Fewer churchgoers lead to parish mergers in Phoenixville

Posted: June 06, 2012

With just five baptisms, one wedding and 373 worshipers at weekly Mass in 2010, the ecclesiastical writing was on the wall for Holy Trinity Church, which has served Polish parishioners in Phoenixville since 1903.

On Sunday, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced that Holy Trinity would merge with the only slightly busier St. Mary of the Assumption across the street and founded in 1840. Two other Phoenixville churches, Sacred Heart, a Slovak church established in 1903, and St. Ann, which dates to 1905, will come together at St. Ann.

In a news release on the closings, the Archdiocese said the "revitalized parishes" will be "better equipped to meet the spiritual and pastoral needs of future generations."

That was little solace to the many elderly parishioners of Holy Trinity, a white stone edifice set amid tiny rowhouses in a section of Phoenixville far from the luxury developments that have powered the old steel town’s rebirth.

"Naturally they’re upset," said a volunteer who answered the phone in the Holy Trinity rectory and who didn’t give a name.

The closings were recommended by the Archdiocesan Strategic Planning Committee which is examining the fate of all 267 parishes in the Archdiocese. The committee cited economic and demographic factors in the merger of the four tiny parishes.

In April in the initial round of mergers, the Archdioces consolidated five churches in Manayunk.

The Phoenxiville mergers will take effect on July 1, but the closed churches will remain open for one year as worship sites so parishioners can pray, celebrate special feast days, or hold weddings and funerals, said Archdiocese spokesman Kenneth Gavin.

"It’s a difficult thing when mergers like this happen," Gavin said. "One of the things we’re really cognizant of is these are parish communities that have been around for some time."

The closings were based on many factors, including weekly attendance at Mass, sacramental activity, how close the churches are to each there, the condition of the facilities and the availability of clergy.

In 2010, Mass attendance was down 109 people, from 446 in 2006 at Holy Trinity. St. Mary lost just two, from 513 to 511. However, baptisms declined from 26 to 18 and marriages from 3 to 1.

At Sacred Heart, Mass goers numbered 565, and 19 babies were baptized in 2006 . By 2010, those figures dropped to 477 and 14 in 2010. Marriages went up from 10 to 12.

St. Ann had a weekly attendance at Mass of 1,334 in 2010, down from 1,359 in 2006. There were 79 baptisms and 19 weddings in 2010, compared to 96 and 15 respectively in 2006.

None of the churches has parish schools. Students attend Holy Family Elementary School.

Additional announcements about parish closings or mergers are expected over the next two years.

Contact staff writer Kathy Boccella at 610-313-8123 or kboccella@phillynews.com

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