Closing the Book on Cardinal Rigali

By now, the news of Justin Cardinal Rigali's impending retirement from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is pretty much common knowledge. The Project concerns itself minimally with ecclesiastical matters, so there's little I'll add to the story.

But I did get to thinking. Now that we're closing the book on Rigali's eight-year tenure, how did he do in regards to Philadelphia's great parishes?

He was much better than Anthony Bevilacqua, that's for sure. That's not really saying much, since Bevilacqua never met a parish he didn't want to close. I don't want to rehash his disastrous reign, but let's just say that anyone who can give us such joyous occasions as the North Philadelphia Swath of Destruction pretty much set a low bar for anyone to conquer.

Rigali, by contrast, was much more muted on parish closings, but that didn't mean he was completely in the clear. Parishes closed under him include:

St. Ladislaus (Polish), 1648 W. Hunting Park Avenue, Nicetown

St. Aloysius (German), 26th & Tasker, Grays Ferry

St. Boniface, Diamond & Hancock, West Kensington

St. Clement, 2220 S. 71st Street, Southwest Philadelphia

Good Shepherd, 67th & Chester, Southwest Philadelphia

St. Iranaeus, 2728 S. 73rd St.. Southwest Philadelphia

King of Peace (Italian), 26th & Wharton, Grays Ferry

Most Blessed Sacrament, 56th & Chester, Kingsessing

Our Lady of Angels (Italian), 4970 Master Street, West Philadelphia

Our Lady of the Rosary, 63rd & Callowhill, Haddington

Our Lady of Victory, 54th & Vine, West Philadelphia

St. Stanislaus (Polish), 240 Fitzwater Street, Queen Village

St. Casimir (Lithuanian), 3rd & Wharton, South Philadelphia

Immaculate Conception, Front & Allen, Northern Liberties


Now, yes, Our Lady of the Rosary and Good Shepherd were reborn as Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament and Divine Mercy, respectively, and St. Stanislaus, St. Casimir and Immaculate Conception will live on as worship sites, but damn, that's still a surprisingly robust list. It's headlined, of course, by the world-class St. Boniface and Most Blessed Sacrament, which were staggering losses to our church stock.

All in all, pretty sad--especially where West / Southwest Philly were concerned. Yeesh.

One can hope that incoming Archbishop Charles Chaput, formerly of Denver, does a better job. His current flock seems to speak highly of him, but the Denver Archdiocese isn't exactly forthcoming on his record when it comes to church closings. And given the state of many of our foremost churches, it's a pressing concern.

I'd like to think a new administration would be an opportunity for change and a new perspective on the city parishes. History isn't particularly encouraging on this point, and until proven otherwise, I have a sinking feeling that many more noteworthy parishes will be joining the ones above.