Two Tamaqua houses of worship with a combined total of 284 years of service to the community will merge on July 1.

Parishioners learned Saturday that SS. Peter and Paul Church and the Church of St. Jerome will be combined under one clergyman. Details were not immediately available.

However, the Rev. William Linkchorst, pastor, SS. Peter and Paul's, reportedly advised parishioners Saturday he will retire. Linkchorst made the announcement during regular service.

The Rev. John A. Frink serves as pastoral administrator at St. Jerome's.

Both buildings are expected to remain open. However, it's unclear if the two-building configuration will remain in the long term. In addition, there has been no indication what name will be chosen for the merged church.

Matt Kerr, spokesman, Diocese of Allentown, told the TIMES NEWS late Saturday that an announcement would be issued by the Diocese on Sunday afternoon.

The two churches have been the only Catholic houses of worship within borough limits throughout the history of Tamaqua, founded 1799. SS. Peter and Paul's traditionally served those of eastern European heritage, while the congregation of St. Jerome's, a Roman Catholic church, was traditionally comprised of Irish, Italian and other ethnicities.

The Church of St. Jerome has served the Tamaqua area for 181 years.

The Rev. Arthur Wainwright founded the parish in 1833, building Tamaqua's first church building in 1834 on a site bordering Mahanoy and Nescopec streets near Church Alley (now High Street). It established only the second parish in Schuylkill County.

SS. Peter and Paul's Lithuanian Catholic Church has served Tamaqua area for 103 years, founded on Jan. 21, 1911.

The first priests to serve the Lithuanians of Tamaqua were the Revs. Victor Dargis and Michael Durickas, but the Rev. Peter Gudaitis was actually the first full-time pastor.

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