The New Year of Hell Begins

After a series of fits and starts, we come to it at last: the true dismantling of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

Sunday’s sweeping closure announcement was about as ruthlessly brutal as one would expect. I could sit here and wax poetic about what all of this means, but come on, you already know that. We’ve all heard the whispers and seen the signs. We’ve all known this was coming.

The only questions that remain, sadly, is who’s going to fall next. Because if there’s anything shocking about this, it’s that the Archdiocese isn’t finished yet. Not by a long shot.

There’s a lot to process here, most of it not surprising — like Holy Innocents becoming Frankford’s sole surviving parish, Holy Cross representing Mount Airy, or St. Philomena and Blessed Virgin Mary continuing to hold fast in DelCo.

Some bits, however, really should have come with more explanation.

Our Lady of Consolation over St. Leo the Great

Why? Leo is a beautiful, classic Gothic structure. Our Lady of Consolation is a post-war @%#$box of a building. Even if you don’t buy the aesthetic argument, Leo has a higher attendance and more marriages than Consolation, as of the last survey.

Holy Name of Jesus over St. Laurentius

Sure, Holy Name has more marriages and infant baptisms. But Laurentius has the higher overall attendance, as well as the neighborhood school. That’s right, this is the same Laurentius that fought so hard, so passionately to keep their school open a few years ago. Why give the school a reprieve only to close the parish shortly thereafter?

And lest we forget, Holy Name has gone through all manner of Tabula Rasa / Pimp My Church changes over the years, while Laurentius remains one of the more drop-dead gorgeous churches you’ll find in this area.

St. Helena / St. Veronica over Incarnation of Our Lord

Ok, someone is really going to have to explain this one to me.

I’d pegged Inky as an eventual candidate for closure, but the method of their demise is pretty weird, even by the AD’s standards. The parish is actually being split in two — the southern half will go to Veronica, the northern half to Helena, while the building itself will remain as a worship site for St. Helena.

(And boy, is that something that old-school Olneyites probably find very shocking. Those two parishes were *very* territorial back in the day, and had a pretty big (and at times contentious) rivalry.)

I could go on forever about the bizarre nature of this decision, but four main points:

  1. Something’s amiss at 5th & Lindley. The announcement makes it clear that Inky is a late addition to this party, brought on only by recent revelations of financial woes. I know that parish management isn’t always what it should be, especially in regards to business matters. But it’s rather improbable that Inky’s balance sheet collapsed overnight, especially since the parish was studied extensively as part of the recent school merger with St. Helena. Was everyone really asleep at the wheel there? Or were they just not talking?
  2. Why St. Veronica? Don’t get me wrong, I’ve got nothing but mad love for my Tioga friends. But sending half of Inky down there seems nonsensical, since that’s a pretty big trek even for the southern parts of the parish. And the thing is, there *is* a closer option, which leads me to…
  3. No Our Lady of Hope? I’m thrilled OLOH is sitting this one out, but why not send Inky (or at least half of it) over there? It’s a heck of a lot closer than Veronica, and OLOH could certainly use the extra love. I wouldn’t be surprised if some parishioners just go to OLOH anyway. That’s what I would do.
  4. Where the @^#% is St. Ambrose in all of this? Pardon my language, but I don’t understand how arguably the smallest, weakest Olney parish gets off unscathed. It’s possible they’re saving Ambrose for a future announcement, but why not address all of Olney at the same time? And indeed, if Ambrose is due for a future closure, as it should be, the AD just closed the one parish — Incarnation — that is the closest and best landing spot for them. (I know Ambrose students already go to Martin of Tours, but you can’t tell me that an Ambrose / St. Martin consolidation makes any sort of sense.)

I worry less about the closings and the consolidations than I do about the specific choices the AD is making. It’s not hard to understand that certain institutions have to go, but it’s harder to grasp decisions that seem to fly in the face of common sense.

*Those* are the decisions that will send people packing — if they haven’t already.