Inga Saffron: The latest threat to Fishtown’s historic St. Laurentius church? A nuisance lawsuit


Faithful Laurentians continue to stall repairs on St. Laurentius with another appeal

The Faithful Laurentians’ attorney, Hal Schirmer has just filed an appeal in Commonwealth Court on March 20.

Who are the Faithful Laurentians? Who is continuing with this baseless appeal? Why are they intent on destroying the Catholic community in Fishtown? Perhaps their attorney will tell you because he won’t tell us.

Faithful Laurentians, where are you???

Faithful Laurentians, why have you not responded?
Mrs. Curtis, why have you not responded?

PLEASE RESPOND. We know that at least one of the people bringing the appeal has stopped. WHY HAVE YOU CONTINUED? Please advise WHEN and WHERE the public meeting will be. You can send information to us via facebook, or to Fr. Bradley via Holy Name Church, 701 Gaul Street, HNJ Rectory, Philadelphia, PA 19125

Folks, someone is Wisconsin is pushing an agenda that will not work here in Philadelphia. Help us make it stop before history is erased.

Call to Action

In 2014, the AOPs plan was to demolish the church and squander the proceeds of St Laurentius and Holy Name assets.

The community stopped that foolish waste, had the church designated historic, and now a buyer stands poised to fix the church and save the parish funds from being wasted on a frivolous demolition.

Remember when the AOP and some of the members of the parish council were telling everyone the church was a danger? That was over 3 years ago!!!!

Ask the AOP why they continue to allow the church to sit when it could be repaired right now? Why do they hold important funds hostage from our parish?

Is it because they still want to demolish the church? And use our parish money to do so? Holy Name parish currently has over $800,000 sitting in an AOP-controlled escrow account that the AOP refuses to allow our parish to access.

Please call these AOP representatives and ask them why they are endangering the community and not acting in the best fiduciary interests of the Archdiocese and our parish:

Name: Deacon Thomas Croke
Title: Director of Real Estate Services
Phone: 215-587-3560

Name: Timothy O’Shaughnessy
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Phone: 215-587-4510

Name: James Bock Jr.
Title: Secretary for Temporal Services
Phone: 215-587-3959

Name: Karen Egelkamp
Title: Coordinator for Capital Projects
Phone: 215-587-3560


Facts and Logic are not on the side of the Faithful Laurentians

The Faithful Laurentians are trying to demonize Leo Voloshin, a neighbor who has stuck his neck out to save Our Saint Laurentius Church. They have demonized his partners, Linden Lane. It’s shameful, but it is a common tactic when facts and logic are not on your side.

The Faithful Laurentians write that the Philadelphia Historic Commission will not grant the aop a hardship exception once they chase away the only developer who has put forth a plan to save the church and its history. They are confident that the church will not be demolished because of the protections under the Historic designation.

Yet, at the same time, they say the only group who has put forth a plan to save Saint Laurentius Church is actually scheming to demolish it. They are trying to scare everyone that these developers will convince the Philadelphia Historic Commission to throw out all stated protections. Then the developers will demolish.

These statements together defy common sense and logic.

In reality, the developers who seek to develop the church, after Historic Designation, would be held to a HIGHER standard. Leo and Linden Lane do not seek to demolish the church. They have spent thousands to SAVE it and repurpose its beauty.

In reality, the Court of Common Pleas has found every argument to be wrong and dismissed their case.
In reality, these appeals endanger the Catholic tradition in Fishtown that began with the people of Saint Laurentius.


Faithful Laurentians are working hard to have St. Laurentius demolished

The group who led the Save St. Laurentius group included Maggie O’Brien, Patricia Kinsman, John Wisniewski, A.J. Thomson, Sue Cerwonka Phillips, Megan Thomson and Tim Breslin, but YOU ARE THE GROUP. You fought this fight. We all find ourselves at a critical juncture.

We cannot overstate that our goal was to save Saint Laurentius Church as a Catholic church, rich in history, tradition and faith. Our multiple appeals to the archdiocese AND to the Vatican courts have been denied. In Latin. We continue to work to preserve the proud history of Saint Laurentius church.

We have nothing to do with the efforts of the Faithful Laurentians. Some of this group helped our efforts nominating Saint Laurentius Church as historic. BUT we are not party to their continued appeal with stated appellants Venise Whitaker and Carolyn Devine, also deemed the “Trustees Ad Litem.” These are the individuals who appealed the ZBA decision. This appeal has delayed the rehabilitation and repair of St. Laurentius Church.Their appeal was deemed frivolous by the judge; the judge stated that their group lacked standing to even bring an appeal. It was dismissed with prejudice. Now, they are appealing their standing to fight the Zoning Board. They are using a 130 year old, handwritten original deed as their basis. We can no longer sit idly and quietly by. We have repeatedly asked this group to stop their appeal. We were sure to contact the person handling their communications, Jeanne Murphy Curtis, who lives in Wisconsin and was never personally connected to Saint Laurentius. We have told them that it endangers St. Laurentius church, our St. Laurentius School and the last remaining parish in Fishtown.

They have stated that they would “rather see it demolished…”

At this point, continuing the appeals in court, the Faithful Laurentius are working towards demolition only. These efforts work directly against preservation. Their facebook group claims to offer “preservation services… and to advocate for historic buildings,” but these appeals prove otherwise. If their appeals continue in court, then the developer COULD walk away. The archdiocese has stated that they will not look for another developer or buyer, they will force the parish of Holy Name to pay for the demolition. Holy Name parish does not have almost one million dollars to demolish this beautiful church.

Wait?! Wait! You might ask how can Saint Laurentius Church be demolished if we all worked together to designate it as historic??!! Well, the City of Philadelphia long ago created a clause to help owners and developers not drown under the cost of a historic building. An owner, in this case the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, can claim financial hardship. They do not need to prove that they do not have all of the money, they do not need to try to sell it, they do not need to prove it is unfixable. For the demolition permit, the owners must “demonstrate that the sale of the property is impracticable, that commercial rental cannot yield a reasonable rate of return and that other potential uses are foreclosed.” (Page 56 notes Financial Hardship for Nonprofits)

For some reason, the AOP did not see fit to list Saint Laurentius Church for sale until it was designated a Historic Building. They have already determined that the sale of the building is impractical. They have already determined the economics for reuse, even in what many would call the hottest market in Philadelphia.

This is a painful and poorly orchestrated process by the AOP. The reality is difficult but easy to see. Please do not fall for the slight of hand the Faithful Laurentians are showing. Do not be suckered into believing that they “have a better plan” or a way to reestablish a church or a cultural center. The Faithful Laurentians are playing upon the sentiments and hopes of long-standing St. Laurentius Parishioners. This is wrong.

The Vatican and the AOP stated that there will be no Catholic presence in Saint Laurentius Church and will never re-consecrate it. We do not absolve the Archdiocese of Philadelphia of any of its many intentional acts that have gone against both fiduciary responsibility to God’s church and spiritual duty to the faithful. However, we want to see St. Laurentius Church stand, and our parish and school continue. The Faithful Laurentians do not. They are either not connected in any way to these neighborhood institutions or are bitter and want to see them destroyed.

We call on all Fishtown Cahtolics and non-Catholics alike to ask the Faithful Laurentians to stop their efforts to demolish this masterpiece and destroy our faith community.