Dozens Of Parishes Hold Final Masses Before Merger

Dozens Of Parishes Hold Final Masses Before Merger

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PHILADELPHIA -

Dozens of Catholic Churches around the Delaware Valley celebrated their final Sunday mass.

Beginning Tuesday, many parishes will merge together as part of an initiative by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

The archdiocese says sagging attendance and staffing are big reasons behind the move.

As you can imagine, it’s a sad day for loyal parishioners who have gone to the same church for many years.

The bell has tolled on St. Ann Church in Bristol.

"I can't take it. I'm very, very sad, very heartbroken. This has been my church all my life,” Maryann Lorenzo said.

Longtime parishioner Maryann Lorenzo fought back tears while joining the crowded congregation in song on its final Sunday of services.

The popular church that's been around for more than a century will merge with its Bristol neighbor, St. Mark's.

Disappointed members are now left with only memories.

"When I was younger I would try to come in and get a seat in the pew that my grandfather donated back when they built the church,” Phil Paolella said.

The doors of St. Matthew Church in Conshohocken aren't closing, instead they're opening up wider, welcoming three nearby parishes.

"I think that's great, but I feel sad that a lot of them are closing because I just don't think that God would want that,” Marilyn Gormley said.

The merged churches will continue to be worship sites, a host for weddings, funerals and important dates on the church calendar.

It's a transition Teresa Bello is trying to stay open minded about, coming from Saints Cosmas and Damian.

"We worked so hard to get that church built. I remember as a little girl, Father Vincent going around collecting for that church,” Bello said.

Like the flowers outside this house of God, Clint Gates hopes these moves will help the archdiocese stay in bloom.

"Like Father Herron said in his 11:30 mass, we want to reunite into one building, and one later and that's what the goal is,” Gates said.

When these mergers go into effect Tuesday, there will now be 219 parishes in the five county archdiocese.

They expect more parishes to explore merging together in the coming years.

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