Recent developments…

It has come to our attention that a new group has formed to Save St Laurentius Church.  While that is admirable it is also foolish. Our group has spent the past 3 years working to save our church.  We have explored every possible avenue to re-open St Laurentius as a Catholic Church–going as far as hiring canon lawyers, Italian lawyers, and filing numerous appeals to the Vatican.  All of those efforts have failed. 

It is public knowledge that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Vatican have ignored our pleas to see our magnificent Church once again serve the faithful parishioners.   The only success that we have had–and it was huge–was the historic designation bestowed on St Laurentius by the historic commission which insures that the exterior of the building–the symbol of the dedication of the Polish immigrants who built it–will remain. 

Fortunately a developer has approached the AOP and offered to purchase the church, which means that the church will remain standing but the interior will be changed.  However the recent activities of this new small group may in fact jeopardize that sale.  Which will mean that the AOP will claim hardship and then will be able to have the church torn down–which is what they have wanted all along. If you believe that the best possible solution right now is for this historic landmark to remain as a beacon in our community, we ask that you do not stand in the way of this developer.

Fence

At Masses over the weekend, father Sibel announced that he and the Holy Name parish council were installing a fence around “Memphis and Berks Streets.” We live in a litigious society so this decision is understandable.  But in our hearts, Saint Laurentius is Saint Laurentius and filled with love.

One of us talked with the new head of L&I, Commissioner Perri.  It was a good conversation.  The AOP and L&I met almost two weeks ago and they agreed to erect the fence.   L&I will regularly inspect Saint Laurentius Church and the City Commissioner believes that the building will be saved.

Our Committee to Save Saint Laurentius Church is saddened.  We find solace in the Historic Designation of Saint Laurentius Church; we feel very let down by the men leading our archdiocese and by the process in the Vatican.

NEIGHBORS and FRIENDS, let’s work together to get answers.  We have been shut out of all communication from the pastor and council and from the archdiocese. Why has there been no public meeting with the decisions makers for Saint Laurentius Church (the aop and the council)?  Why isn’t the sale final yet? The Philadelphia Historic Commission recognizes the intrinsic value in Saint Laurentius, so do we and likely, so do you!  More importantly, we all deserve to know answers!

Holy  Name Parish Council and pastor – PLEASE hold a community meeting!  If you agree or if you, too, have questions call Holy Name at 215-739-3960.

Summary of Febrary 23rd Meeting

Hi. To those who missed our meeting this past week, I will provide a synopsis. It is only a synopsis since the meeting lasted a bit over an hour.

We discussed the generic areas, which impact the integrity of St. Laurentius. It will be for you to personally define the integrity since there are a multitude of factors, particularly within the archdiocese and the Vatican, which we cannot control and which appear inordinately corrupt.
After assimilating all of these variables, some have abandoned the ideal of reopening St. Laurentius as it was because, unless the archdiocese is miraculously instilled with integrity and virtue, there is virtually no likelihood of their resanctifying and reopening St. Laurentius.
Here is the summary:
1) Appeal-Sits in Rome since last spring. It has NOT even been reviewed. The exception is that peculiarly, as a result of speculated intervention by the archdiocese, we were told several days ago that two of the signatures on the appeal were fraudulent. If we did not comply with sending certified signatures, mine and Vince Lipczynski’s, within a narrow window of time, the appeal would no longer exist. Well we got the certified documents and mailed them along with an $1800 check made payable to the Division of the Vatican called the Apostolic Signatura—yes $1800 to review 2 signatures.
Once the appeal is reviewed, it must past through three levels of review. If the first level is denied, we can argue that denial and appeal to the second level. If denial occurs at the second level, the appeal is over. However, if the appeal is accepted at the second level, it moves on to the third level for a required approval to have St. Laurentius reopened,
2) Archdicoese—Here is a representative sampling, though surely not encompassing. Forced Father Frank to stop Polish mass; orchestrated the merger into Holy Name while he was ill; had two representatives visit Father Frank in the hospital telling him he can not live in the rectory when he is discharged and that he needs to sign the merger into Holy Name paperwork; followed no due process in the merger; fabricated an imminent danger of collapse story (interestingly in the storm the other night, the church still stands but part of the scaffolding collapsed); ignored all attempts on our part to meet on multiple levels—Archbishop Chaput, Monsignors Rodgers and Kutys etc etc etc. ; would allow the money from the sale of St. Laurentius Convent and garage to be used for demolition but not to repair St. Laurentius.; hand picked a pastor for Holy Name who would do everything in his power to execute the will of the archdiocese and eliminate St. Laurentius.
3) Parishioners and Friends—Some examples: Raised money in Save St. Laurentius Fund (that money has been used for the attorneys, the recent fee to the Vatican to review two signatures, for the billboard); Sugar House fundraisers; Polish operatic singer at Polish Home; staffed tables at the Annual Festival at the Shrine of Our Lady of Częstochowa; stood guard watching the church; remained vigilant over any troublesome activity; compiled and completed the initial recourse and subsequent appeal; met with representatives of the church in Rome; gave a presentation about our situation at the Polish Consulate in New York.; searched for buyers for St. Laurentius within the Polish American infrastructure. Large business funding for repairs is a paradox in this scenario with distrust for the archdiocese but would surely emerge if St. Laurentius were reopened.
4) Historic Designation—A big victory. Exterior designation acquired in July 2015. An interior application was written and at my request, its review by the Designation Committee was postponed until the June meeting. This was done for multiple reasons. The interior of the church remains protected until the hearing takes place.
5) Repurposing—This option will maintain the exterior integrity of St. Laurentius. The current buyer has every intention of respecting that integrity. The agreement of sale is in evolution between he and the archdiocese. With the inability of us to make any headway at the appeal and archdiocesan level–some have not yet taken this step–this currently seems to be the only way a part of our St. Laurentius richness will remain. If there is no buyer, and the appeal process sits in limbo, and L and I requests repairs, and the archdiocese says they have no money to fix the church, the potential monster of demolition again resurfaces.
6) Ownership—As you know, several letters of petition were submitted to the Attorney General of PA asking for assistance in resolution of the property trust, which appears to have been violated by the archdiocese. I sent the same along with a comprehensive cover letter and copies of the original deed and transcripted deed. I spoke on Friday with the assistant DA assigned to the case. We spoke extensively and she will retrieve the fed ex mailer from Harrisburg this week, She, at the time of our conversation, did not have the deeds or cover letter in her possession. Understand that the state has no authority to tell the archdiocese to reopen St. Laurentius as a church.
7) Structural Repairs—The repair estimates the potential buyer acquired were congruent with those we acquired as part of our recourse. The archdiocese estimates at the time of the historic designation were inflated to $5 million more. Repair remains an issue, which will require imminent resolution.
8) As an aside, it was announced at Holy Name this weekend that since part of the scaffolding fell this weekend, a fence will be placed around St. Laurentius on Memphis and on Berks up to the rectory. Walking and parking in this vicinity will be prohibited. Holy Name pastor says it was due to L and I but recall the archdiocese said they would do this in July at the historical designation meeting.
Have a great day and thanks for your support…. Bóg Zapłać……..John Wisniewski

Saint Laurentius church will stand

After almost three years of fighting to Save Saint Laurentius church, our Committee would like to comment on recent developments.

Like many of you, our main goal was to save Saint Laurentius Church as the vibrant place of worship, community and Catholicism that we know it is. Like you, we felt shocked and surprised that the AOP not only merged our parish, but closed our church under circumstances that were, at best, contested.

After trying to work within the parish and among the men making decisions for the archdiocese, we brought a larger group together to force the hierarchy to acknowledge that our Saint Laurentius Church is historic, beautiful and a community icon. Historians, preservationists & neighbors worked together to have the Historic Commission to deem the building historic.This preserves Saint Laurentius, the building.

You did that.  Saint Laurentius church will stand.

Our hope and our prayer was that this was just a step in that process, but it became painfully obvious that there was no process. There would be no meetings. There would be no compromise.  After THOUSANDS of emails and numerous calls, neither the AOP nor the parish council would meet with the committee.  After all this work, energy and soul-crushing effort, we had no seat at the decision-making table.

We did take an active interest in those developers who took interest in Saint Laurentius church.  Please know, we had no direct control and we have not been allowed inside the church.

Leo is a good, solid developer who is also a good person with a good family. He is a neighbor. His development in the church will maintain the building and its history, culture, character while allowing Saint Laurentius school to flourish. We hope that SAINT LAURENTIUS CHURCH will stand as a constant reminder that good and faithful people exist and that Fishtown is a great community.  We hope it is a legacy to the Polish immigrants who built it by hand and a testimony that Catholics are not only the hierarchy but are a people who believe in the good in people.   We hope it is a legacy to your effort.

Leo has committed to opening Saint Laurentius Church at some point so that all those who love Saint Laurentius church can visit and pray one more time.  Again, we know this is not ideal but it is so much more that the AOP has allowed.

Some of us believe that this option is the only legitimate option to save the church. We are not happy  but it seems this is that might be the best way to allow the Catholic Community, especially Saint Laurentius school, to continue in Fishtown.

Fishtown, through a complex and weird combination of community cohesiveness, great housing stock and economic shifts, has become a neighborhood of the new urban future. Other communities have gone through but Saint Laurentius Church will stand tall through all of these shifts.

Archdiocese Issues memo to fight preservation efforts

In a memo issued on January 7th, the Archdiocese warned pastors to not support preservation efforts.

The nonconsensual designation of churches and other religious property as land mark or historic property, or as part of a historic district, is a serious problem for many religions.  Without the consent of the religious community involved, these designations are an undue intrusion of Government into religious organizations, represent a threat to religious freedom and where historical designation does exist can result in a significant financial burden for the property owner. Many denominations, including the Archdiocese of Philadelphia,desire exemption from these nonconsensual designation through legislative action or, if necessary, litigation from the courts.

In order to avoid any problems or misunderstandings in the pursuit of such remedies through the legislature or the courts, all Pastors, Directors and Administrators are requested not to become involved with or participate in the historic land marking of any buildings of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and its parishes, either individually or as part of a district or accept offers of technical assistance and / or funding for such purpose, no matter how well-intentioned by offerees. Moreover, reports should promptly be made in writing to the Office of the Vicar for Administration whenever any attempted or proposed historic land marking and / or offer of technical help or funding become known.

Read more…

Parish Vs. Archdiocese Vs. Public Good In Catholic Preservation Fight
By Thomas Rzeznik, Hidden City – January 22, 2016

Archdiocese vows to fight preservationists
By Inga Saffron, Philadelphia Inquirer – January 14, 2016

New AD Directive is a Call to Arms
By Patrick Hildebrandt, Philadelphia Church Project – January 11, 2016

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