by Jim Harris
When the roll is called up yonder, there will be a few less parishes from Philadelphia reporting for duty. That’s because, like Philadelphia schools, libraries, municipal services and Market Street buildings, some of the city’s Catholic churches are disappearing, due in part to money woes and also because of “demographic shifts” (to Brazil and Uganda) in the Catholic population.
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput held a news conference last week outlining the changes. The following parishes have been declared merged, moved or kaput by Chaput:
Our Lady of Everlasting Eternal Abiding Immortal Enduring Infinite Boundless Help and Caring has closed. Our Lady of Mercy is almost out of mercy, and will close soon. Blessed Teresa, Defender of the Poor, is moving to Devon, where there won’t be quite so many poor to defend. Parishioners at The Church of the Assumption were flabbergasted when they heard their financially solvent parish was closing. Just goes to show that you should never assume.
These are also the last days for Our Lady of Pompeii, which has merged with Mount Saint Joseph’s and St. Helena’s to form Mount Saint Helena. St. Joseph the Worker will be moving to Carpenter’s Hall, where their motto will be “We’ll build a stairway to Paradise, with a new step every day.” St. John Bosco has merged with St. Ovaltine’s in Hershey, Pa. St. Basil and St. Rosemary have gone into the restaurant business. Holy Cross has absorbed Saint Madeleine’s and is now called Double Cross.
St. Benedict’s has merged with St. Arnold’s to form St. Benedict Arnold. St. John the Baptist is being split in two. Half of the congregation will move to Wayne, where they’ll become St. John Wayne. The other half have actually BECOME Baptists (or God forbid, Jewish), which is a much safer emotional investment these days. St. Nemo’s in Fishtown will remain open, but only on Fridays. Our Lady of Spain will also remain open, but will discontinue their Accordion Masses.
Some other cost-cutting measures will include strategies like outsourcing the sacraments. For example, confession and penance will now be handled by Traffic Court. Venial sins will require a penance of five Hail Mary’s plus a $26 fine and court costs. Mortal sins will result in three black marks on the soul and a six-month suspension of good luck. The Archdiocese will also be doing away with wine at all masses except at St Bernard’s, where it will be dispensed only by big dogs from small wooden casks.
The Archbishop also announced that folks who are too poor, old or infirm to make it to services in the new locations will be able to watch televised masses from home. There will also be a new radio station in town, “WGOD, All Saints, All the Time.”
Additionally, parishioners left high and dry (mostly dry) will receive consolation prizes including “Catholicism, The Home Game.” It comes with dice, a gold-plated playing board, incense and collection boxes. Hours of fun for the whole family. All of this was of little “consolation,” however, for members of Our Sister-in-Law of Consolation and the other churches that closed.
Folks entering those churches last Sunday were met with the following declaration pinned to the churches’ front doors: “Dear parishioners, Goodbye and Amen. Here’s hoping we meet now and then. Jesus has left the building. This time, unfortunately, He won’t be coming back. Please return to your homes, but don’t forget to drop a coin or two in the poor box before you go. Needless to say, there will be no more holy days of obligation in this neck of the woods. Good luck!”
On the cosmic scene, hell has been closed (whew!); Purgatory has merged with Limbo, and Heaven will only be open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays as well as one Saturday a month. Govern yourselves accordingly, and may God have mercy on us all.