A Second Chance?

There are rarely second acts in life, and even less so when it comes to church closings. South Philadelphia's St. Peter Claver may prove to be the exception.

Founded in 1886 to minister to black Roman Catholics, St. Peter Claver was closed in 1985 as the widespread migration of blacks throughout Philadelphia rendered the concept of a black-only parish somewhat obsolete. (You could argue they should have come to that realization sooner than 1985, but whatever.)

Since then, the site has stayed more or less in operation as the St. Peter Claver Center for Evangelization, which does still use the worship space for special occasions.

But according to Project reader Michael Mezalick, that's going to change. He has heard from one of the contractors bidding for restoration work as part of an alleged parish reopening.

There's no other news about this, so we'll have to take Michael's (and by extension, the contractor's) word for now. But if true, it would be a stunning reversal for an organization that virtually never makes them. Of course, they've still occupied the building and used the space in the years since its closure, so you could argue that, in practical terms, it never really closed. Still, even by those modest standards it's a big step.

The good news is that the continuous operation most likely means the ornamentation is intact, albeit in some need of renovation. The Project has never seen interior shots, so we don't know what shape it's in, or how nice it was to begin with. If all goes according to plan, though, we'll have a chance soon enough. Exterior shots reveal a modest-looking building, but there's a reason the St. Athanasius Effect exists.

We'll keep you posted.