The Diocese of Allentown said plans for consolidation of two Tamaqua churches have been under discussion for a long time and the time has come, according to a statement issued by spokesman Matt Kerr.

In a letter from Diocese of Allentown Bishop John Barres read at all Masses this weekend in Tamaqua, it was announced that effective July 1, 2014, St. Jerome and SS. Peter and Paul Parishes will merge and become the new St. John XXIII Parish.

The new parish will continue to utilize both the St. Jerome and SS. Peter and Paul Church buildings for divine worship. The new parish will be one of the first in the country dedicated to St. John XXIII, who will be canonized next month.

"The plan announced this weekend is a continuation of the restructuring of parishes called for by the Second Synod of Allentown in 2006. Plans in 16 regions of the diocese, including a region that consisted of Tamaqua, Brockton and Tuscarora went into effect in July 2008.

That plan called for consolidating parishes in Brockton and Tuscarora into St. Jerome Parish. It also recommended a restructuring of St. Jerome and SS. Peter and Paul parishes sometime in the future, but did not specify a time frame for its implementation.

In the letter read at Mass this weekend, the Bishop indicated that after six years, that time has come.

The new plan was developed after consulting with the pastors in Tamaqua, the Rev. John Frink and the Rev. William Linkchorst after they had conferred with a renewed regional committee about the pastoral and temporal state of the parishes. The Council of Priests and the Diocesan Pastoral Council also recommended the merger.

The Bishop wrote, "This decision has not been made easily or without deliberation. Throughout the process from 2005 until now, hundreds of persons have been involved in gathering and analyzing information, surveying parishioners, and looking at the present and future needs of the Tamaqua parishes."

The Bishop closed his letter, by saying, "I ask that during the three months of preparation for the implementation of (this plan) you will join me in fervent prayer … that the good work God has begun … will, through His grace and your spiritual support, be brought to a successful completion."

An additional announcement concerned the Shenandoah area, where seven churches are being consolidated effective July 28:

St. Mary Magdalen Parish in Lost Creek and Annunciation B.V.M., Our Lady of Mount Carmel, St. Casimir, St. George, St. Stanislaus and St. Stephen parishes in Shenandoah will merge to form the new Divine Mercy Parish at the former Annunciation Church building. St. Casimir Church will also be retained and used for sacred worship.