Because of years of financial stress and significantly declining attendance, the Diocese of Allentown will close St. Stephen Church in Port Carbon and merge the parish into St. Clare of Assisi, Saint Clair.
Parishioners at both parishes were informed of the decision at Masses this weekend. The closure and merger will occur after the Christmas season, on January 12, 2020.
Monsignor William Glosser, administrator of St. Stephen, summarized the stressed status of the parish in a report to parishioners in early October.
“Since assuming duties of parish administrator in 2016, I have made known to the parish our serious financial situation,” he wrote. He cited “a drastic decrease in Mass attendance and collections” and the inability of the parish to make needed repairs to the building. He also noted that the parish has no money in the bank to cover a more serious repair if it were needed. “We must be practical and honest in our looking to the future,” Monsignor Glosser wrote.
After hearing the recommendation of Monsignor Glosser, and after consulting with the Diocesan Council of Priests, Bishop Alfred Schlert issued decrees merging the parish and closing the St. Stephen building. All sacred images, vessels, furnishings and altars will be removed and preserved for continued use by St. Clare of Assisi Parish or another Catholic parish.
In the event the former church building or former school at St. Stephen is sold, the proceeds of the sale will remain with St. Clare of Assisi Parish. The same is true for the sale of any items now in the St. Stephen building, such as stained glass windows. The Diocese of Allentown would receive no proceeds from any of these potential sales.
In his decree merging St. Stephen Parish, Bishop Schlert declared that he has “profound respect for the estimable history of the parish and the devout faithful who founded and sustained Her,” as well as for the clergy and religious who served those faithful.
In his remarks this weekend at St. Stephen, Monsignor Glosser welcomed parishioners to St. Clare of Assisi parish, where he serves as pastor, and thanked them for their steadfast support and dedication during the years St. Stephen was struggling.