Mega-Mergers Do Not Make Us Mighty!

merger aheadIt began, for us, in 2012. Ascension of Our Lord Church in Kensington would close in October 2012. You can read more about the parish here. Parishioners had a choice of going to Holy Innocents Church or Visitation Church. How much choice the parishioners really had in this decision, they would have to tell you.

St. Joachim, Mater Dolorosa and St. Joan of Arc were part of the Area Parish Pastoral Planning Process taking place in our Deanery (560) during 2012 and culminating with “recommendations” and “decisions” in mid-2013. If you have been following our story, you know that the parishioners of St. Joachim were not involved in this “process” which we maintain is severely flawed for many reasons. Here’s a brief synopsis of our cause. Much has transpired in the more than two years of our Vatican appeal (it’s still active and we are waiting for a hearing before the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican Supreme Court).

We were warmly invited by Dean Jon Clodfelter to work out of St. Mark’s Church. St. Marks, an Episcopal Church, has a history of working with St. Joachim parishioners before when outbreaks of diseases greatly affected the various waves of immigrants coming to Frankford looking for a better life for themselves and their families. Keep the Faith in Frankford participates in the Dining with Dignity program and does other community events, for free, as well as our public efforts to bring attention to all the churches that have been closed/merged.

Most, if not all, of the people we meet have had contact with Frankford at one time or another. When we tell them we no longer have a Catholic Church in Frankford, they are dumb-founded, as we still are as well. We have not yet had any significant interaction with Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Archbishop of Philadelphia, other than for him to tell us that he would no longer answer our letters. We write anyway. Father Thomas Higgins, Pastor, Holy Innocents Parish, has told us many times in one way or another, that “As long as I am the pastor of the parish, nothing is going to change”.

Yet, we continue to work to re-open St. Joachim. (We began wanting a Catholic Church in Frankford but only the parishioners of St. Joachim filed a Vatican Appeal.) While St. Joachim is a Worship Site, in effect, it’s closed unless there’s a request for a funeral or a wedding. We have an annual Feast Day Mass in July and we are hoping for a Mass in honor of our dedication of the new Church, December 13, 1981. This second Mass resulted from a Decree this past January that a Worship Site should have at least two Masses. This decree also suggested that weekly Masses do not always have to be at the main Church.

The laity know that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has bigger problems than just closing/merging Churches. They are losing souls because the pastoral care we are receiving is not about God’s saving love, mercy and compassion but the need to fill the Church coffers – it’s always more, more, more. This week’s Bulletin from Holy Innocents shows an $11 decline from last year. $11, I know, not bad, but when you figure that before the mergers, Holy Innocents had less than 2100 families and after the mergers almost 2900 families, there’s a much deeper problem. Also, Pope Francis was just here in Philadelphia and you know, the hierarchy was hoping for a resurgence in faith based on his visit. I think we were just sad when he left.

Both Archbishop Chaput and Monsignor Daniel J. Kutys, Moderator of the Curia, tell us that “The parish of Holy Innocents is under Father Higgins’ leadership so it is up to him to decide what worship sites will or will not be used based on his experience of the needs of the parish at large”. Every liturgical season for two years, we have asked Father Higgins for services at St. Joachim. We have asked for a Mass, for an opportunity for us to hold a Prayer Service (we’re hearing about mission and lay leadership) and to use our Church for private worship. All for naught. After our Feast Day Mass this past July, Father Higgins wanted to have a “conversation” after Mass. We believed he was looking for real solutions to real problems he has. But here again, nothing.

We made and sent a proposal to Father Higgins. You can see our proposal below.

SJ Proposal Possible Meeting Sept 2015

Here is Father Higgins’ response.

Higgins Re St Joachim Proposal

Now, think about it. Father Higgins was interviewed and told Joyce Evans, Fox 29 News, that 4 of his 5 Masses aren’t full and could use “hundreds of more people”. (See this interview and our response here online.) Say a Mass in Frankford, you would get our collection! Father Higgins wants to tell you, those who are already attending Mass, the need for giving more during the Masses on November 14th and 15th. This doesn’t make sense. Well, we have another idea for you, Father Higgins. Come and use St. Joachim as the main worship site. Our church is newer, smaller, easier to maintain and upkeep and we have a parking lot. Think this is a crazy idea? It’s no crazier than closing two churches in Frankford.

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