Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia speaks at the Vatican Press Office, March 25, 2014. (Credit: Daniel Ibanez/CNA.)
PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania - A new quasi-parish for Catholics interested in the Traditional Latin Mass will open in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia at a church that had been part of a 2014 parish merger.
“In response to a growing interest, it has become timely to provide additional pastoral care for those wishing to participate in Divine Worship in the Extraordinary Form,” Archbishop Charles J. Chaput’s March 14 decree said.
A quasi-parish is the equivalent of a parish under canon law, with some exceptions. It can later become a parish at the discretion of the local bishop. The new quasi-parish will be located at the site of the former Saint Mary Parish in Conshohocken, a suburban Philadelphia borough in Montgomery County. About 8,000 people live in the borough, which is about one square mile in area.
The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter will provide the clergy for the new quasi-parish.
“While it remains to be seen if this community will flourish so as to become a parish, the establishment of a quasi-parish to provide this spiritual care appears to be most fitting at this time,” Chaput’s decree continued.
The archbishop made his decision after consulting with local pastors, local priests who celebrate the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, and the archdiocese’s Council of Priests. The Philadelphia archdiocese announced the planned creation of the quasi-parish on April 8.
The decree becomes effective Aug. 1. A pastor will be appointed before that date.
The Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter exclusively celebrates the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, sometimes known as the traditional or Tridentine Latin Mass. It was founded in 1988 as a clerical society of apostolic life, then formally erected as an institute of pontifical right by the Holy See.
In contrast to some other priestly groups celebrating the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite, the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter was established with support from the Vatican, and is in full and ordinary communion with the pope.
The priestly fraternity’s North American seminary is based in Denton, Nebraska, with provincial headquarters in South Abington Township just north of Scranton, Pennsylvania. The fraternity staffs two parishes and a chapel in Pennsylvania. A member of the fraternity was assigned to a Discalced Carmelite monasteryin Philadelphia last year.
The fraternity’s website currently reports 96 priests in 54 apostolates active in 39 U.S. dioceses and seven Canadian dioceses in its North American district alone. It has a somewhat smaller presence in France and Germany. One of its newest priests, Father Tymoteusz Szydlo, is a son of Poland’s former prime minister Beata Szydlo.
In July 2014, Saint Mary Parish merged with Saint Matthew Parish as part of the Philadelphia archdiocese’s pastoral planning initiative. St. Mary Church became a worship site of Saint Matthew Parish and made available for occasional liturgical use.
The parish merger left three non-parish Catholic churches in the area. Of these buildings, one was sold to the Coptic Orthodox Church and another to the Borough of West Conshohocken.
The former parish church of St. Mary’s had served as a center for the Polish community. A local Polish group formed by former parishioners had sought to preserve its status as a Catholic church.
The group welcomed the announcement of the quasi-parish.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled since this accomplishes what St. Mary Polish American Society sought to do, breathe new life into the church so it could remain a church available for Mass and other spiritual activities,” David Swedkowski, executive director of the Saint Mary Polish American Society, told the local news site More Than the Curve.
“The Society will continue to exist and focus on promoting Polish heritage in Montgomery County and continuing to raise money so the Fraternity can successfully care for St. Mary’s.”
As of 2012, two years before the parish merger, St. Mary’s had a weekend Mass attendance of 271 people, down 60 from 2008. It hosted only four baptisms and eight marriages in 2012, according to archdiocesan figures.