The Archdiocese of Philadelphia said Sunday that it will examine 46 parishes in Philadelphia, Bucks, Delaware and Montgomery Counties to assess their viability and resources.
That continues the archdiocese's Parish Area Pastory Planning Initiative, which began in 2010.
The process is designed to let groups of parishes known as "Pastoral Planning Areas" undertake a program of self study, officials said.
In the last few years the process has led to the merger or closing of 30 parishes, said archdiocese spokesman Kenneth A. Gavin.
The process would result in three possible outcomes: parish mergers; no change in structure, with a plan for future sustainability; or a recommendation for future study.
The archdiocese will consider a variety of factors, such as geographic area, a history of declining Mass attendance and increasing economic challenges that threaten sustainability.
The archdiocese planning committee, made up of lay persons, priests and archdiocesan personnel is examining all parishes.
The aim is "to gauge their viability and assess whether they possess the resources to accomplish their role in the mission of the Church, while remaining sustainable and vibrant faith communities," the archdiocese said in a statement.
He said the time frame on making decisions on the parishes "is fairly open-ended," but added, "I expect there will be some announcements made in the spring of 2014."
The Philadelphia parishes to be examined are: Holy Spirit; St. Charles Borromeo; St. Edmond; St. Gabriel; St. Monica; St. Richard; St. Rita of Cascia and St. Thomas Aquinas.
In Montgomery County: Mother of Devine Providence; Our Lady of Mount Carmel; Sacred Heart; Sts. Cosmas and Damian; St. Augustine; St. Gertrude; St. Mary; St. Matthew; Queen of Peace; St. David; St. John on the Cross; and St. Luke the Evangelist.
In Bucks County: Our Lady of Fatima; St. Ann; St. Charles Borromeo; St. Elizabeth Ann Seton; St. Ephrem; St. Mark; St. Thomas Aquinas; Immaculate Conception BVM; Our Lady of Grace; Queen of Universe; St. Frances Cabrini; St. Joseph the Worker St. Michael the Archangel.
In Delaware County: Holy Spirit; Sacred Heart; St. Eugene; St. Joseph; Our Lady of Fatima; Our Lady of Peace; Our Lady of Perpetual Help; St. Gabriel; St. George; St. Madeline; St. Margaret Mary Alacoque; St. Rose of Lima; and Notre Dame de Lourdes.