Tamaqua parish asks Bishop to close one of its two churches
The Diocese of Allentown is currently considering a request from Tamaqua’s St. John XXIII parish to consolidate under one roof in order to give the parish financial stability.
The parish currently holds services at two churches — the former St. Jerome’s and the former SS. Peter and Paul — whose congregations were combined to form St. John XXIII in 2014.
St. John XXIII Pastor John Frink, joined by the parish’s pastoral council and finance committee, made a formal request to the diocese last week to close the former St. Jerome Church on West Broad Street. They would like to see the former SS. Peter and Paul, located on Pine Street, become the primary worship site.
They outlined their plan in a letter to parishioners dated Jan. 14.
“Moving to a single location will help reduce operating expenses in order to move us toward an annual surplus. Otherwise, we will continue to gradually deplete our assets,” the letter states.
While the parish is in favor of the plan, the decision rests ultimately with Bishop Alfred A. Schlert. According to the diocese, Schlert has received the parish’s request and will make a decision at some point in the future.
“The bishop will now consult with his advisory bodies and then make a decision,” diocese spokesman Matt Kerr said.
According to estimates by the pastoral council and finance committee, the former St. Jerome requires $2 million in renovations. They believe that a capital campaign would produce less than half that amount — about $750,000 at the maximum.
Closing St. Jerome’s would also help the church overcome an operating deficit.
The pastoral council and finance committee said the church has been operating at a loss for seven of the past eight years.
Over that time, they’ve seen a decline in the number of families, baptisms and weekly Mass attendance.
“We agree that we must find ways to address these challenges as a united parish to remain viable and vibrant.
They have also proposed putting the former St. Jerome rectory on the market or using it as an income property to raise money for the parish.
If the plan to move services into SS. Peter and Paul goes ahead, the parish would explore making renovations to the church including pews, flooring and possibly changing the layout of the sanctuary. They also want to incorporate features from the former St. Jerome’s into SS. Peter and Paul.
Frink first proposed the idea to combine the parish under one roof last year. He told parishioners in his message last weekend that the church has been in a “neutral zone” since the two parishes were combined in 2014. He said figuratively, the parish is facing a similar dilemma to Moses in the desert, when some of his followers were reluctant to leave Egypt.
“In a figurative way it’s the outlooks, the attitudes, the values, the self-images, the ways of thinking that were functional in the past, have to change before we can be ready for a new life, a new beginning in the promised land,” Frink said.