open, and that donations were still coming in. Sacred Heart parishioners have joined the fight to keep Mount Carmel open.
Under the archdiocese's plan, both South Philadelphia schools would close and form a regional school at Epiphany of Our Lord at 11th and Jackson Streets.
"It's really wonderful to see how the two parishes have come together," said Kelly Link, whose daughter Shannon is a fourth grader at Mount Carmel. "I believe in my faith; I feel it's God's will that we do what we can to try and save our school."
Jessica Tustin, a graduate of Sacred Heart, said she attended the protest to support her niece and nephew, who represent the fourth generation of her family to attend the school.
In January, a long-awaited report from a blue-ribbon archdiocesean commission recommended closing 81 parish schools that would be merged to form 37 regional schools; it also called for closing four high schools.
After an appeals process, the archdiocese spared the high schools and many of the parish schools. The plan now calls for closing 49 schools to form 29 regional schools.
Christina Spino, a 1999 graduate of St. Bridget's who has become the leader of the protest movement, is holding out hope for her school.
She said an effort to keep the school open had raised more than $10,000 in donations in the last week.
Spino, who has no children, called on the archdiocese to begin talking to parents and parishioners.
"It's not fair to not negotiate," she said.
Contact Anthony Campisi at 215-854-5015 or firstname.lastname@example.org.