Parishioners at St. Joachim file appeal to reopen

It’s not over: Parishioners at St. Joachim Roman Catholic Church attend its last Mass on June 30. Last week, an appeal was formally filed to reopen the recently closed parish. TIMES FILE PHOTO

Former parishioners at St. Joachim Roman Catholic Church last week formally filed an appeal to reopen the recently closed parish.

The overview of their case was sent on July 3 to the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See to the United States, based in Washington, D.C. The appeal will be forwarded to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy, and there is no timetable for a final decision.

The former parishioners have raised $4,805, with another $1,000 pledged. That’s about half of what their total legal bill is expected to be.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia closed 15 parishes, including Frankford’s St. Joachim and Mater Dolorosa and Tacony’s St. Leo the Great, effective July 1. It cited drops in weekend Mass attendance, marriages and baptisms.

The archdiocese did not consider any appeals in the month between the announcement and the closings.

The St. Joachim faithful are appealing because they say their former parish was financially solvent and brought in rental income from the former convent and school buildings. Also, since the Oblates of St. Francis de Sales supplied a pastor, the archdiocese did not have to staff the parish.

Mater Dolorosa did not appeal its closing. Its parishioners, along with those of St. Joachim and Harrowgate’s St. Joan of Arc, were directed to Juniata Park’s Holy Innocents.

St. Leo was merged into its neighboring parish, Our Lady of Consolation. Much of its appeal talk was quieted when the Rev. Joseph Farrell, its pastor, was assigned to the same post at Our Lady of Consolation.

St. Joachim, founded in 1845, was the oldest Catholic church in the Northeast. Some former parishioners gathered outside the empty building, at 1527 Church St., on Saturday and Sunday for prayer services at the same time that Masses used to be held.

In addition, 45 people gathered on July 3 for a meeting at St. Mark’s Church, at 4442 Frankford Ave.

There, they prayed and discussed the appeal and preliminary plans to form a neighborhood nonprofit group. The mission of the nonprofit has not been established.

At the meeting, there was optimism about the appeal.

Maureen Taylor recalled former Phillies pitcher Tug McGraw’s famous rallying cry of, “Ya Gotta Believe.”

Another woman was hoping that the late Pope John Paul II could be credited with a third miracle — the reopening of St. Joachim.

Still, there appear to be regrets that neither of the Frankford parishes were spared.

“Higgins tried,” said appeal leader Pat Smiley, referring to the Rev. Tom Higgins, pastor at Holy Innocents.

The former St. Joachim parishioners believe there was not enough transparency in the process that led to the closing of the church. Thus, they say they have no choice but to fight the archdiocese.

One man expressed his thoughts in a haiku:

Mutual respect

Necessary condition

For obedience. ••