Historic Catholic Church Closes its Doors
November 18, 2007 (WPVI) -- The final services were held Sunday at a historic, and ornate Catholic church in Southwest Philadelphia.
The mass began like thousands before at Most Blessed Sacrament Church in Southwest Philadelphia. But Sunday, the congregation prayed with heavy hearts. This was the last mass at a parish once considered one of the largest and strongest in the entire world.
Father Zachary Navit said, "Today is a sad day. It is a difficult day. We take leave of this building. In many ways, it can be considered a day of mourning."
The parish began in 1901 in the heart of an Irish Catholic neighborhood. As many as 35-hundred children attended its school at one time. The church itself is a sight to behold: vibrant stained glass windows, oil paintings, ornate detail beneath a vaulted ceiling freshly painted just 6 years ago.
Jim Bell came back to his old neighborhood for today's farewell mass. "It's sad cause it's the end of an era. It's like so many children have come here and gone and now when you come back you see a couple hundred people."
The congregation has dwindled to just 80 members. The heat hasn't worked in a year. The building will now close so the congregation can join another blocks away.
"My heart is heavy today. I have a lot of fond memories of this church. I got married here. I've been here throughout the years," said Diane Reed.
At the end of the service the congregation said a blessing, draped the doors and locked them symbolically, ending 106 years of baptisms, funerals, marriages and masses in a holy place thousands of Catholics have claimed as their spiritual home in Philadelphia.
Father Navit told the parishioners that they are the living, breathing building blocks of this church and in them the spirit of Most Blessed Sacrament lives on. Next week's mass will be held 9 blocks away at St. Francis de Sales Church.
(Copyright 2007 by Action News and 6abc. All Rights Reserved.)
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