Note: This historic church in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood is being replaced.
I want to tell you the parable of St Laurentius Church
St Laurentius is an old church, at least by American standards. It was built in 1882, with the donations from Polish families who wanted something of their own — beyond the other Catholic Church nearby that catered to Irish Catholics.
For 140 years, the 150 feet spires were one of the tallest and proudest peaks in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood. As the neighborhood changed and the Catholics dwindled, the cracks started to appear. The church was deconsecrated and emptied, and later sold.
A big bad property developer proposed turning the inside of the church into condominiums, leaving the exterior and its iconic spires maintained.
But a small group of residents said no. They fought and they pleaded and they sued. The church should remain a community space, they said. The debate raged for years — all the while, the old building got older.
Then part of the building’s masonry fell — crashing through scaffolding. An inspection was done. The exterior’s condition has become too unstable. The spires would have to come down — and come down they are.
Every city is a always changing. Better to at least keep the outside as a nod to the past, while repurposing the inside when that can’t be maintained too.
St Laurentius was not going to become a church again. At least we could have had the memory. Instead, the spires are coming down, and what will go in their place? Well high end condominiums of course.
The lesson from the parable of St Laurentius is that sometimes we all argue for the past when the debate is about the future.