Six Roman Catholic parishes in West Philadelphia will become three by the end of the month under a plan the Archdiocese of Philadelphia announced Sunday.
The mergers, which will involve new pastoral appointments, are part of a broader restructuring by the financially strapped archdiocese as it struggles with declining attendance at city churches, demographic shifts, and a diminishing supply of priests.
At three of the churches involved - St. Callistus, Our Mother of Sorrows, and St. Ignatius of Loyola - Mass attendance dropped between 2007 and 2011, along with marriages and baptisms. Fewer than 100 people now attend Mass at Our Mother of Sorrows each weekend.
"The Catholic footprint in West Philly, based on those numbers, appears to be getting small," said Ken Gavin, spokesman for the archdiocese.
The mergers are intended to sustain the parishes, Gavin said. "We don't want to see the Catholic Church disappear in West Philadelphia," he said.
Under the plan, announced to parishioners in letters and at last weekend's Masses, St. Callistus will merge into Our Lady of Lourdes, keeping the Lourdes name and location.
Our Mother of Sorrows will merge into St. Ignatius of Loyola - the two parishes already share the same pastor - and Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament will merge into St. Cyprian.
The mergers go into effect Jan. 27. The churches of the former parishes will be available as worship sites for the time being at the pastors' discretion, Gavin said.
Pastors for the merged parishes will be appointed in the coming weeks, Gavin said. Priest staffing changes may also be made.
The parish restructuring began in 2011, when Archbishop Charles J. Chaput arrived. The number of parishes in the archdiocese has dropped from 267 to 253 since.