Over the past year, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has combined parishes in various Philadelphia communities. Earlier this month, the archdiocese announced Saint Donato’s Catholic Church, in Overbrook, would merge with another Catholic church in the community, Our Lady of Lourdes.
These mergers are part of the Pastoral Planning Initiative by the archdiocese. The initiative was created to bring about a stronger and more vibrant Catholic community.
“It’s a process that is about looking at the resources in the areas and what goals they will bring about for the church,” Kenneth Gavin, associate director of communications for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, said.
“By looking at certain factors, like attendance and sacramental services, we can figure out where some communities need help,” said Gavin. “We’re looking at the broad picture, what does everyone need to help create a vibrant presence for the church.”
Since the announcement, Saint Donato’s Catholic Church has fought to keep their parish alive.
The church has been open since 1910 and has become a staple to many families in the Overbrook community. It is a church generations of families have been attending. These families said they will fight to find an alternative before they let the archdiocese close their church.
Catherine Bellocchio, secretary for Saint Donato, said she thinks there are other alternatives before shutting down the church.
“They (the archdiocese) cannot just look at the numbers and feel that is what drives a church” said Bellocchio. “We have a thriving community, one that is willing to fight for Father Buccafurni and for Saint Donato.”
One way parishioners are fighting back is through signing petitions. After the announcement of the merge, parishioners passed a petition around during mass to gather signatures in hopes to change the Archdiocese’s mind.
“We received over 500 signatures and we sent them to the archdiocese,” said Bellocchio. “This week the signatures are being sent to the Vatican and the Pope.”
While the idea of a merger can be scary to some parishioners, it might comfort some to know the building itself, Saint Donato’s church, will remain open.
“Saint Donato Church is going to remain open and maintained as a church,” said Kenneth. “It will be available for weddings, funerals, baptisms and an occasional Sunday mass.”
The future of Saint Donato remains uncertain for now. If the church does indeed merge with Our Lady of Lourdes, then the last Mass will be Sunday, Feb. 24.